Not quite culling the same broadstroked attention as childhood obesity yet, bullying is fast becoming a forefront public issue because the consequences are devastating and the prevalence rate is increasing. Every seven seconds a child is bullied on a school playground, it causes 160,000 kids to miss school every day and significantly contributed to 2/3 of the 37 most recent school shootings.
Not dismissible as kids being kids, bullying at best denigrates victims and at worst leads them to commit ultimate acts out of desperation. In response, a growing number of schools are delivering anti-bullying programs to the good news they reduce the prevalence by 50%.
Enter physical activity. Personal responsibility begins with respecting the rights and feelings of others. Considering its characteristics, physical activity is uniquely opportune to foster the basics of respectful behavior.
First, it’s a natural draw for kids because it’s fun. This means large groups of kids playing together at any one time; re, in physical activity there tends to be a captive audience.
Second, there are no secrets on the playground, meaning the interactions that occur during activity are overt. This offers endless opportunity to teach responsible behavior and respond to disrespectful actions such as disparaging interactions, or equipment/facility abuse.
Third, activity invokes emotional responses that offer teachable moments. During sport/game play, it’s common to experience a gamete of emotion – elation, frustration, discouragement, joy. The overt display of emotion provides the means to help kids understand and manage them healthfully.
Fourth, the sports and games that comprise physical activity are governed by rules. This offers objective examples of consequences to behavior. Rule infractions can mean penalties that disadvantage the team or removal from the game for failure to comply. The framework of rules also provides endless opportunities to address honesty and ethical/fair play.
Fifth, sport/game play typically involves competition so provides the opportunity to help kids develop a healthy appreciation for outcomes. This can include normalizing loosing and developing humility.
Sixth, sport/game play typically requires that teammates interact with one another, and the quality of which often determines the degree of success. This offers the opportunity for kids to develop a respect for diversity. It also presents the opportunity to modify game rules to guarantee teamwork, e.g., everyone needs to touch the ball before a goal can be scored.
Physical activity, aka sports, is cultured for its ‘character building’ capacity, including developing the personal responsibility attributes of discipline, teamwork, leadership, commitment, and the like. No doubt, the playing field is an opportune environment but it’s up to adult leadership to ensure the teachable moments are addressed.