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What Parents Can Do to Help

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You certainly don’t want to put your child in any increased danger while at school, but there are things you can do to increase the likelihood that he or she will act positively as a bystander to discourage bullying, while still keeping safe.

Firstly, it’s important that your son or daughter knows that you would want him or her to help!

Don’t assume that they know this – tell them directly. In Australian research, one factor that was found to increase the likelihood a bystander would act to help a bully victim was reporting having parents that would expect such assistance behavior.1

Teach Children to Recognize Bullying

Talk to your kids about bullying so that they can recognize it when they see it. Bullying is a behavior:

  1. Perpetrated by a stronger victim over a weaker one (stronger can refer to physical strength, but bullies may also be stronger socially, more popular, more intelligent, etc.)
  2. Is intended to cause harm or pain
  3. Occurs repeatedly

Teach Children to Intervene

Don’t ask your kids to put themselves in physical danger. Tell them that if they are at all worried about getting bullied or assaulted for intervening then they should simply report the bullying to an adult.However, if your child feels confident enough to do so, encourage them to try to put a stop to incidents of bullying by:

  • Asking the bully to stop (“Stop that!”)
  • Labeling the behavior as bullying (“You’re a bully!”)
  • Giving the bully a cold and unimpressed look while they are behaving badly
  • Being a friend to the victim and taking him out of the situation
  • Never watching idly by as an audience member - Bullies thrive on shows of power before an audience, so if you and your friends don’t stand around to watch, the bully doesn’t get as much out of the behavior2

Teach Children that Reporting an Incident of Bullying Is Not Tattling

Kids tattle on other kids when they want to get someone in trouble. But when a bystander gets help from a teacher, parent or other trusted adult to help put a stop to bullying, they are doing a great service of help to the victim and even helping the bully avoid getting in even bigger trouble down the road.

Teach kids also that although bystanders can do a lot to put a stop to bullying through personal intervention, that violence of physical intervention are never a good idea and that when things get physical, it’s always time to get an adult involved.

Ask your child to think about who they would report to, to stop bulling, and encourage them to have the strength and resolve to act, by reporting bullying and violence, when needed.

Teach and Encourage Empathy

Ask your child to imagine how a child being bullied might feel. Encourage your child not only to intervene during an act of bullying but also after the fact with small gestures of friendship and support that can mean the world to a person enduring a bully.

Telling a bully victim, for example, that you know a vicious rumor being spread about her is not true and that no one really believes it anyway is a small and non costly gesture of support that really help to alleviate some of the pain suffered by a bully victim.

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Page last updated Jun 22, 2011

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