I really liked your "hands are not for hitting"/"hands are for helping"
placemat idea. But might I suggest that a similar issue needs to be
addressed with regards to hurtful words as well? Role-playing with the
younger kids seems to be a pretty effective strategy. Another technique
that I've seen in class rooms is for the teacher to assign a
different student to be a "peace-builder" every day (along with the usual
daily door-holder and line-leader jobs). The job of peace-builder is to
report peaceful, kind, friendly, thoughtful acts he or she noticed during
the day. It is a report done at the end of the day, just before the kids
pack up for the bus, and the children are very proud to be mentioned in
the report, and purposely work for that recognition.
One more thought: how can educators address the tendency that children
have to blame their imperfect selves for the abuse that they are either
victims or witnesses of? It's a distorted view of thinking that can set
the stage for dysfunctional relationships later. If this could be
Good luck on your issue.