You’ve probably been bullied or harassed at some point in your life. You’ve certainly witnessed bullying at school, on the street, in public transportation, even at home. Bullying happens regularly, perpetrated by kids and adults, and it’s likely our kids are exposed to it too. While being bullied is horrible, witnessing harassment can be paralyzing, frightening, and humiliating as well. How do we teach kids to stand up to bullying without putting them in harm’s way or escalating the situation? I wanted to address harassment with my kids and found several concrete ways to teach kids to stand up to bullying.
We are not powerless and neither are our kids. One of the biggest enemies of bullying is calm, assertive intervention. Bullies thrive on the fear and silence of bystanders. They isolate and intimidate victims and feed on perceived powerlessness. Thankfully, we are not powerless and we can stand up to bullying before, during, and after an incident.
Teach Kids to Stand Up to Bullying
- Be Inclusive. Isolation and otherness breed bullying. Teach your kids to value individuality and differences. Bullies are more likely to target someone sitting alone or without a group of supportive peers. Sometimes standing up for someone simply means including them in a game, at a lunch table, or in a conversation.
- Stand Up. Movies often give the impression that being brave means using our fists or coming up with clever one-liners. Teach your kids to move from the crowd of bystanders and stand by the person being bullied calmly and firmly. This lets the target know they are not alone and sends a strong message to the bully that their target is not alone.
- Speak Up. Sometimes all it takes to end bullying is to calmly cut it off. Teach your kids to come up with a statement like, “Knock it off. That’s mean.” Practice it with them. If speaking directly to the bully is too intimidating or dangerous, teach your child ways to defuse the situation by standing by the person being bullied, starting a conversation with them, or calling them over to join in a different activity.
- Lose the Audience. If a bully thrives on attention and power, teach your child to take it from them. This can mean saying to bystanders, “This isn’t cool. Let’s go play soccer” or “The bell is about to ring. Let’s get to class.”
- Give the Behavior a Name. Teach kids to calmly name the bully’s specific behavior and directly tell them to stop. This can be, “You are holding her arm too tight and hurting her. You need to let go right now” or “Your comments or homophobic. Stop it” or “Your comments about my body are not ok. You need to speak to me respectfully.” Kids will need to follow their instincts on this one. The goal is not to get in an argument, make fun of the harasser, or escalate the situation. Sometimes naming the behavior can disarm a bully and allow your child to help the person being bullied walk away or allow a bullied child to walk away.
- Seek Help. Help your child identify trusted adults who will recognize bullying and handle it appropriately. Most schools have a zero tolerance policy these days, but kids still fear being seen as a tattletale or being targeted more actively by a bully if they seek help. Teach your kids to stand up to bullying by taking the burden of reporting and showing the person being bullied that they are not alone. Become a trusted adult and believe kids when they are brave enough to report bullying.
This Bystander’s Guide to Islamophobic Harassment was created by Maeril on Tumblr. The guide is based on the concept of non-complementary behavior and can be used in any bullying situation. It’s also non-confrontational and doesn’t require interacting with the bully.
One of the best ways to teach kids to stand up to bullying is to teach them that there is power in kindness, friendship, diversity, and inclusiveness.