Emotions are important, and they matter a great deal in the school environment. An anxious, jealous, hopeless, or alienated child will have difficulty making good decisions, building friendships and of course ultimately learning.

At the heart of bullying is emotion and surveys suggest a third of all children have been bullied either physically, verbally or mentally. The underlying cause of each of these can often be a lack of self and emotional understanding.

Bullying has consequences for everyone. The children experiencing the bullying are at risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies can be an all too real a prospect. The bullies themselves are often prone to drug abuse, criminal activity, spousal abuse and antisocial behaviour. The students who witness bullying can often feel hopeless and insecure, leading to trauma. Everyone involved tends to have poorer school attendance and academic performance.

Most schools have anti-bullying policies in place, and the number continues to grow. These policies demonstrate a commitment to addressing bullying in schools and have cost billions to implement, and, yet, according to some surveys, bullying rates have not declined. Survey results confirm that current anti-bullying programs are not working. Many believe they are not effective because they address the symptoms of bullying, rather than encouraging a set of skills for understanding, communicating about, and regulating students’ feelings.

In our opinion emotional intelligence should be a central component of bullying-prevention efforts in all classrooms. Teaching the fundamental skills needed to regulate powerful emotions is typically absent from many anti-bullying policies. For example, encouraging children to stand up to bullies can create anxiety and possibly lead them to be at risk for retaliation.

An education in emotional intelligence will help prevent children from resorting to pushing, picking on, or hurting others for emotional release. It will also help victims and bystanders develop skills needed to manage anxiety, but also how best to communicate their need for support. Recognising their own emotions, the emotions of others and the consequences of their behaviour.

Children and adults with emotional intelligence experience a wide variety of emotions—from elation and peace to anger and frustration and they can maintain relationships in an emotionally healthy way. Experiencing a greater well-being and are less prone to depression, fear and aggression. They often perform better at school and in the workplace.

Thankfully, emotional intelligence can be taught and is easily built-in to the curriculum, improving a school environment, with happier students.

Teacher training often does not include formal instruction on emotion to engage students in learning, self-regulation or how to create a positive classroom atmosphere. It’s difficult to imagine the effectiveness of promoting a free expression of emotion, when teachers have not had adequate training in these skills.

A step in the right direction is for schools to write an emotional intelligence policy, which can provide a backbone for an emotionally supportive learning environment. It can help students articulate how they feel, and how the school can work together to prevent and manage unwanted feelings and conflict. Building emotional self-awareness, helping gauge their feelings, set goals, manage self-regulation strategies, and realise learning objectives.

Neglecting the emotional education of children and adults risks leaving children at the mercy of every emotion and aggressor who comes along. Neglecting this can create a void in our educational system, one which bullies and their victims have slipped. An emotional intelligence policy can help to fill that gap, giving students, and teachers opportunities to develop the skills for healthy, effective, and a compassionate environment, educating not only the mind but the heart as well.

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