A Tennessee mom’s anti-bullying tutorial is schooling more kids than she imagined.
Amy Beth Gardner used toothpaste to give her daughter Breonna a lesson in the consequences of being a bully before started middle school this week.
As the mother explained in a now-viral Facebook post, she gave her child the tube and asked her to squeeze out its contents onto a plate. When the young girl finished, Gardner told her to put it all back in the tube.
“She began exclaiming things like ‘But I can’t!’ and ‘It won’t be like it was before!'”
“I quietly waited for her to finish,” the mom wrote. And then she said the following:
“You will remember this plate of toothpaste for the rest of your life. Your words have the power of life or death.”
“As you go into middle school, you are about to see just how much weight your words carry. You are going to have the opportunity to use your words to hurt, demean, slander and wound others. You are also going to have the opportunity to use your words to heal, encourage, inspire and love others.”
The mom admitted wrong choices will be made, and confessed she could think of at least three times that week her careless words had caused harm.
She stressed the importance of choosing her words wisely.
“Just like this toothpaste, once the words leave your mouth, you can’t take them back.”
“Be known for your gentleness and compassion. Use your life to give life to a world that so desperately needs it. You will never, ever regret choosing kindness.”
Hundreds of thousands of people have since liked the post. Many parents and teachers who commented said they either already have or plan to use the same technique to teach their kids and students about bullying.
“Great demonstration that they totally understood and left a lasting impression,” one mom wrote.
In June, a teacher from England used apples to explain bullying to students.
University of Toronto psychologist Faye Mishna is a little doubtful about the effectiveness of these techniques.
“I do not think this tactic alone would work,” she said.
“I think the best way to help kids not to bully is through teaching empathy and tolerance on an ongoing basis – not so much through lectures, but discussion.”
These demonstrations could work hand-in-hand, though, within the context of those ongoing discussions. Experts have said conversations about bullying should include explanations about diversity and respect.
Bullying can happen as early as pre-school. Statistics show kindergarteners will see or experience bullying at some point before they enter junior high.
It can start as not letting peers play and progress from there. And as the toothpaste demo drives home, it can have lasting impacts.
Pediatrician John LeBlanc of Dalhousie University told Global News in May his research found the most popular-anti-bullying programs used in schools across Canada are largely ineffective.
He’s seen some children refuse to go to school because of bullying. Some even end up with anxiety disorders because of it.
Others have taken their own lives because of a bully’s actions.
Parents can help give their little ones build up the confidence to stand-up for themselves by following the tips in the infographic below.
READ MORE: 5 expert tips to bully-proof young kids
-With files from Mia Sosiak, Global News