Category Archives: Bullying

Feeling safe in the last days

When I read in the Friend magazine how children responded to scary news, I felt alternately relieved and deflated. See The Lemonade Stand that Changed Everything, a cheery title for an article about how children responded to news of a terrorist attack by doing a service project to support first responders. Also read “What’s on Your Mind?” about how to help a child feeling scared when they hear bad news.

I felt relieved that church magazine writers are responding to needs of today’s children. I felt deflated because I wanted today’s children to worry about nothing more serious than loud thunderstorms at night.

Teaching children to respond to bad things with acts of service is a non-intuitive but enormously Christlike response. Notice that the Friend article discusses scary things on every level — a sick family member, someone being bullied, people needing help in my neighborhood — as well as natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

Read more ideas in this post: Helping children understand violence and tragedy

For more about bullying, see Bullying: Having Difficult Conversations with Parents and Bullying in Primary

For more about children whose homes may put them at risk, see Honoring Parents – even if parents make poor choices?

As always, the Lord gets the last word: “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:6).

God bless the valiant children of the last days, working to build the kingdom until He comes. And God bless the faithful leaders and parents, saved for the last days to teach children how to do just that.



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Filed under Bullying, Life Lessons

Dodge those arrows and rocks like Samuel the Lamanite!

Download the free audio MP3 and sheet music here (available exclusively on PrimaryinZion!)

Kids don’t have to stand on a wall to have arrows and rocks thrown at them — or words that hurt like arrows and rocks. But just like Samuel, they might be unhurt. Here’s what happened to Samuel:

“(They) were angry with him; and they cast stones at him upon the wall, and also many shot arrows at him as he stood upon the wall; but the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows.” Helaman 16:2

Like Samuel, children can have the Spirit of the Lord with them, no matter what others do. A little ignoring can go a long way. Kindness to the verbal arrow-shooter can work too. (See “Passing Kindness” game from the Friend magazine for ways to show kindness to others, and how to defend themselves when others are unkind.)

But if the situation is serious, crossing over into bullying, it may be time to take action. Try these ideas:

And in case Samuel the Lamanite is one of YOUR heroes too, teach your children this unforgettable original song (only available here at PrimaryinZion!): Samuel the Lamanite song (with sheet music)!

Don’t let those arrows hurt you. Keep the Spirit of the Lord with you, just like Samuel.


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Filed under Bullying, Lesson, Life Lessons, Music

“Passing Kindness” game for Sharing Time or family night, colored by Alexavier, age 6

Whenever we teach about keeping the commandments, being kind to others often comes to mind. In addition, this activity also talks about what to do when others are unkind to you, even bullies.

This fun activity from the Friend uses paper and a small treat (enough for everyone) with different situations about ways to show kindness to others, and how to defend themselves when others are unkind. Write each question from the Friend on a separate piece of paper (using a full-sized sheet of paper per question works best), wrap each paper around a small shareable treat, and keep going until you have a medium-sized ball. When it’s time for the activity, unwrap the ball and answer the question, until you get down to the treat!

For step-by-step instructions and a list of questions, see “Passing Kindness” in the August 2015 Friend.


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Filed under Activity, Bullying, Lesson

Bullying: Having Difficult Conversations with Parents

We’ve posted a few thoughts about dealing with bullying here and here. But what if your child might BE the bully? Or what if you as a Primary leader must have a tough conversation with parents, to let them know their child has exhibited bullying behavior in Primary? See how one parent handled it with her son in “Me? A Bully?” in the February 2017 Friend, 36-37.

Notice how the mother doesn’t shame the child, but continues to believe in the boy’s good intentions. She also takes positive steps, like asking him to:

  1. find out three cool things about the person he doesn’t like,
  2. sing a Primary song like “If the Savior Stood Beside Me” (click here for Michelle’s sign language video and visuals),
  3. remember when the child himself was in a similar situation and appreciated being treated with kindness, and
  4. do something nice for someone he doesn’t get along with.

“You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but you can choose to be kind.”

If you have to have this conversation with parents, you can send the same messages to the parents themselves: not shaming the parents, continuing to believe in the good intentions of the parents AND the child, and taking positive steps, not just avoiding the negative. That is, instead of saying to the parents, “Tell your child to stop bullying,” Primary leaders can encourage parents to help the child see the good in everyone, and take concrete positive steps suggested above. You may want to give them a copy of the Friend article.

This is never an easy conversation, but with the guidance of the Spirit, addressing bullying can make Primary the safe, comfortable space that it needs to be for everyone to grow.


Filed under Bullying, Parent Involvement

When Bad Choices Seem to Work Out Just Fine (at least temporarily)

As children are beginning to choose which voices to listen to and make their own decisions, being taught to Choose the Right is a strong message at any stage in a child’s development.

At the same time, a child may steal a cookie from the cookie jar and escape undetected. She may convincingly blame a sibling for her own mess and not get in trouble. Or children may see it in others: bullying behavior may go unaddressed week after week, or cheating may result in good grades without deserving it. What happens when poor choices don’t lead to immediate consequences? Children (and adults) may wonder how agency and consequences really works in the real world.

Yes, good choices lead to good consequences, and bad choices lead to bad consequences. But there can be invisible consequences and delayed consequences. Ask children to define invisible consequences (outcomes you can’t see) and delayed consequences (outcomes that don’t happen right away). Back to the stick with “choices” on one end and “consequences” on the other: take a colorful handkerchief and cover over the consequences end of the stick. Ask, “If you can’t see the consequences, are they still there?” (Yes.) Now remove the handkerchief. Raise the choice end really slowly. Ask, “If it takes awhile for the consequences to catch up to you, are the consequences still there?” (Yes.)

Let’s see how this works. You may want to cut the following four situations into wordstrips and discuss each one.

  1. What if you steal a cookie from the cookie jar and nobody notices? You made a bad choice, but you got away with it without consequences, right? No? What are some possible invisible consequences of taking something you’re  not supposed to? (Answers might include feeling bad about it, not having enough cookies for everyone in the family, etc.) What are some possible delayed consequences of taking something you’re not supposed to?  (Answers might include being found out later, not being trusted.)
  2. What if you blame your brother for your own mess to avoid getting in trouble? What if your parents believe your lie and your brother gets in trouble?  What are some possible invisible consequences of saying something that is not true, even no one finds out? (Answers might include feeling bad about it, having your brother be mad at you, etc. God always knows.) What are some possible delayed consequences of taking something you’re not supposed to?  (Answers might include being found out later and getting into double trouble.)
  3. What if someone is mean to others and doesn’t get punished?  What are some possible invisible consequences of being unkind? (Answers might include that the person making mean choices might feel unhappy inside, have no friends, etc.) What are some possible delayed consequences of being unkind?  (Answers might include having others be unkind to you, being punished later, etc.)
  4. What if someone cheats in school and gets good grades without deserving it? What are some possible invisible consequences of cheating? (Answers might include that the person cheating might feel unhappy inside, go on to harder work without understanding the work on the test, etc.) What are some possible delayed consequences of being unkind?  (Answers might include being found out and having all your good grades turn into zeros, etc.)
In God’s plan, no one ever gets away with anything. Sooner or later God will reward everyone according to their works. President Ezra Taft Benson said: “You cannot do wrong and feel right. It is impossible!” (“To ‘the Rising Generation,’” New Era, June 1986, 5). Put the following wordstrip on the board: “Wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10) Ask the children to repeat it with you a few times, including the reference.
Related songs include:
  • “Choose the Right Way” (Children’s Songbook, 169)
  • “Dare to Do Right” (CS, 158)
  • “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus” (CS, 78)
CHOOSE the RIGHT – every time!


Filed under Bullying, Lesson, Sharing Time

“An Egg for Everyone” – secret weapons galore

This is an excerpt from a book review written by Kate Wangsgard of “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids,” the book that emerged from this blog. The review was published in the spring 2015 Exponent II magazine, page 35. Read the full review here

Kate loves to cook and eat delicious vegetarian food, plan-over-the-top Halloween parties and go on bike rides with her family. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her soccer-loving husband, moppy-haired 7 year old son and adventurous 1 year old son.

I am currently teaching Sunbeams for the third time in ten years, so I’m willing to try just about anything to keep those wiggly little bums in their chairs. After reading through “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids,” I found what looked to be a secret weapon in the war against squirmy three-year-olds. Last Sunday I sat down next to my rows of Sunbeams, waiting for the perfect moment to use my new trick. It wasn’t long before one of the kids started hopping out of his chair. So I squatted down in front of him and whispered, “I have a special job for you. I need you to pretend you’re a bird and your chair is an egg that you need to keep warm. Make sure you stay in your chair so your egg stays warm!” His eyes lit up as he settled into his chair with a proud smile. It was working! Throughout the rest of Sharing Time, whenever he stared to get out of his chair, I reminded him of his little egg and he quickly returned to keep it warm. My co-teacher was impressed and I sat back and smugly marveled at my newfound Sunbeam wrangling skills.

Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids” ought to be required reading for anyone serving in Primary. While it is full of clever ideas and tricks like the egg-warming one above, its greatest value lies in the suggestions for sensitively dealing with difficult situations you encounter while teaching children in the Church. The book gives suggestions for how to navigate a lesson on honoring your parents when you know some of your kids don’t have a positive relationship with their parents. It discusses how to deal with bullying and other behavior issues and includes suggestions to reach children of all learning styles or children with special needs. There is a lesson to teach children about the valuable role of women in the Church by introducing them to strong female leaders, past and present. Any efforts to help teach the gospel to the next generation in a more open and loving way gets my vote.

[The book] suggests simple but helpful rules for establishing a smoother running Primary and ways to help the kids learn and remember those rules each week. There are ways to improve Singing Time, Primary training meetings, and suggestions for working with the bishopric on staffing issues. There is also a detailed plan for transitioning new Sunbeams from nursery to Primary.

Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids” is a quick read but will be a great resource to have on hand when you find yourself facing a particularly daunting subject or difficult situation.

– Kate Wangsgard

(Thank you, Kate!)

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Filed under Bullying, Discipline, Lesson, Music, Nursery, Reaching the One, Special Needs, Transitions

Primary in Zion becomes a book! “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids”

SundayLessons_Front_RGBIt started with you, our readers. We began this blog and watched in astonishment as it spread all over the world. We dreamed of turning the best posts and other ideas into a book you can take with you to read on the beach or on your couch, to savor the stories and refer to the ideas and helps again and again. We took your favorite Primary in Zion blog posts, invited new voices from other authors, and put them together in a volume called “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids”.  It is now available on,, or wherever LDS books are sold.

Here’s what it’s about: Children. If you’ve ever wished you could send the entire church class into timeout, then basked in the radiance of a child’s face when the Spirit speaks to her spirit, this book is for you. In these pages are memorable stories of the exuberant joy as well as the real-world challenges of working with children. You’ll also find ready-to-use ideas for channeling boundless energy, teaching about ideal families to children who live in other-than-ideal families, staffing challenges, bullying, children’s music for a lifetime, kids with special needs, building a celestial nursery, pint-sized service projects, and behavior management. And you’ll find some of the best children’s lesson enhancements and activities of all time.

Click here for downloadable files of the figures and handouts in the book.

Here’s what they’re saying about this new book:

“Why didn’t I think of that?!” you ask yourself, then gratefully acknowledge: “Thank goodness Marci McPhee did!” With sensitivity to the needs of all children, and love beyond measure for these precious little ones, McPhee lights the way to joyfully leading our children “home.” —Lori Henderson, co-creator of 


Learning of my son’s disability and being called to teach Primary were both scary events in their own right. I wasn’t sure how to react to either situation. I wish I had found Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids sooner! This book speaks to both men and women about how to fulfill this special calling. —Marc Buchanan, father and Primary worker 


Drawing first-hand examples from thoughtful Latter-day Saints, Marci McPhee has put together a guide that is an engaging, provocative, reassuring, and, importantly, faithful resource for teachers and parents. —Ron Scott, journalist, novelist, and author of “Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics” 


This is the most honest, heart-warming collection I have read about teaching children. The tips are practical, real-life, and easily adaptable. This book reminds us of the transforming power of viewing children as the Savior did. It will give new vision to leaders, teachers, and parents. —Gladys Farmer, author, mother, and grandmother with many years of Primary experience

Contributing authors:

Julia B. Blake

Jon Forsyth

Lori Forsyth

Char Lyn Grujoski

Kristine Haglund

Danielle Harrell

Roz Hawk

Michelle Henderson

Jackie Herrera

Tina Huntsman

Jenn Iverson

Whitney Johnson

Caroline Jones

Linda Hoffman Kimball

Rebecca Lewis

Brigitte Madrian

David Madrian

Emily Mangum

Marci McPhee

James McQuivey

Megan McQuivey

Michelle Purrington

Helen Claire Sievers

Laura Stowell

Martha Wingate

With special thanks to anonymous contributors.


A portion of the proceeds support immigrant mothers and their children at Waltham Family School in Massachusetts.


Filed under Activity, Bullying, Discipline, Lesson, Life Lessons, Music, Nursery, Opening Exercises, Overheard in Primary, Parent Involvement, Reaching the One, Sacrament Meeting Presentation, Scouts, Scriptures, Sharing Time, Special Needs, Teacher Support, Transitions

Bullying in Primary

Several years ago my son started seeking me out immediately after church ended.  I would barely dismiss my Primary class when he would come bursting in through the door of my class sometimes with other children on his heels.  After several weeks he told me why.

My son, who had a difficult time sitting still and tended to talk about things that interested him regardless of whether anyone else was interested or not, frequently annoyed another boy in his class.  And whenever my son annoyed this boy, he would hold up a finger.  He added another finger each time he felt it was warranted.  The number of fingers he held up equaled the number of times he was going to hit my son after church.  And worse yet, he recruited two other boys to hold my son’s arms while he hit him!

It’s hard to believe isn’t it?

I talked to the boys’ parents and the threats and bullying ended.  It’s disheartening for bullying and unkindness to happen at church — a place that we want to be welcoming and safe for all.  But unfortunately sometimes it does.  And needless to say my son hated to go to church.

Bullying, and if applicable, retaliation, needs to be addressed immediately and firmly.  It is completely inappropriate in any setting!  The most effective way to stop bullying is to tell the bully their behavior is wrong and will not be tolerated.  Tell the child’s parents about the incident (hopefully they will reinforce an anti-bullying message) and watch vigilantly to make sure the behavior does not continue.

Teachers and leaders need to be especially vigilant in looking out for children with special needs.  Especially watch out for children with social skills deficits because often those children do not read social cues and can inadvertently annoy or offend other children.  Often other children wait for a time to bully others when they are less likely to be caught.

Fortunately, bullying in Primary is uncommon because children are actively being taught to follow the example of Jesus.

Useful Websites:

From the Friend magazine: “Stop Bullying Now” and “Scriptures and Bullies
StopBullyingNow  Please check out What Doesn’t work, What Does Work, A Summary of Best Practices
Data from the Bullying Prevention Program at the James H. Bean School



Filed under Bullying, Discipline, Special Needs