Saturday, May 14, 2011
All roads lead to Sesame Street. Last week, a colleague/friend of mine forwarded a link to me about bullying. I had worked with Allen at Nickelodeon and again at Sesame Workshop. When I opened the link, it was the Sesame Family Newsletter and low and behold, it was an article written by another Sesame Street buddy, Elana Halberstadt. Little did I know that since working with Elana, she had gotten married and had a little boy, Max.
Elana and I had a fantastic catching up session on the phone. We always had a good working relationship but it was even more fun to get to know Elana as a mom.
Max, now 4, is already experiencing the joys of pre-school and also some of the challenges, as well. And so is Max's mother. Elana is already up close and personal with some of the gaps in the bullying prevention issue. What I was impressed with is that she seemed to have a handle on walking into the situation and addressing the right things for her son. First and foremost, it was to reassure her son that he's not stupid. Secondly, that he needs to learn as early as 4, to tell the child being mean to STOP. It was important for her to go to the school and discuss the issue with the teachers and they happily worked with her.
It didn't surprise me that she wrote about it for Sesame Street. I worked on many public affairs campaigns while I was a consultant there. One of my favorites was Sesame Street PEP (Preschool Educational Program), which focused on training day care providers on how to help teach very young children. This is their genius. As you may know, Sesame Street was co-founded by Joan Ganz Cooney to help reach and teach children, particularly the underserved, during the tremendously important ages from 2-5. Kids were at home and television (aha!) could be used as a tool. The humor and music on Sesame Street is skillfully scripted to not only delight the child, but to entertain the adult caretaker. Without realizing it, the parent is interacting with their little one which helps their developing minds grow. Brilliant!
And speaking of brilliant, hats off to their top-notch research department. When the numbers starting showing that kids were more likely to be in day care, PEP was developed. (Although it no longer exists in that form, it looks as if it has been replaced by high quality online resources.)
How does this all loop back to bullying prevention? Training, trust and toddlers. I think what Elana's Sesame Family Newsletter article says is that it's never too young to set healthy expectations about respect. It's important that from as early as the toddler years, if kids are in school, a parent-teacher relationship needs to start. It's not just about numbers and colors, it's about behavior at home and in school. Learning happens no matter where they are or who happens to be the teacher at the moment.
It doesn't matter how old I get, I hope I never forget the lessons from Sesame Street. And Cookie Monster, I miss you! Give me a call.