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The stop-walk-talk method

Nov 03, 2017 04:03PM ● Published by Jet Burnham

Parents were introduced to the method the school teaches to deal with bullying situations so they can use it at home as well. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

Taylorsville Elementary is teaching students and their families how to react to bullying. The method, called Stop, Walk, Talk, focuses on using pro-social responses. 

Magenta Silberman, a member of the Behavior Response Support Team at Taylorsville Elementary, explained how the method works. When someone does something mean or hurtful, the first response should be to tell them to stop. Suggested phrases are “That’s not cool” or “That’s enough.” She said it’s important to remain neutral and not react with anger or any other big emotion. If the bullying continues, the next step is to walk away from the situation, finding positive friends or adults to be around. If that has no effect on the situation, Silberman said it is time to talk to a parent or teacher. 

Silberman teaches the method to students and teachers and then observes student behavior to identify students who could benefit from additional skills training in a small-group setting. She meets with three to eight students at a time, once a week, tailoring classes to the needs of the students. She talks with them about what good sportsmanship looks like, how to resolve disagreements positively, why they should avoid spreading rumors, accepting consequences for their behaviors and developing good communication skills. She said the skill set is not just for handling bullies.

“I believe this topic is important because when students are taught pro-social skills, they are able to generalize those skills across situations,” said Silberman. “This gives students the opportunity to better advocate for themselves and develop positive relationships with their peers.” 

Principal Andrea McMillan said when students come to her office concerning a bullying situation, she asks them to express their feelings about the situation.

“We practice that kind of language with each other so that they can feel empowered to really tell somebody how they’re feeling versus getting really upset and not feeling like they got heard or that their feelings were valid,” she said.

Silberman said when students start responding positively with their new skills, other kids copy the behaviors. 

“We have that peer pressure, but it can be used in a really positive way sometimes, too,” she said.

To have consistency at home and school with behaviors and responses, Silberman hosted an evening class to provide the same social skills training for parents. 

Silberman said kids need a reference for understanding concepts. She suggested parents share examples of people the kids know who’ve been bullied. The discussion of how the person handled it can help the child understand their parents’ values.

Silberman suggests parents engage in role-playing activities with their children to arm them with the tools to deal with situations they may encounter in the future. Silberman believes when a teacher or parent sets specific expectations for behavior, shows the child what it looks like and then allows them to practice it, the child is better able to master the skill. 

“This relates to academics and behavior as well—you tell them what you expect, you show them how to do it and let them do it,” she said.

A video was shown at the class to parents to prompt a discussion of what bulling is. Then parents shared some experiences of how they have responded to their child being bullied. 

“You are the No. 1 models,” Silberman told parents. She reminded them that even though they may feel anger when someone has hurt their child, they need to set the example of remaining calm. She knows that kids will often respond the same way their parents do.

“When you have pro-social responses, those can be contagious,” said Silberman. 

Silberman, who has a masters of education degree, is a second-year doctoral student at the School of Psychology program at the University of Utah. She works as a behavioral consultant at Taylorsville Elementary through a partnership between the two schools.

McMillan is thrilled to have such a great resource available to the students and their families. The program is provided at no cost to the school.    

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