Book cover with a girl looking triumphant with her dog. The words reflections and video reading by the authors Rose and Hope McCallum.

Book Title:  The Watermelon Shield

Authors:  Rose and Hope McCallum

Illustrator:  mikemotz.com

For ages:  6-10 years (a good read for all ages)

Topics:  bullying, kindness, compassion, empathy, character development, juvenile self-help

Related learning areas:  social and emotional learning (SEL), well-being/self-confidence, communication/healthy boundaries

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Five children lying together on the ground with text next to image saying tracking student relationships to improve well-being and reduce bullying.

How important are relationships in education? 

Rita Pierson, in her classic TEDTalk, says “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” I thoroughly agree and I would like it mandated that every teacher watches her talk every year!

I want to expand her sentiment to include student to student relationships.

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Aaron Stark had a painful and abusive childhood which almost ended in tragedy at his school. It was a not so extraordinary act of kindness and a strong and understanding childhood friend that changed his destructive mindset and saved his life.

After a decade of recovery and sharing his story, Aaron has been able to put the past behind him and dedicate himself to his family. He’s a man on a mission to use his very personal story of triumph to help other young people feeling lost and confused walk into the light. He wants to reassure those who are suffering that there are people who care and that they’re not alone.

This video highlights the importance of seeing and helping children in pain. Please do not see those who bully, those who are quiet and introverted or those who are needy as children who are trying to push your buttons. Take some time to investigate and find out how their needs are not being met and how you can make a difference.

Phrases like "random acts of kindness" and "pay it forward" have become popular terms in modern society. There are even special days dedicated to performing good deeds and organisations who specialise in altruism.

But why has kindness become so popular? Perhaps it's best explained by those who have identified a deficit in their lives that can only be filled by giving.

Science proves there are good reasons why so many of us can't get enough of those addictive, feel-good emotions. Research shows there are many physical, emotional, and mental health benefits associated with kindness. It's a powerful and free resource to reduce anti-social and bullying behaviour.

"Unlike previous generations, today's adolescents are victimizing each other at alarming rates leading adults to ask why."
- Shanetia Clark and Barbara Marinak

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The power of classroom circles for fostering emotional intelligence, improving well-being and creating a culture of kindness is well documented. Circles are important tools for nurturing relationships and feelings of community and can be used in any classroom.

Schools with a focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) often use circles to help build a positive culture to reduce bullying. Circles work because they help all children to feel loved and encouraged while creating bonds between peers. They are especially important for nurturing feelings of belonging, acceptance and stability in troubled children.

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Kindness Trees are a beautiful way to focus on and acknowledge the importance of showing kindness within a school. The tree helps foster kind, supportive relationships amongst students and teachers, and everyone loves to watch the tree “grow” as each good deed is recognized. read more →

Supporting children to stop bullying.

Bully! It’s an ugly word because it involves ugly actions. This little word can stir the strongest emotions in people from all walks of life. Why, because it doesn’t discriminate and a high proportion of the population have been either directly or indirectly affected by it.

Bullying has become an overwhelming social crisis. When it touches the life of a child, it can have a devastating and long-lasting effect not only on them but also their family and friends.

Childhood bullying can negatively impact the physical, emotional and mental health of bullies, the bullied, and bystanders well into adulthood.

A meta-analysis of 80 studies reported a mean prevalence rate in 12-18-year-old students of 35% for traditional bullying and 15% for cyberbullying involvement. Given that another study reported that only 36% of bullying victims reported being bullied, it’s difficult to know how accurate these figures really are and frightening to think they could be much higher.   read more →

In the book, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, she writes about Choosing Kind as the best option in life. This phrase resonated with me and sparked a new appreciation on how I discuss bullying with my 6th graders.

I then came across an article on the Edutopia website titled, “Why Teaching Kindness in Schools is Essential to Reduce Bullying” and knew this was the right angle to take with my incoming 6th graders. They have all heard the lectures about how bullying is wrong. I wanted to attack bullying from a different point of view. After reading the Edutopia article, I decided to teach kindness. What does it truly mean? I wanted my students to reflect on the meaning of kindness. I wanted them to pay it forward and start applying kindness to their peers at school.

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As important as it is for parents to encourage, love and support their children, it is just as important that children learn to create this within themselves. It is very empowering for a child to create positive beliefs in themselves so it is much harder for people to tear them down.

As our children learn behaviours and wire their brain, affirmations are very effective in nurturing self-belief in childhood, which will stay with them throughout their life.

We all develop our belief systems about ourselves and the world around us from our environment. Our family and friends, role models, television, magazines and advertising can either be nurturing or damaging.

It is important that we learn to take control of our belief systems and the younger that we learn, the easier it is. It can be as simple as affirming the positive beliefs that we would like to grow up with. Negative beliefs can impact our lives greatly and can be hard to shift as we grow older.

Affirmations are a powerful and holistic way of building a positive mind and happier children. Nurturing their authentic self and helping them to enjoy the magic of childhood.

“Affirmation takes advantage of our reward circuits, which can be quite powerful. Many studies have shown that these circuits can do things like dampen pain and help us maintain balance in the face of threats.”
- Christopher Cascio, PhD.

Put simply, an affirmation is to affirm to one’s self. Positive words that are absorbed by the mind to create your belief system. Once affirmations are learned, they work by coming to mind when that belief is challenged.

If your affirmation is "I am wonderful just the way I am", and you are told you are stupid, the affirmation will come to mind to remind you of your belief. Instead, you will think, "I’m not stupid, I am wonderful!”

Without a positive belief, you may take on the one you just heard and start to believe that you are stupid. The more an affirmation is repeated, positive or negative, the stronger it becomes.

What we think about ourselves, is how we develop 

If we feel we are worthless, we will behave like we are worthless. If we believe that we are special and loved, we will behave like we are special and loved. 

The word believe with a candle and a selection of affirmation cards for children.

This is why affirmations are so important to help children develop positive foundations on which to grow. Once we have matured, it is hard to change those foundations.

Affirmations also provide us with the opportunity to learn to look at ourselves in the mirror. This is the most effective way to say an affirmation and learning to do this as a child makes it much easier to do. Many of us find it quite confronting to look ourselves in the eyes, let alone say “I love you” as we do.

Why we need to be kind to ourselves

This leads to the next benefit if affirmations. They teach us positive self-talk, to speak to ourselves with kindness. As we grow, we can develop a habit of criticising ourselves, harming our own self-confidence and lowering our resilience. For children to learn positive self-talk from a young age, helps prevent self-criticism, as a strong and positive belief system has already been created from within.

As bullying is such a huge issue that many children face at some time, self-confidence is the very thing that will help them deal with these situations. Keeping a positive mind is essential. This can be really difficult when children are dealing with bullying behaviour. By developing positive mental pathways, children are more resilient and self-assured, coping much better than if they had a low self-esteem.

Many children who bully lack confidence, so feel a need to belittle others to make themselves feel better and more in control. Children with a positive self-image feel less inclined to bully others. Uniting a class with a quick two-minute affirmation at the start of a school day could make the world of difference to troubled children.

Creating an inner confidence as children can shape our whole life. Every aspect of our life is affected by our self-confidence. It affects our ability to learn and participate at school, socially, creatively, our relationships, achieving our goals and dreams, and most importantly our standards. With little self-confidence, we often lower our standards or ‘settle’ for what we believe is achievable.

Just a few positive words spoken to ourselves each day can, amazingly, make such a difference to our whole body, our mind, our heart and physically too. There is much research on how the heart and mind are wired to communicate and how a happy and positive mind can improve overall health.

Make today the day that you try affirmations with your children. Helping them to shine with confidence as the unique individuals that they are.

Introducing your children to affirmations

Affirmations can be implemented into your daily routines very easily. Only taking a few minutes each day.

Introducing Affirmations   

It is a good idea to talk to your children about using affirmations so they understand what they are for and how they work. Keep it fun and encouraging. “Affirmations teach you new and positive ways of thinking. They can help you believe in yourself, feel happy and help you to feel better when you are angry or sad. Let’s try them and see what we think!” "Affirmations encourage kind and happy ways of thinking, you will remember them when you need them most."

Another way to introduce affirmations to your children is to place affirmation cards around the house in areas that they will see them. Just reading the words will help them affirm positive beliefs. On the mirror in the bathroom is a great spot or on the breakfast table.

It will also help if you were to lead by example and read the affirmations as well. You may like to do your affirmations together. You may find that this allows you the chance to discuss emotions or issues that they may be experiencing, opening doors for conversation. Working together on your affirmations may just have you shine together.

3 cards displaying positive affirmations for children

Looking in the mirror

One of the most valuable lessons affirmations offer, is being comfortable looking at yourself in the mirror and learning positive self-talk (talking to yourself with kindness and positivity). Many of us find it hard to look at our reflection without being critical, judgmental or negative about ourselves.

Affirmations are the most powerful when we say the words to ourselves whilst looking into a mirror. These positive words are literally building our own self-belief. Young children introduced to this concept feel more comfortable and far less confronted looking at themselves in the mirror. If you find that your children feel it is difficult to look into the mirror to say their affirmations, it is best not to push them. Affirmations are still very effective by just reading the words aloud to yourself. Children that are visually impaired will use this technique.

Repeating Affirmations

Affirmations are more effective when repeated and it's best to repeat an affirmation 3 times, saying the words louder and with more confidence each time. This helps affirm the belief. You may like to work on one affirmation a day or one a week, depending on how confident your child is with each affirmation. If they seem to struggle with an affirmation you may like to continue working on that one longer.

Girl in a meadow of flowers hold a bunch she's picked. Louise Hay quote about affirmations.

Helpful Tips

You could also take a little time to discuss the affirmation and how your child feels about it. Perhaps even write a long list of their qualities to help boost their confidence and help them to recognize their values. Some children may prefer to work on the affirmations on their own and this is ok too.

It is important to show respect for your child and their feelings and not to push them too hard if they're feeling uncomfortable. Positive affirmations should always be introduced in a fun and exciting way. Use them to help children be the best that they can be and to nurture happy and positive feelings.

Never should affirmation cards be used for punishment, in time out, or in relation to any bad behaviour. As affirmations are such a wonderful tool, it is important not to bring a negative tone to them.

Young Children

Children using affirmations under the age of 5 or 6 when they're not yet reading, can be read the words by their parents for them to repeat. This works very well and affirmations used at this age create strong and healthy foundation.

AUTHOR: Roxanne Wilkins -  Nurture Cards
Roxy created Nurture Cards in 2009 after her own personal and family struggles with her young children. As she saw other young children suffering with low self-confidence, bullying, negative self-image, anxiety, effects of divorce or unhappy family dynamics, she wanted to create a tool to help them through these tough times.

Nurture Cards are used worldwide by children, counsellors, therapists, primary teachers, early childhood centres, disability services and much more. I also have other resources for improving sleep and self-esteem.
Follow Nurture Cards on facebook.


My daughter has been having difficulty with a girl at school. This girl “Mary” became a bit of a stalker and it became quite intense.

It was manageable during school hours, but it was the constancy of exchanges on Instagram that became overwhelming. Relentless messages from Mary accusing my daughter of bad behaviour. Mary snapping a photo of my daughter’s private messages, where she revealed her crush and then showing him. Not cool. In the end, we advised our daughter to block Mary, at which point the girl jumped on to my account. Yikes, it was intense.

A meeting was held at school and the cyber issue was resolved. Several minor incidents occurred thereafter, but nothing that we couldn’t handle.

Then, one day my daughter came home from school furious. We sat down as I listened to the drama that had unfolded this time. Mary had taken a rotten piece of fruit and had thrown it at one of the boys. This particular boy is very shy, a bit of a recluse, an easy target. The fruit hit him. He did not respond and simply continued staring at the floor. My daughter then flew into action (she has a very strong moral compass).

“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears
of another and feeling with the heart of another.” – Alfred Adler

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A teacher in New York used the crumpled paper exercise to show her students the last impact that bullying can have. read more →

My message to kids who bully other kids is:
You know it’s wrong! What’s really going on? Try not to make somebody else’s life miserable because you are.

– Joe Nichols

Let me begin by saying that I detest the ‘Bully,’ label. Bully is a loaded word. It provokes an emotional reaction of some kind to any person that you mention it to. From outrage to fear, everyone has an opinion. Bully Vs Victim, simple right? I disagree.

For me, this is not simple. Varying levels of light and shade must be considered if we are going to be successful in helping to reduce incidents of nastiness in schools. For a child to carry the label of bully is akin to a prison sentence that will haunt them for his or her school career with little chance of parole. To have the bully label surgically thrust upon you implies that it is a fundamental part of the person that you are, it’s who people are therefore expecting you to be. What a burden for a child to carry. To say that a child is displaying bullying behaviour is so much more positive because behaviours can easily be changed and disposed of so it gives everyone involved hope for change.

I am one of these really irritating people who holds the belief that there is good in 99% of the population and often in places that we are not expecting. My mission in life has always been to try and identify with people and find common-ground. I love words and believe that good quality communication, partnered with love and an attempt at understanding, can help to ease any situation. As a parent to four beautiful babies, I have found this to be extremely challenging at times, as I will explain. read more →