The absolute most important member in the world of bullying is the bystander. Bystanders are people who have the most power to get bullying to stop. So yes, bystanders: please stand up!
Bystanders are described as those who witness bullying occurring, may participate or encourage acts of bullying, and/or experience fear for their safety if they try to advocate for the victim. Those who have instilled beliefs that bullying is wrong, have a solid self-esteem, and strong support network are the most beneficial of all bystanders to create change. Speaking from experience, I have seen the power of these individuals first hand. In bystanders, hope is found and hope can strengthen.
Picture for a moment a child getting picked on as a bully overhears him speaking about a preferred sports team. For days following, the victim endures negative comments about his team, a shove here and there, and tries desperately to avoid those who are picking on him. However, a day comes when two of the victim’s peers stand up to the bully by saying, “Stop saying those things, that team won last week.” They proceed to take the victim away from the situation. What do you think happened after that?
In this particular situation, a lot of positives came from the bystanders standing up for the victim. Not only did the bully stop bothering the victim, the victim no longer felt fear everyday, and he felt valued within his peer group. Bystanders can make things better, instill hope, and pave the way for brighter futures. Furthermore, empowered bystanders tend to have solid self-esteem, make positive choices, and feel proud of their actions. This is all great news!
Empowering bystanders to stand up to a bully requires lifelong learning from parents at home and support by teachers at school. Of the most important of these two are the teaching and molding the occurs in the home.
1.Be a positive example by treating others with kindness and stand up for those who need help.
2. Do not gossip, make threats, or use physical means to get what you want.
3. Do not allow your children to view violence on your television or in video games. If you do, you are supporting that type of behavior to occur in your home. If your child hears or sees unkind acts, use these times as conversation pieces to brainstorm positive strategies that your child could use if they were ever in a situation like that or if they are witness to one as in the bystander. Role play these ideas for greatest learning of these skills.
4. Teach and practice problem-solving steps such as tell the unkind person to stop, walk away, get help from an adult, and surround yourself with trusted and caring people.Pay attention to your child’s friendships and behavior as they may need your support or guidance to navigate potential bullying situations.
5. Teach and encourage children that remaining silent about bullying does not solve the problem. In fact, it allows the bullying to continue because no one is taking action to help it stop.
6. Teach and show empathy for your child or student and for others. Discuss what empathy and respect are. Work together to brainstorm ways to show empathy and respect everyday. When one has empathy for others, they truly care and understand how others feel. By showing empathy, respect naturally becomes part of everyday behavior.
7. Empower children to intervene in bullying situations safely. Tell them to do so by having peers with them as they tell a bully to stop, walk to the victim and take them out of the situation, or go immediately to an adult for help. If they ever feel uncomfortable with directly intervening in a situation, even with the company of peers, that is okay. They can always find the nearest adult to help and know that they have been a helpful bystander.
8. Encourage your child to make friends with peers new to school or to the neighborhood. Also encourage children to include others in their activities, especially those who appear to be excluded by others.
9. Use resources such as books, DVD’s, online media, and other resources that teach how to be helpful bystander and how to do it safely.
10. Keep in communication with parents, teachers, and caregivers about bullying situations as they relate to your child or student.
11. Regularly communicate how proud you are about your child’s or student’s actions. This intervention can be used to acknowledge daily positive choices, standing up for others, showing empathy and respect, and showing responsibility to name a few.