Bullying has a devastating effect on children and it’s not only the child being bullied who is affected. Bullying is a cycle that affects everyone involved from the bully him- or herself to those who want to help, but do nothing. By effectively explaining the negative effects of bullying to children, educators and parents can help break the cycle. Rosie Dutton, a teacher who visits schools in Birmingham, England to teach about mindfulness, found a fantastic way to demonstrate the effects of bullying by using two apples.
Dutton brought two identical-looking apples into her class and dropped one on the floor. She then decided she didn’t like it because it was “disgusting,” a “horrible colour” and “the stem was just too short.” Her students thought she was crazy, but she passed it around the class and the children derided the poor price of fruit saying “you’re a smelly apple,” “I don’t even know why you exist,” “you’ve probably got worms inside you,” and so forth.
Then Dutton brought out the other apple and decided that it was wonderful. She asked the children to say kind words to it such as, “you’re a lovely apple,” “your skin is beautiful,” “what a beautiful colour you are.” She then held up both apples showing that on the outside, they both looked the same. Then she cut the apples open. “The apple we’d been kind to was clear, fresh and juicy inside,” she wrote. “The apple we’d said unkind words to was bruised and all mushy inside.”
After the big reveal, Dutton saw the lightbulbs go off in her students’ heads. “They really got it, what we saw inside that apple,” she wrote. “The bruises, the mush and the broken bits is what is happening inside every one of us when someone mistreats us with their words or actions.” She then told the students about a time when her feelings were hurt by someone. She looked fine on the outside, but “on the inside someone had caused me a lot of pain with their words and I was hurting.”
Today in one of our classes I introduced the children to two apples (the children didn't know this, but before the class I had repeatedly dropped one of the apples on the floor, you couldn't tell, both apples looked perfect). We talked about the apples and the children described how both apples looked the same; both were red, were of similar size and looked juicy enough to eat.
I picked up the apple I'd dropped on the floor and started to tell the children how I disliked this apple, that I thought it was disgusting, it was a horrible colour and the stem was just too short. I told them that because I didn’t like it, I didn’t want them to like it either, so they should call it names too.
Some children looked at me like I was insane, but we passed the apple around the circle calling it names, 'you’re a smelly apple', 'I don't even know why you exist', 'you’ve probably got worms inside you’ etc.
We really pulled this poor apple apart. I actually started to feel sorry for the little guy.
We then passed another apple around and started to say kind words to it, ‘You’re a lovely apple’, ‘Your skin is beautiful’, ‘What a beautiful colour you are’ etc.
I then held up both apples, and again, we talked about the similarities and differences, there was no change, both apples still looked the same.
I then cut the apples open. The apple we’d been kind to was clear, fresh and juicy inside.
The apple we’d said unkind words to was bruised and all mushy inside.
I think there was a lightbulb moment for the children immediately. They really got it, what we saw inside that apple, the bruises, the mush and the broken bits is what is happening inside every one of us when someone mistreats us with their words or actions.
When people are bullied, especially children, they feel horrible inside and sometimes don't show or tell others how they are feeling. If we hadn't have cut that apple open, we would never have known how much pain we had caused it.
I shared my own experience of suffering someone's unkind words last week. On the outside I looked OK, I was still smiling. But, on the inside someone had caused me a lot of pain with their words and I was hurting.
Unlike an apple, we have the ability to stop this from happening. We can teach children that it's not ok to say unkind things to each other and discuss how it makes others feel. We can teach our children to stand up for each other and to stop any form of bullying, just as one little girl did today when she refused to say unkind words to the apple.
More and more hurt and damage happens inside if nobody does anything to stop the bullying. Let's create a generation of kind, caring children.
The tongue has no bones, but is strong enough to break a heart. So be careful with your words.