Friday, May 4, 2012

Babies Are the Best Weapon Against Bullies, Research Found

Around babies tough kids smile, disruptive kids focus, shy kids open up.                       
In the previous posts I mentioned that bullying is actually natural. Animals fight each other, the stronger species get to stay, while the weaker ones must die - an evolutionary law.We humans are the part of the nature and it seems that we are also hardwired to be aggressive and selfish. Well, the researchers from Princeton University found there is a biological reason for compassion.

Brain scans reveal that when we contemplate violence done to others we activate the same regions in our brains that fire up when mothers gaze at their children. It suggests that caring for strangers may be instinctual. When we help others, areas of the brain associated with pleasure also light up. Research by scientists Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello indicates that toddlers as young as 18 months behave altruistically. 
More important, we are beginning to understand how to nurture this biological potential. It seems that it’s not only possible to make people kinder, it’s possible to do it systematically at scale – at least with school children
That’s what one organization based in Toronto called Roots of Empathy has done.
Roots of Empathy, a Toronto-based organization is doing incredible work in the hopes of reducing bullying worldwide, by increasing empathy in schoolchildren
At the heart of the program are a neighbourhood infant and parent who visit the classroom every three weeks over the school year. 

A trained Roots of Empathy Instructor coaches students to observe the baby's development and to label the baby's feelings. In this experiential learning, the baby is the "Teacher" and a lever, which the instructor uses to help children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. 

This "emotional literacy" taught in the program lays the foundation for more safe and caring classrooms, where children are the "Changers". 

They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy) and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties.

In the Roots of Empathy program children learn how to challenge cruelty and injustice. Messages of social inclusion and activities that are consensus building contribute to a culture of caring that changes the tone of the classroom. The Instructor also visits before and after each family visit to prepare and reinforce teachings using a specialized lesson plan for each visit. Research results from national and international evaluations of Roots of Empathy indicate significant reductions in aggression and increases in pro-social behavior."

So far our researchers have evaluated ROE’s impact on children up to three years after program completion. Results show an increase in social/emotional understanding and pro-social behaviour and a decrease in aggression compared to children who do not participate.  Children become more caring, helpful and kind, and feel more accepted by their peers. 

The program has gone into 13,000 classrooms; when writer David Bornstein investigated, he said: “What I find most fascinating is how the baby actually changes the children’s behavior. Teachers have confirmed my impressions: tough kids smile, disruptive kids focus, shy kids open up. In a seventh grade class, I found 12-year-olds unabashedly singing nursery rhymes.”
So maybe babies are the answer. And since kids don’t get to experience babies at home anymore, I guess we need to bring babies to school.

1 comment:

  1. That's because babies naturally evoke our capacity for love and nurturing. It proves we all have it inside us.