Mean girls. Bully boys. There’s so much in the news about bullying these days. Used to be, we more readily accepted playground transgressions and lunchroom nastiness. “Kids will be kids,” we said. “Children need to learn how to take care of themselves,” we thought. And the teachers too often affirmed: no one likes a tattle-tale.
But today both parents and educators have become more sensitive – and I think smarter – about how bullying hurts our children (sometimes irreparably) and how ignoring bullying behaviors is a kind of acceptance.
But what hasn’t been talked about nearly as much as the bully and the victim are the silent conspirators. And that means most of our kids. These are the young people who – while they don’t start anything themselves, also don’t protest the bad behavior or protect the victim. They watch. They might walk away. But they say and do nothing. It takes self-confidence and even bravery for the silent ones to speak out. But it’s important to show our children that it can be done.
Tips for teachers and parents to pass on to kids who witness bullying
1. Hey! Don’t Say That! Most children stop bullying quite quickly when their behavior is called out for what it is. A child who witnesses bullying is very likely to make a positive difference simply by saying something like, “Don’t be such a bully.” We can’t expect every child to get into a fight, but we can encourage everyone to speak out.
2. Are You OK? Less scary perhaps, is supporting the victim, If the witness is scared to saying something to the bully, then he may choose to help the victim instead. A pat on the back. Sometimes words of support: “Don’t listen to him, everyone knows he’s a bully.”
3. Telling is Not Tattling. Passively watching, which may seem harmless, actually encourages the bullying to continue. If the witness feels uncomfortable intervening in a bullying episode, then she can help by walking away and getting help. Encourage your child to report any bullying she sees to a responsible adult. Teachers and playground supervisors sometimes don’t know what goes on when their backs are turned. Victims might feel too humiliated to speak up. Bullying behaviors occurs often on school buses. Parents should be informed. So should the bus driver.
One of the most important jobs that parents and educators have is to make the children under our care feel safe and secure. Sometimes we need help. Children can come to our aid when they do the right thing and not passively accept bullying behaviors.