You don’t have to be a school counselor, teacher or administrator to witness bullying and be faced with the question of how to react. Whether we see it on the ball field, at the mall, in the park or neighborhood, as parents, coaches, friends of the family or just by-standers, it’s tough to know what to do when we see kids bullying and being bullied. Bullying is a difficult issue for kids, but it can be even more serious when adults don’t respond appropriately to cries for help. Ultimately, both the child who is bullied and the bully need help and understanding.
Stop Bullying on the Spot
When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time. There are simple steps adults can take to stop bullying on the spot and keep kids safe.
• Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.
• Separate the kids involved.
• Make sure everyone is safe.
• Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
• Stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders.
• Model respectful behavior when you intervene.
Avoid these common mistakes:
• Don’t ignore it. Don’t think kids can work it out without adult help.
• Don’t immediately try to sort out the facts.
• Don’t force other kids to say publicly what they saw.
• Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids.
• Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately.
• Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.
Get police help or medical attention immediately if:
• A weapon is involved.
• There are threats of serious physical injury.
• There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia.
• There is serious bodily harm.
• There is sexual abuse.
• Anyone is accused of an illegal act, such as robbery or extortion – using force to get money, property, or services.
Support Kids Who are Bullied
Listen and focus on the child. Learn what’s been going on and show you want to help.
Assure the child that bullying is not their fault.
Know that kids who are bullied may struggle with talking about it. Suggest they talk to a teacher, school counselor or school administrator.
Work together to resolve the situation and protect the bullied child.
The child, parents, and school or organization may all have valuable input. It may help to:
• Ask the child being bullied what can be done to make him or her feel safe. Remember that changes to routine should be minimized. He or she is not at fault and should not be singled out. For example, consider rearranging classroom or bus seating plans for everyone. If bigger moves are necessary, such as switching classrooms or bus routes, the child who is bullied should not be forced to change.
• Develop a game plan. Maintain open communication between schools, organizations, and parents. Discuss the steps that are taken and the limitations around what can be done based on policies and laws.
• Be persistent. Bullying may not end overnight. Commit to making it stop and consistently support the bullied child.
Avoid these mistakes:
• Never tell the child to ignore the bullying.
• Do not blame the child for being bullied. Even if he or she provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.
• Do not tell the child to physically fight back against the kid who is bullying. It could get the child hurt, suspended, or expelled.
• Parents should resist the urge to contact the other parents involved. It may make matters worse. School or other officials can act as mediators between parents.
Follow-up. Show a commitment to making bullying stop. Because bullying is behavior that repeats or has the potential to be repeated, it takes consistent effort to ensure that it stops.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – www.stopbullying.gov