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Back to School: UF/IFAS Expert Offers Tips for Student Civility

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When children return to school this fall, some will encounter uncomfortable situations. For example, classmates might disrespect them or not be their friends anymore. But a University of Florida relationship expert says parents and educators can teach youth to act in a civil manner, despite mounting tension or stress.

Students can help themselves, too, said Victor Harris, an associate professor of family, youth and community sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Harris urges children and their parents to focus on building positive self-identities. Parents can help build the child’s self-esteem, he said.

“Youth who are mean or who bully typically lack self-concept, self-esteem and a belief in themselves,” Harris said.

He also urges schools to teach youngsters how to ask and answer the following question: “‘What is the right thing for the right reason to do in this situation?’ If they can’t do the right thing for the right reason, teach them how to do the right thing, anyway.”

Answering this question positively can prevent many difficulties, and it can promote politeness, courtesy and respect, Harris said.

“It begins in the home but should become the rule in schools,” he said.

Harris offers other tips:

  • Build leadership skills and qualities in youth. Those assets include performing well academically, participating in civic activities, valuing diversity and more. Some schools focus on building one quality a week and involve parents and youth in the weekly asset building.
  • Teach youth to be upstanders, not just bystanders; teach them how to recognize bullying and not to be perpetrators.
  • Reduce the stigma of going to school administrators, parents and other adults for help.
  • Schools should show zero tolerance for bullying or any mean behavior, and consequences should be severe. If a bully seeks retribution against students who report his or her actions, those consequences should be severe as well.
  • Social media sites should be monitored, and any cyberbullying should be reported immediately. “If we tolerate bullying or mean behavior in any of its forms, we condone it,” Harris said.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

 

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