When bullying occurs, the whole community is affected. Clearly, those who are bullied can experience negative consequences, but we often overlook the damage bullying inflicts on those who observe it. Encouraging those bystanders to take a stand is important for two key reasons.
First, witnesses to bullying can be upset and confused by what they see. Knowing how best to respond builds a child’s confidence and protects him/her from some of the negative emotional impact caused by witnessing social cruelty and bullying.
Second, empowering children to assert for themselves what will and won’t be acceptable behavior in their community helps to shift the youth culture to one that is supportive and tolerant, rather than divisive and competitive.
If your child shares with you that he or she has witnessed another student being bullied, please begin by opening up the lines of communication. Talk with your child about ways of getting help for the bullied student/s without getting hurt themselves. Children often do nothing when they witness bullying because they are afraid that they too will be targeted. Making a plan ahead of time, perhaps by identifying safe adults to notify or practicing supportive statements to make to affected students, provides children with a clear path to follow. Practice and role play can help these planned responses feel like second nature in the moment.
Encourage your child to say something about any bullying or cruelty they witness, when they feel safe in doing so. Comments like “knock it off – that won’t solve anything!” require relatively little risk on the part of a bystander but can mean to the world to a bullied student and can express peer disapproval to a bully. Be sure your child knows not to cheer on bullying they witness, and also not to watch quietly. Even the presence of silent observers can feel like support to a bully, and can further egg on those bullies who seek to be the center of attention.
Even if your child does not feel safe intervening verbally in bullying incidents, he/she can and should let an adult at school know privately what is going on. Express to your child that rather than tattling, getting an adult’s help is an act of courage and safety. At Shorecrest when adults at school are informed, we can confront the bullying student/s without using the names of anyone who shared information.
Finally, help your child to feel empathy for students who are bullied or are targeted for social cruelty. Bystanders can offer support to peers who are suffering by saying a few kind words or seeking to include others who are easily left out. Sometimes the smallest gestures of support mean a lot to affected children. Your child’s efforts to support his/her peers are worthy of praise and reward, regardless of how successful they may be.
Social-emotional support, character education, and the Core Values of Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Knowledge and Compassion are embedded into all facets of the Shorecrest curriculum. Visit our campus to learn more.