A music video on YouTube, “Warrior Within You,” depicts a situation that every child dreads. Bullying is cowardly and cruel, and it affects 30 percent of our kids and teens. The song’s lyrics urge kids to “fight it,” “break through it,” and “stand up to it.” Whether kids are being harmed in person or cyberspace, they should not allow bullying to break them.
In most cases, kids are more effective than adults at stopping bullying. If your child or teen witnesses bullying, he should:
When a kid sees someone being taunted in the school hallway, his first instinct is self-preservation. After all, sinking into the shadows is the safe thing to do. What kid wants the name-calling or threats redirected to himself?
It’s important to note, though, that more than half the time someone intervenes bullying stops within 10 seconds, says Jaana Juvonen, author of this UCLA study. Bystanders can make a huge difference in curtailing abuse.
Most children disapprove of bullying, but they’re reluctant to speak up. When someone opens his mouth (“Stop that!” or “Leave her alone”), other witnesses are more likely join in. Kids can also step in by warning the bully that a teacher is coming (even if it’s not true) or inviting the victim to leave with them.
2. Not laugh or join in
Bullies usually crave attention and an audience because of their own insecurity. When kids ignore or act unimpressed with the bully’s antics, the abuse can fizzle out.
Even standing around and watching the harassment can be interpreted as approval. If a child isn’t willing to intervene, he should at least leave. There is no such thing as an innocent bystander when it comes to bullying.
3. Tell an adult
Kids should find an adult immediately to help break up the problem. A teacher, the principal, lunchroom workers, custodians, parents or any responsible adult can be approached. The bullying incident should always be reported to an adult.
If the situation is dangerous and no grown-ups are around, kids can text or call an adult or the police.
4. Support the victim
Many kids that are bullied feel alone or backed into a corner. Teen bully victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to a study by Yale University. With a few kind words, your child could literally save a life.
Kids can seek out and talk to bully victims, even if it’s just to ask how they’re doing. If cruel comments surface on the victim’s social networking site, your child can post a kind or supportive comment.
5. Understand that the bully has his own issues
A story is told of a mean little boy who constantly picked on his classmates. His size and strength exceeded that of the other kids, and he seemed to delight in physically and verbally abusing everyone around him. One day, one of his classmates walked by the bully’s house after school and saw the mean boy’s father yelling at and hitting the bully.
Sadly, a parent’s abuse can perpetuate a child’s bullying behavior. A bully’s violent and abusive behavior often continues into adulthood. “By the age of 30, approximately 40 percent of boys who were identified as bullies in middle- and high school had been arrested three or more times,” according to this article.
Nothing excuses the abuse or harassment of a bully, but it helps for kids to understand and even learn empathy for kids who are disturbed.
The cruelty can end. Teach your kids that they help stop the atrocities of bullying.
Megan Gladwell is an Indiana native and mother of four. She blogs at bookclub41.blogspot.com and can be reached at email@example.com.