Bullying in schools is a global challenge that impacts our children, our families and our education systems. Our schools, administrators and school boards are predominantly responsible for addressing school bullying. However, parent can help by teaching children how they can take actions to prevent a bullying incident from escalating and even stop the bully in his/her tracks.
No school is free from bullies, so we must prepare our children for this reality. By providing children with information, tools and strategies, kids can build the confidence to report bullying and learn skills to take effective action – kids play a pivotal role in stopping bullying.
In general terms, children need knowledge, and skills for how to:
- be compassionate and kind to others
- get along with everyone
- deal with anger, frustration and stress
- stand up for themselves and others appropriately and effectively
Help kids develop approaches and skills to protect both themselves and their school mates. On-the-spot strategies to bring an end to a bullying incident are highly effective. Demonstrating courage, compassion and empathy can make a world of difference to the school environment and the bully’s targets.
The following are useful, practical and easy-to-implement skills we can teach our children to help prevent and stop bullying:
Stay with your friends
You are less likely to be bullied if you have friends around you. Help kids develop awareness of situations that bullies prefer and to adopt a “safety in numbers” approach.
Diffuse the situation
Take the momentum away from a bully. For example, interrupting the conflict by telling the group they have to head to class or they are all going to get into trouble may help disperse the crowd of onlookers from whom a bully is deriving social power. Walking away is another effective option. This may end the incident right there. A third option is to ignore the bully.
Avoid risky situations
Places far from adult supervision give more opportunity for bullying. Kids can learn how to avoid risks by taking preventative measures. For example, if you are being targeted in the back of the school bus, move forward. If you are having trouble in a corner of the cafeteria or playground, stay closer to trusted adults.
Use assertive language
When kids step in to stop bullying, the incident often ends. The basic rule is that if someone is making you uncomfortable, tell the person to stop without being disrespectful or pouring gas on the fire. Using catch phrases that are easy to remember may effectively interrupt the event without escalating the conflict. Instead of reacting with their emotions (which usually enflames the conflict), help kids memorize effective assertive phrases. Practicing them in role plays. Let them figure out what language feels comfortable and natural to them.
Effective catch phrases could include:
- “Cut it out – that’s not cool”
- “Hey, that’s over the line”
- “Chill out”
- “Enough already”
Tell a trusted adult
Parents can help children understand the importance of reporting bullying to a trusted adult such as a teacher, guidance counsellor, parent or other family member. Explain the difference between “ratting” and “telling”. Tattling is reporting someone else's behaviour in order to get them in trouble. Telling is reporting a bully’s behaviour in order to help and keep someone safe – themselves or someone else.
Tell your friends
Your kids’ friends can help keep them safe and can provide emotional and physical support. There is no stigma to being honest about bullying – in fact it’s a sign of courage and strength. Teach children that asking for friends’ help is often a catalyst to stopping a bully. If her friends circle around her and provide protection, a bully will likely not engage. There is strength in numbers.
Stand with the person being bullied
Bullies prefer to single out a target and separate him from others. Often, just the act of walking over and wordlessly standing with a target can be enough to change the mood. Bullies often stop when the bully’s target is no longer alone.
Provide support after an incident
Teach kids that if they can’t intervene in the moment, showing kindness and empathy soon after an incident of bullying has a significant impact. Encourage kids to make time later in the day to talk to a peer who has been bullied. Invite their school mate eat lunch together or sit with you on the bus. Send him a friendly text. Message her on social media.
There are many helpful actions children can take to effectively prevent bullying without putting themselves at risk. Parents can help empower and educate kids by taking an active role in