In grades 1-4 we are reading the book, "Simon's Hook" by Karen Gedig Burnett. This is a fun, entertaining book full of strategies children can use for handling put-downs and teasing. The idea is that when someone teases us, it's like they are casting a fishing line at us, hoping we will take the bait and bite the hook. Biting the hook looks like getting upset and fighting back in some way. Simon's Hook teaches us how not to take the bait.
Here is a letter to parents and teachers from the author of Simon's Hook, Karen Gedig Burnett, as she explains it best:
"When teased, children sometimes fall into a habit of feeling hurt, upset, and victimized. How can we help them break this pattern and learn more effective ways to handle these difficult times? Simon's Hook can help.
First, children can get so involved with the emotion of the tease that they react instinctively rather than recognize that often the sole purpose of the tease is to get a reaction. Simon's Hook compares teases to "fishing hooks" and promotes the idea of swimming free. This offers children a different and more objective view of the teasing process.
Next, sometimes when children are teased they don't think they have options - they have to bite. When people believe they have few options they feel powerless, stuck, or controlled by others. Simon's Hook shows children many ways to swim around the hook. They see they are not powerless, they have many choices.
And last, Simon's Hook concentrates on the actions of the fish, rather than the hooks or the fishermen. THis encourages children to focus on their own attitude and behavior, the only part of the interaction they control. Complaining about the other person's behavior, the cruel hook or the unfair situation is counterproductive and only leads to feelings of helplessness and self pity. By focusing on their own actions children can begin to recognize the power they have, their personal power. Personal power is not about power over someone else or the situation, but power over ourselves; our attitude, our actions, our life. An empowered attitude is instrumental in a person's ability to solve problems throughout life.
You can help too. After reading Simon's Hook you can help children recognize their choices and personal power by simply asking a question or making a comment:
Did you bite?
Oh, and you bit.
I see a hook.
Someone's been fishing.
How can you swim free?
Were you caught?
Did someone throw a hook at you?
How could you avoid that hook?
The fish are biting today.
Encourage your child to see himself or herself as a strong and free fish with many choices, no matter what hooks the other person uses.
P.S. Children learn much by observing adults. How do you handle conflicts? When you're driving and someone yells at you, do you 'bite'? When someone directs a cruel comment toward you, do you get 'hooked'? Since 'actions speak louder than words,' make sure you act like a 'strong, free fish' and don't bite at other people's negative behavior."