Talking about Bullying with Young Children

I wrote Bully Goat to the Rescue to both entertain children and to also give them insight into one of the reasons other children act like bullies. As a teacher and principal, I certainly had many experiences with bullying. I would have eagerly used a book like Bully Goat to the Rescue as a guided reading book in my intermediate classrooms or as a read-aloud in my primary classroom to stimulate discussions with my students.

The topic of bullying is certainly pertinent today, and many schools have bullying curricula. Media accounts tend to focus on the victims of bullying, but too rarely explore the behaviors underlying the bullying itself. Especially at a young age, children should understand that they have choices to make about their behaviors. In my story, Bully Goat needs a better way to feel important about him self rather than by intimidating the other goats. When he becomes a successful rescue goat, he also becomes a more self-confident goat and a better friend.

The March 12, 2012, edition of Time Magazine includes “The Myths of Bullying”: Very little about bullying conforms to popular belief. Not all that long ago, it was dismissed as an unfortunate rite of childhood. But because of high-profile cases… bullying has become cemented in public opinion as a growing epidemic. The article sites information such as: 48 states now have anti-bullying laws; most students are both bullies and are bullied; punishing bullies and counseling victims has resulted in more violence; and the statistics about bullying are being inflated. Therefore, it is critical that children (and teachers and parents) have realistic discussions about bullying … what causes it, how to report or respond to bullying, and how not to set yourself up to be a victim. Bully Goat to the Rescue is a gentle prompt to opening discussions about bullying with children ages 8-12.

With your students I emphasize:

Grade 3:

  • Identify characteristics of someone who has self-respect and positive self-esteem.
  • Acknowledge the value of personal and others’ talents and strengths.
  • Give examples of pro-social behaviors such as helping others, being respectful of others, cooperation, consideration, and self-control.
  • Describe what to do if self or others are being teased, bullied, or harassed.

Grade 4:

  • Discuss factors that support healthy relationships with friends and family.
  • Describe the characteristics of a friend.
  • Identify the positive ways that peers and family members show support, care, and appreciation for one another.
  • Define the characteristics of a bully, target/victim, and bystander.
  • Distinguish between “tattling” and “telling”.


Grade 5:

  • Explain the significance and impact of, as well as the short-term and long-term consequences, of bullying.
  • Explain potential causes of bullying.