Bullying can be a scary thing for children, and being brave in a situation that involves bullying takes a lot of courage. The first step is acknowledging this reality, but there are several things children can do to take a stand.
When a child sees or experiences bullying, one of the most important actions they can take is to tell a parent or an adult at the school. Children need to know that grown-ups can help to end the bullying behavior and that they can also serve as a valuable support system for children experiencing it.1
In a study of over 2,600 elementary and middle school children, Dr. Sally Black, Dr. Dan Weinles, and Dr. Ericka Washington found that students identified four strategies as particularly effective when dealing with bullying situations: creating a “safety plan,” confiding in peers, speaking up at class meetings, and informing a grown-up at home.2
Another way that children can address bullying is by befriending a peer who has experienced it.1,4 They can pair up in buddy systems at school in order to help a peer feel safer.3 They can invite children who are being bullied to hang out, to sit with them at lunch, or to be their partners in gym class.1,4 They can reach out to bullied classmates to let them know that they do not support bullying and that they want to help make the situation better.1 If your child’s school does not already have an anti-bullying campaign, your child and his or her friends might be able to start one up by talking to the school principal and teachers. Indeed, as Black, Weinles, and Washington suggest, anti-bullying campaigns created in collaboration with students who have experienced bullying is a promising strategy for bullying prevention since this process would reflect students’ own “values, attitudes, and behaviors.”2 Though these may seem like small actions, these steps can actually have a huge impact on children’s everyday experiences at school.
Additionally, when children witness bullying as it is happening, there are a few strategies they can employ. StopBullying.gov stresses the importance of not giving bullies extra attention by creating an audience or laughing at what is happening.1 Instead, children can stay away from the bullying situation or make clear that they do not find it to be “entertaining” or “funny.”1
When it is safe to do so, children can also speak up when someone is being bullied. For example, they can tell the child who is bullying to stop and also encourage the peer being bullied to leave the situation with them.1,4 Stopbullying.gov even suggests saying something like: “Mr. Smith needs to see you right now” or “Come on, we need you for the game” in order to help a peer disengage from the situation in a non-confrontational way.1 However, even though many children really want to help their peers, it is important for them to understand that they should never get involved in a physical altercation or to use physical force. In this type of situation, children should not get directly involved and should immediately seek out adults to help instead.
To hear more perspectives on bullying and learn strategies on how to handle it visit the website StopBullying.gov.
Let’s hear from you!
- What strategies do you give your children to help them safely handle a bullying situation?
- Do you have a system in place for children to alert you of bullying behavior? What is your system?
StopBullying.gov. Be More Than a Bystander. http://www.stopbullying.gov/respond/be-more-than-a-bystander/index.html
Black, S. (2010). Victim Strategies to Stop Bullying. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 8(2), 138-147.
Kids Health.(October 2011). 5 Ways to Bully-Proof Your Kid. http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/bully-proof.html?tracking=P_RelatedArticle
KidsHealth. (April 2011). How Do I Help a Kid Who’s Bullied? http://kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/school/being_bullied.html?tracking=K_RelatedArticle