Bullies & the Bullied
10 Ways to Stop & Prevent Bullying
Whether you are a concerned friend of the family, an educator, or a parent, there are ten steps you can take to stop and prevent bullying:
- Pay attention. There are so many ways to catch signs of bullying, such as injuries that cannot be explained, personal items are damaged or lost, a change in eating habits, and antisocial behaviors at school or social events. However, not every person that is bullied will exhibit these warning signs. They may even go to great lengths to hide it. This is where paying attention is most valuable. Have students engage in in different activities with other kids, and encourage them to get involved in classroom conversations.
- Don’t ignore it. You should never assume that a situation is just harmless teasing. Different students have different levels of coping; what may be considered teasing to one may be humiliating and devastating to another. Take it seriously when a student feels threatened in any way, and assure the student that you are there for them and will help.
- When you see something — do something. Step in as soon as you even think or see there may be a problem between students. Do not brush their problems off because you do not see why they feel the way they do. Some kids never get over what other students say or do to them, and it affects them for a lifetime. If there is any questionable behavior, you should address it immediately to keep the situation from escalating. If you think the situation might get out of hand, call in other adults to help you see the problem from a different point of view. Be sure to always refer to your school’s anti-bullying policy.
- Remain calm. You are the adult. Do not bicker and argue with a child about what he thinks he did or did not do. Be the example of respectful behavior you want the students to show. You first should make sure everyone is safe and that no one needs immediate medical attention. Reassure the students involved, as well as the bystanders. Explain to them what needs to happen next — bystanders need to go on to their expected destination while the students involved should be separated and taken to a safe space.
- Deal with students individually. Do not attempt to sort out the facts while everyone is present, and do not allow the students involved to talk each other about the incident. You should not ask bystanders to tell what they saw in front of others. Instead, talk with the individuals involved — including bystanders — on a one-on-one basis. This way, everyone can tell their side of the story without worrying about how other people may have seen or thought about the situation.
- Don’t make the students involved apologize and/or shake hands on the spot. Label the behavior as bullying. Make it known that you take this type of behavior very seriously and that you are definitely planning to get to the bottom of it before you finally decide what should be done next and any resulting consequences based on your school’s anti-bullying policy. This empowers the bullied child — and all that were watching— to feel that someone will finally listen to their concerns and have outcomes that are fair.
- Hold bystanders accountable. Bystanders provide bullies an audience, and often actually encourage bullying. The bully usually gets a rise when bystanders give reactions to their actions. This behavior is wrong, and needs to be explained that it will not be tolerated. Bystanders have the right and the responsibility to stop bullying. Identify yourself as a caring adult that they can always go to if they are being, see, and/or suspect bullying.
- Listen and don’t pre-judge. It is very possible that the person you think is the bully may actually be someone who is bullied and could be retaliating or it could even be a “bully’s” cry for help. It may also be the result of a medical, emotional or psychological issue that have not yet been diagnosed. You should not make any assumptions. Be open minded while listening to each child.
- Get appropriate professional help. Be very careful not to give any advice beyond your level of expertise. Rather than making assumptions, if you believe there are any underlying and/or unsolved issues, you should refer the student to a nurse, counselor, school psychologist, social worker, or other appropriate professional.
- Become trained to handle bullying situations. If you work with students in any way, it is important to learn how to appropriately address bullying. Visit www.nea.org/bullyfree for additional information and resources. You can also take the pledge to stop bullying, as well as learn how to create a Bully Free program in your school and/or community.