Grundy Kendall Regional Office of Education LogoGrundy / Kendall
Regional Office of Education

Christopher D. Mehochko

Regional Superintendent
Morris Office: (815) 941-3247  |  Fax: (815) 942-5384
Yorkville Office: (630) 553-4168  |  Fax: (630) 553-4152


It Can’t Be My Kid! 

Do’s and Don’ts’s For the Parents of a

Bully, a Victim, and/or a Bystander


A bully can turn something as simple as going to the bus stop or out for recess into a nightmare for kids.  Sadly, bullying can leave deep emotional scars that last for life, and in extreme situations, it can culminate in violent threats, property damage, or someone getting seriously hurt.  Even if your child isn’t being bullied, every adult has a role to play in stopping bullying and helping to empower victims and bystanders.  No matter what you think is a reality, regardless of where you live, work, or play—your child is a victim, a bully or a bystander!Bullying is truly something that leaves NO CHILD BEHIND.


If your child is being bullied (a victim), has seen bullying in action, or has bullied, there are ways to help him or her cope with it on a day-to-day basisand lessen its lasting impact. Even if it doesn’t seem that bullying is an issue in your house right now, it's important to discuss it with your kid so yourthat they will be prepared when they are confronted with it.[i]


What Is Bullying?


Most kids have been teased by a sibling or a friend at some point.  It is not usually harmful when done in a playful, friendly, and mutual way, and both kids find it funny.  When the teasing becomes hurtful, unkind, and constant (over time), it crosses the line into bullying and needs to stop.


Bullying is intentional tormenting in physical, verbal, or psychological ways. It can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats, and mocking to extorting money and treasured possessions. Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumors about them. Others use email, chat rooms, instant messages, social networking websites, and text messages to taunt others or hurt their feelings.If it is intentionally harmful either physically, emotionally, or relationally, it is bullying.  If there is a power or strength differential, it is bullying.  If it is repeated, it is bullying.Bullying is not a one-shot deal, it happens over time.[ii]  Bullying manifests itself differently for different age groups.  If you have a teen, read this article on the three characters in the bullying tragedy: the victim, the bully, and the bystander.  Bullying can be direct (face to face), indirect (behind someone’s back), or by cyberbullying; all types can impact any person at any time in their life.


Who Ends Up Being A Bully? 


Siblings, peers, older and younger students, parents, teachers, other adults, coaches, etc., can all bully.  There is no limit to who might exhibit bullying behavior and when they might do so.  That’s what makes it so hard to stop.  Even seemingly “nice” people can end up being bullies at some point in time if presented with the right environment.  Mob-like conditions can produce negative behavior among anyone.  So the best hedge against bullying is to recognize its existence—that it is really happening—regardless of who the perpetrator is and then actively work to stop it.


It's important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as something that kids have to “tough out.”The effects can be serious and affect kids' sense of self-worth and also future social relationships. In severe cases, bullying has contributed to tragedies, such as school shootings or suicides.  The key idea hereis that bullying is not “normal” behavior and cannot be tolerated and justified regardless of the perpetrator or circumstances.

What Are Some Other Characteristics of Bullies?

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, but here are some other characteristics of bullies.  Not all bullies will exhibit all these characteristics.  As with any type of archetype, no two bullies are the same or bully for the same reasons.  This list just provides some ideas for people to consider.


  • Bullies are impulsive
  • Bullies have little, if any, empathy
  • Bullies do not suffer from low self-esteem
  • Bullies need to control and dominate others
  • Bullies have a positive attitude toward aggression
  • Bullies have more physical or emotional power than their victims
  • Bullies have a strong desire to get or achieve something they feel they need[iii]


How is Bullying Accomplished? 


While boys more often bully others using physical means; girls often bully others by relational means such as through social exclusion. Bullying has been part of school, and even workplaces, for years.  Most often bullying occurs face-toface; however, more recently, technology and social media have created a new venue for bullying that has expanded its potential reach to a victim. Cyberbullying is bullying that happens via technology, such as cell phones and social media. Websites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr and Formspring allow people to send hurtful, ongoing messages to others 24 hours a day. Some sites, such as Tumblr and Formspring allow messages to be left anonymously.  Even when one site might stop bullying, another social media format will crop up where bullying can occur.Bullying can be one-on-one or through cyber devices.[iv]


How Can Bullying Be Stopped?  How Should We Respond to Bullying?


Preventing and stopping bullying involves a commitment by every adult to creating a safe environment at school where children can thrive, socially and academically, without being afraid.  Also, adults need to model appropriate social competences at home and in the work place—since bullying occurs in both places as well.  The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends that teachers, parents and students take the following actions to address bullying.[v]


Be knowledgeable and observant.


Teachers and administrators need to be aware that bullying happens where kids congregate and don’t have as much direct supervision.  So there will always be “hotspots” in the school that need to be monitored: bathroom, playground, crowded hallways, and school buses.  It can also happen through cell phones and computers.  Regardless of the claim, the claimant, or the enormity of the situation—it must be taken seriously.  First and foremost, school staff and parents need to dispel the cultural belief that snitching or telling is bad.  Our society tells people in a multitude of ways that tattling is bad, whistleblowing is dangerous, and snitching is taboo.  Step one is to provide an environment where telling helps the problem get better.  This change in culture helps empower victims and bystanders to put a stop to the bullying.


Also, if bullying is observed at school, staff needs to be trained to intervene immediately and appropriately and take the next step in the process.  Record and contact the appropriate staff member to provide assistance to the victim and assistance to the bully—both need social and emotional learning support.  Do not use peer mediationor conflict resolution techniques, such as having a joint meeting with the bullied student and the student who is bullying— it is embarrassing and very intimidating for the student that is being bullied.Bullying is not the same thing as natural conflict and cannot be treated as such.  Believe, observe, intervene, and provide social support and empowerment.[vi]


Involve students and parents.


There are numerous ways of involving parents and students in stopping bullying.  First and foremost, when a school develops a bullying action plan, it takes more than saying we are stopping bullying.  It takes a six step process. 

  1. Develop, through a committee, a district-wide definition and understanding of what constitutes bullying behavior.
  2. Develop a comprehensive plan through a committee (the same committee as above or another), which includes parents and students.
  3. Assess climate, culture, and adult bullying in the district and address to change if necessary.
  4. Select a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program to use that incorporates daily/weekly practice for students on social competencies and also provides professional development for all certified and noncertified staff as all are in a position to intervene in bullying/social situations.Ensure all district adults are modeling appropriate social competencies at all times.
  5. Design a non-punitive discipline/intervention policy that is three-pronged: a) restorative practice for bullies, b) empowerment for bystanders, and c) support without embarrassment for the bullied.
  6. Develop a partnership with district families and the community at large to increase school connectedness.[vii]

Students and parents need to be a part of the solution and involved in committees that design a new climate and culture at school that eliminates bullying. Students are the ones who can realistically inform adults about what is really going on and also keep adults informed about new cyber technologies that kids are using to bully.  Parents, teachers, administrators, and other school staff are all responsible for helping students engage in positive behavior and teachingthose skills so that they know how to act when bullying occurs. Lastly, older students can serve as mentors and inform younger students about safe practices on the Internet and teach younger students about better ways to engage in social interactions.[viii]


Set positive expectations about behavior for students and adults.


Schools and classrooms must offer students a safe learning environment. Teachers and coaches need to explicitly remind students that bullying is not accepted in school and such behaviors will have consequences.  Adults must also model social competencies where put-downs and negative behaviors are not used to “motivate” students.  Kids are savvy and will not trust the system where the adults bully or are allowed to act in a negative way.  Another step to help students understand the seriousness of bullyingmight be to create an anti-bullying document and havestudents and the parents/guardians sign and return it to the school office. Lastly, monitoring how students interact among each other and the dynamics of the larger group is critical for intervening early in bullying situations.  For the students who have a hard time adjusting or finding friends, school personnel can facilitate friendships or provide “jobs” for the student to do during lunch and recess so that children do not feel isolated or in danger of becoming targets for bullying.  As adults, it is important that we have kids interacting with everyone in the group, not just a few.  If all children feel comfortable, safe, and understand the concept of inclusiveness, then bullying can be stopped.  Sometimes it is hard to explain these issues to kids.  Here is a great website that might help as it is written for kids. you have a teen, here is a geat article for you to read that may be more specific to your situation.


The bottom line is that society/adults need to stop it on the spot, find out what happened, support the victim, and empower kids to be more than just the bystanders.[ix]


Help, My Kid Is A Victim!


Your child is not alone!  About one in four or 25% of students self-report that they have been bullied.  So the bottom line is if your gut is telling you that your child might be a victim of bullying, you may be correct.  So what do you do as a concerned parent?  Here are some steps you can take.  If you want to read more about whether your child might be more likely to be a victim, read this story.


Observe your child for signs they might be being bullied.


Children may not always be vocal about being bullied.  In fact, research has shown that often they will not tell their parents.  Unless your child tells you about bullying, or has visible bruises, injuries, or torn clothing, it can be difficult to figure out if it's happening; however, there are some warning signs.  Watch this cartoon video with your child for help in recognizing some signs that your child is being bullied.


Parents might notice kids acting differently or seeming anxious, depressed or crying more often; or not eating or sleeping well, complaining of nightmares;nor engaging in activities they usually enjoy. When kids seem moodier or more easily upset than usual, or when they start avoiding certain situations, like taking the bus to school, it might be because of a bully.Here are some more signs.


    • Lose objects without a reasonable explanation
    • Have cuts bruises, scratches
    • Come home from school with torn or dirty clothing
    • Need extra money
    • Need extra treats in lunch bag
    • Be hungry after school (when lunch is extorted)
    • Be reluctant to go to school and lose interest in school work
    • Have headaches, stomachaches, nervousness, difficulty sleeping (doesn’t sleep well, has bad dreams)
    • Show significant changes in mood from normal – more angry, sad, fearful, depressed, becoming quiet and passive
    • Be concerned about inviting friends over or accepting invitations from friends
    • Have few friends[x]

If your child is being bullied, act in a way that supports your child.


If you discover your child is being bullied, don’t tell them to “let it go” or “suck it up.”  Instead, have open-ended conversations where you can learn what is really going on at school so that you can take the appropriate steps to rectify the situation. Most importantly, let your child know you will help him/her and that they should try not to fight back.  If you suspect bullying but your child is reluctant to open up, find opportunities to bring up the issue in a more roundabout way. For instance, you might see a situation on a TV show and use it as a conversation starter, asking, “What do you think of this?” or “What do you think that person should have done?”  This might lead to questions like: “Have you ever seen this happen?” or “Have you ever experienced this?”  You might want to talk about any experiences you or another family member had at that age.Let your kids know that if they're being bullied—or see it happening to someone else—it's important to talk to someone about it, whether it's you, another adult (a teacher, school counselor, or family friend), or a sibling.[xi]


Sometimes the bully is an adult at school.  If you think that your child’s teacher is a bully, read this link.


Teach your child how to handle being bullied.


Until something can be done at school, work with your child to handle bullying without being crushed or defeated. Practice different social scenarios at home where your child learns how to ignore a bully and/or develop assertive strategies for coping with bullying. Help your child identify teachers and friends that can help them if they’re worried about being bullied.


If your child tells you about a bully, focus on offering comfort and support, no matter how upset you are. Kids are often reluctant to tell adults about bullying because they feel embarrassed and ashamed that it's happening, or worry that their parents will be disappointed.  Do not directly contact the other parent, as this may not lead to the result you are seeking.  It is best to contact the school or organization that is in charge of the activity where the bullying occurred.


Sometimes kids feel like it's their own fault, that if they looked or acted differently it wouldn't be happening. Sometimes they're scared that if the bully finds out that they told, it will get worse. Others kids are worried that their parents won't believe them or do anything about it.  Lastly, kids worry that their parents will urge them to fight back when they're scared to do so.  Never tell your child to “fight” back; there are other methods discussed below to address bullying.


Praise your child for being brave enough to talk about it as that is a great step for stopping it.  Remind your child that he or she isn't alone—a lot of people get bullied at some point. Emphasize that it's the bully who is behaving badly—not your child. Reassure your child that you will figure out what to do about it together.


Sometimes an older sibling or friend can help deal with the situation. It may help your daughter to hear how the older sister she idolizes was teased about her braces and how she dealt with it. An older sibling or friend also might be able to give you some perspective on what's happening at school, or wherever the bullying is happening, and help you figure out the best solution.


Take it seriously if you hear that the bullying will get worse if the bully finds out that your child told someone. Teachers or counselors are the best ones to contact first. If you've tried those methods and still want to speak to the bullying child's parents, it's best to do so in a context where a school official, such as a counselor, can mediate.


Most states have bullying laws and policies. Find out about the laws in your community. In certain cases, if you have serious concerns about your child's safety, you may need to contact legal authorities.[xii]


Provide the best advice for kidswho are being bullied.


The key to helping kids is providing strategies that deal with bullying on an everyday basis and also help restore their self-esteem and regain a sense of dignity.It may be tempting to tell a kid to fight back. After all, you're angry that your child is suffering and maybe you were told to “stand up for yourself” when you were young.  You may worry that your child will continue to suffer at the hands of the bully.  It's important to advise kids not to respond to bullying by fighting or bullying back. It can quickly escalate into violence, trouble, and someone getting injured. Instead, it's best to walk away from the situation, hang out with others, and tell an adult.


Here are some other strategies to discuss with kids that can help improve the situation and make them feel better:


       Avoid the bully and use the buddy system.Culturally, our society tells us to be brave and confront problems head on, but sometimes the best defense is to avoid trouble.  Use a different bathroom if a bully is nearby and don't go to your locker when there is nobody around.  Try to make sure you have someone with you so that you're not alone with the bully. Buddy up with a friend on the bus, in the hallways, or at recess—wherever the bully is. Offer to do the same for a friend.There is strength and safety in numbers.


       Hold the anger.It's natural to get upset by the bully, but that's what bullies thrive on because it makes them feel more powerful. Practice not reacting by crying or looking red or upset. It takes a lot of practice, but it's a useful skill for keeping off of a bully's radar. Sometimes kids find it useful to practice “cool down” strategies such as counting to 10, writing down their angry words, taking deep breaths or walking away. Sometimes the best thing to do is to teach kids to wear a “poker face” until they are clear of any danger (smiling or laughing may provoke the bully).The less reaction given to bully, the less attractive a target a person is.


       Act brave, walk away, and ignore the bully.Firmly and clearly tell the bully to stop, then walk away. Practice ways to ignore the hurtful remarks, like acting uninterested or texting someone on your cell phone. By ignoring the bully, you're showing that you don't care. Eventually, the bully will probably get bored with trying to bother you.It isn’t much fun to taunt someone who doesn’t participate back.


       Tell an adult.Teachers, principals, parents, lunchroom personnel, school bus drivers can all help stop bullying.Adults can intervene when students find it difficult.  Telling is the easiest way to make it stop.


       Talk about it.Talk to someone you trust, such as a guidance counselor, teacher, sibling, or friend. They may offer some helpful suggestions, and even if they can't fix the situation, it may help you feel a little less alone.  It is important for people to process negative situations.  Talking about feelings is the best way to cope with actions that hurt us.


       Remove the incentives.If the bully is demanding your lunch money, start bringing your lunch.  If he or she is trying to get your music player, don't bring it to school.  If they are taunting you on-line, stop going on-line.  Do not respond.  Figure out what that person is demanding and remove it as something the bully can get from you.


Help your child to reach out and grow.


At home parents can lessen the impact of the bullying. Encourage your kids to get together with friends that help build their confidence. The more social interactions he or she has, the more friendships that can develop. Your child will also become better skilled at dealing with a variety of personalities and handling different social interactions.[xiii]Help them meet other kids by joining clubs or sports programs.  Find activities that can help a child feel confident and strong, such as a self-defense class like karate or a movement or other gym class or any activity in which they can excel; avoid allowing your child to stay at home, watching TV or playing games.  Since students who experience bullying may feel overwhelmed, depressed or anxious. If your child or student is having trouble at school or with friends as a result of bullying, a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, can help your child develop resilience and confidence. This will enable your child to be more successful both socially and academically.  Just remember as upsetting as bullying can be for you and your family, lots of people and resources are available to help.[xiv]


Set boundaries with technology.


Educate your children and yourself about cyberbullying and teach your children not to respond or forward threatening emails. “Friend” your child on Facebook or other social media and set up proper filters on the computer your child uses.  Making the family computer the only computer for children, and having it in a public place in the home where it is visible and can be monitored, is a great defense against social media problems. If you decide to give your child a cell phone, think carefully before allowing them to have a camera option. Let them know you will be monitoring their text messages. As a parent, you can insist that phones are stored in a public area, such as the kitchen, by a certain time at night to eliminate nighttime bullying and inappropriate messaging that can often occur. Parents should report bullying to the school, and follow up with a letter that is copied to the school superintendent if their initial inquiry receives no response.  Bullying can’t be stopped unless it is reported.


Parents should document any text messages, emails or posts on websites that are threatening and keep as possible evidence if the threats need to be reported to the police.[xv]  Sometimes teens have some solutions to help solve the problem.  Here is a story about a website developed by teens for teens on bullying., here are some ideas that might spark something in you, the parent, to help eliminate bullying.


Help, My Kid Is A Bully!!


Getting a phone call from school, a coach, or another parent telling you that your child is a bully is one of every parent’s worst nightmares.  It is natural to think that one’s child would never be a bully—that they were raised differently than “those other kids.”  Truthfully, however, any kid might find themselves in situation where they might make a decision to take advantage of someone that has less power than they do.  It happens in the adult world, why would we think it might be different in the “kid world?”  Acknowledging that our children or ourselves might be in a position to behave badly is the first step in helping them (or ourselves) to behave appropriately and be sensitive to their (or our) actions. Here is a link to a real parent seeking advice about her nine-year old acting like a bully.


Make your home “bully free.”


Children learn and model behavior from their parents.  Research has shown that being exposed to aggressive behavior or an overly strict environment at home may make kids more prone to bully at school. Parents/caregivers should model positive examples for children in social interactions/relationships with other people and with the children themselves.  If a parent pushes around the grocery store clerk and acts better than others and overly critical, than the child will learn to act in a denigrating way.  If a parent pushes around their spouse or children or siblings or their own parents, then a child will learn to act that way.  If a parent bosses around and is rude to a teacher, then a child may act that way.  There is the old adage that a parent is the child’s first and most important teacher; this is true with both positive and negative behavior.  Model appropriate social competencies and so will your children.  Be empathetic and tolerant and so will your children.


Stop bullying behavior by your child before it starts.


Educate your children about bullying.  It is possible that your child is having trouble reading social signs and does not know what they are doing is hurtful. Remind your child that bullying others can have legal consequences.  Work through different social interactions to help your children understand bullying scenarios.  Practicing appropriate social competencies with your child so that they understand the best way to interact with peers is invaluable for them learning to behave better.  Determine what they may be trying to get out of using power over others.Stopping bulling means talking with your child to define when they might be being a bully.


Start with some questions.

Sometimes a springboard for your conversation with your child is to start with some questions.  Make sure your child knows they won’t be punished or they may not talk to you.  Tell them you are trying to help them understand why they behave a certain way so that you both can work on fixing it.  Make this conversation a positive experience if you want a positive outcome.  Here are some questions to try:

    Does it make you feel better to hurt other people or take their things?

    Are you bigger and stronger than other people your age? Do you sometimes use your size and strength to get your way?

    Have you been bullied by someone in the past and feel like you have to make up for it by doing the same thing to others?

    Do you avoid thinking about how other people might feel if you say or do hurtful things to them?


Look for self-esteem issues.


It is important to hone in on any self-esteem issues your child may have.  Sometimes, children with low self-esteem may bully to feel better about themselves—though this is not always true.  In fact, higher than average self-esteem may be a reason that children bully.  They can rationalize their bad behavior because they see themselves as better than others and therefore more deserving.  Just because a child is popular and seems well-liked, doesn’t mean that they don’t have bullying tendencies. Mean behavior should be addressed by parents and consequenced.  Take this behavior seriously and address promptly or the child will learn bad habits and continue this bullying behavior.[xvi]


Signs your child might be a bully.

  • Teases, threatens, physically hurts other children
  • Acquires new toys or objects without explanation
  • Seems to have a lot of extra money
  • Talks on the phone or chats on the Internet about others’ shortcomings
  • Brags about having power over another student
  • Bullies or is aggressive with siblings and parents at home
  • Is hot-tempered, is impulsive; has a hard time following rules
  • Is tough, shows no sympathy toward children who are bullied
  • Has been involved in other anti-social activities such as vandalism or stealing[xvii]

Help your child stop being a bully.

So you have determined that your child is a bully.  Now you need to help them stop.  Here are some ideas to tell them to try.

  Apologize to people you've bullied and follow it up by being friendly to them. They may not trust you right away, but eventually they'll see that you're for real.

  If you're having a hard time feeling good about yourself, explore ways to boost your self-esteem. Pick up a new hobby, do volunteer work, or get involved with a sport.

  If you feel like you're having trouble controlling your feelings, especially anger, talk to a school counselor about it.

  Provide counseling or therapy for your child to get them to understand their feelings and impulses.

There are many reasons to kick the bully habit. Many bullies grow up into adults who bully their families, friends, and co-workers, causing all sorts of problems with relationships and careers. It's hard for anyone to think about the future when they are feeling something in the here and now, but it is important to help kids to take a moment to see how their behavior may be laying down negative groundwork.[xviii]

What Are the Consequences of Bullying Behavior?

Regardless of whether you are a bully or a victim there are consequences. 

The immediate and long-term consequences of bullying are influenced by a) frequency, b) duration, c) pervasiveness and d) severity.

For more information on consequences go to this link.

Help, My Child Is A Bystander!


The broad definition of bystander is someone who happens to be in the area when something is happening.Bullying situations almost 100% of the time involve more than the bully and the victim.  They also involve bystanders—those who watch bullying happen or hear about it. An important new strategy for bullying prevention focuses on the powerful role of the bystander. Depending on how bystanders respond, they can either contribute to the problem or the solution. Bystanders rarely play a completely neutral role, although they may think that they do.Whatever the choice a bystander makes, there is a price to pay.  However, research shows us that empowering bystanders may be one of the most important ways to stop bullying.  Below learn about the role of the bystander in bullying and ways to teach kids through strategies and messages to be empowered bystanders.


Why are bystanders so important? 

  Bullying most often takes place in front of peers.

  It almost never happens when adults are watching.

  Most bystanders want to do something to stop the bully.

  Bullies like an audience. If the audience shows disapproval, bullies are discouraged from continuing.[xix]


Understand the history of anti-bullying programs in schools.


School programs to prevent bullying are a relatively new phenomenon. Some European countries and the United Kingdom started implementing them in the 1990s, but the United States was a little slower on the uptake. Ken Rigby, adjunct professor of education at the University of South Australia and the author of many books on bullying, says, “It has been increasingly more prevalent in the past five years or so in the United States. And bystander empowerment is certainly new.”


Focus on the role of the bystander.


Researchers are studying the role of the bystander and discovering just how crucial it can be in creating an emotionally healthy environment. If the status quo at any school is that children observe bullying behavior in others and do nothing about it, then they end up tacitly giving their support to the bully.


“We're now raising awareness about the group basis of bullying,” says Tara Kuther, associate professor of psychology at Western Connecticut State University and an expert on child and adolescent development.  “Sometimes when people are in groups they might not do what they would do when they're alone. They might not do what they know they should do.”  Stan Davis, a bully-prevention counselor and the author of Empowering Bystanders in Bullying Prevention, says children are naturally empathetic.  “But, kids don't know what to do in all situations,” he says. “If they see someone being cruel to someone else, it's not always easy for them to know what to do.”


Research that has been done on the role of bystanders.


Without any education or support from adults, the vast majority of children will not take any action if they witness bullying. “The proportion of children who will spontaneously intervene is about one in five,” says Rigby. “Children on the whole feel bullying is wrong and unfair, and most want to intervene, but there are all sorts of reasons why they don't.”


  1. The first step in empowering bystanders to act is to help them see that their peers also feel bullying is wrong.  “Once they recognize that many of their friends want them to intervene, they are more likely to,” says Rigby.
  2. The second step is teaching them that intervening in a bullying situation can make a difference. Studies show that if a bystander discourages the bully there is a 50% chance that the bully will stop.  Bullies want to impress people and like an audience, so if the audience is negative toward the action, it stops them.  However, without any bullying-prevention education, as many as 25% of children will actually encourage the bully. Sometimes it is because they are friends with the bully or they themselves have low self-esteem, but if they do nothing, it encourages the bully.


Empowering the bystander is really about bridging the gap between what children believe is right and what they actually do. When asked what they should do in a bullying situation, about two-thirds of children say they should intervene, but only one-third of elementary school children actually do. In high school, the percentages are even lower: only one-quarter of high school students will intervene.  Adolescents act less frequently because bullying gets so much more sophisticated and subtle in high school. It's more relational. It becomes more difficult for teens to know when to intervene, whereas with younger kids bullying is more physical and therefore more clear cut.


It's important to teach children about the power of the bystander early, before they start to exhibit signs of lack of empathy.  “Some children may protect themselves by becoming numb to bullying,” says Davis. “There is a natural process of moving away emotionally and disengaging.”  Compounding this problem is the fact that in early adolescence bullying tends to increase.  “There is an upsurge in the desire to dominate in early secondary school,” says Rigby.As a parent, you can teach your child about the effects of the bystander—about how a bystander can hurt, help, or be harmed by their actions.[xx]


Teach your child how to not be a hurtful bystander.   


    Some bystanders . . . instigatethe bullying by prodding the bully to begin.

    Other bystanders . . . encourage the bullying by laughing, cheering, or making comments that further stimulate the bully.

    And other bystanders . . . joininthe bullying once it has begun.

    Most bystanders . . . passively acceptbullying by watching and doing nothing. Often without realizing it, these bystanders also contribute to the problem. Passive bystanders provide the audience a bully craves and the silent acceptance that allows bullies to continue their hurtful behavior.


Soteach your child that bystanders can be helpful.

Bystanders also have the power to play a key role in preventing or stopping bullying.


  Some bystanders . . . directly intervene, by discouraging the bully, defending the victim, or redirecting the situation away from bullying.

  Other bystanders . . . get help, by rallying support from peers to stand up against bullying or by reporting the bullying to adults.


Keep in mind that there is an effect on the bystander. 


Why don’t more bystanders intervene?

    They think, “It’s none of my business.”

    They fear getting hurt or becoming another victim.

    They feel powerless to stop the bully.

    They don’t like the victim or believe the victim “deserves” it.

    They don’t want to draw attention to themselves.

    They fear retribution.

    They think that telling adults won’t help or it may make things worse.

    They don’t know what to do.


Bystanders who don’t intervene or don’t report the bullying often suffer negative consequences themselves:

    Pressure to participate in the bullying.

    Anxiety about speaking to anyone about the bullying.

    Powerlessness to stop bullying.

    Vulnerability to becoming victimized.

    Fear of associating with the victim, the bully, or the bully’s pals.

    Guilt for not having defended the victim.


Prepare children to become helpful bystanders.

Adults can prepare children to become helpful bystanders by discussing with them the different ways bystanders can make a difference and by letting them know that adults will support them, if and when they step forward. Adults can also provide examples of how helpful bystanders have shown courage and made a difference in real-life situations and in their own experiences.[xxi]  If adults don’t learn how to be helpful bystanders, then it is difficult for them to model this behavior.  Discuss with your child how sometimes intervening and getting help may not work, but at least if everyone makes an effort, then positive outcomes can be accomplished.


Define what it means to empower the bystander.


One of the first ways to accomplish this goal is to start by getting kids to talk about bullying and tell what they would do if they saw it going on. Just making the statements of what they might say can have an empowering effect.  In discussions among teachers, parents and kids about what to do when bullying occurs, the standard advice is to tell the bully to stop. Some adults will even go so far as to say that confronting the bully is a courageous thing to do, but there are other approaches that may be easier –and safer –for children to use.


There needs to be a wide range of options besides just telling the bully to stop it.  For example, telling an adult is good.  If a child is uncomfortable giving lots of information, they can simply say “Please watch the locker room at third period. There are bad things going on there at that time, but I'm not giving my name.”  We need to teach kids that telling is not tattling, what it is, is being a witness to a crime.


Another option for a child who witnesses bullying is to distract the bully, or, he can offer an escape for the target by saying something to the target like, "Mr. Smith needs to see you right now."

Often children who are repeatedly bullied start to wonder if they deserve it or somehow bring it on themselves.A bystander can counteract these feelings by showing support to the bullied child, either during a bullying episode or afterward. A bystander can choose to sit with the child at lunch or sit by him in the classroom.  A bystander can support a target by calling them at home to say that they saw what happened and didn't know what to do, but have them tell the victim that it wasn’t deserved. 


When bullying takes on a more subtle facade, as it frequently does in high school, bystanders should be encouraged to intervene by speaking up in support of a bullied classmate.  For relational aggression –such as name calling and gossiping bystanders need to take a stand.  A big piece of this intervention is teaching kids that other kids are feeling the same way they are about the bullying.


Teach kids that physical confrontation can be dangerous.


Children should not be encouraged to intervene physically in a fight or any dangerous situation. Once things escalate into physical altercations, adults should be summoned.

"Don't have children intervene physically because you never know where it's going to go," says Davis. "We discourage confrontation, unless the bystander is a friend of the bully and can say something like, 'Remember how much trouble you got in the last time you did something like this?'"


Encourage schools to empower bystanders.


Every school has a bully-victim problem.Parents should visit their child’s school.  By visiting they can get a feel for the climate and culture of the school.  Look for the following:


    See whether the school is promoting respect for others by looking for anti-bullying posters and observing how respectful students are towards others.

    Observe if the children playing happily together.

    Ask if there is an anti-bullying policy and ask to see it.  Be assertive to find out how the school is teaching anti-bullying programs, as schools are required to make a public commitment against bullying. 

    See whether your school promotes social emotional learning, provides non-embarrassingsupport for the victim, empowers bystanders, has a clear intervention procedure for all staff, and provides mandatory restorative practice for bullies.

    Advocate that your school develop a committee with parental and student support to address these issues in your school.



Educate yourself and discuss the bystander issue with your children.


Children need adults to teach them to speak up against injustice. They need to know that doing so is not tattling or snitching, but doing the right thing.Children also need adults to help them understand that they are not alone in thinking that bullying is disturbing and wrong, and that they will be supported by their peers if they speak up.There is always something that any bystander can do safely. There are lots and lots of things to do. Just be flexible and keep looking for things that are going to be safe and effective for the child to do in order to be a helpful bystander and not a hurtful one.[xxii]  Here are some further ideas to discuss with your child.


  1. Be a friend to the person being bullied.Children can help someone who’s been bullied by simply being nice to them at another time. Being friendly can go a long way toward letting them know that they’re not alone.

     A bystander can help by spending time with the person being bullied at school. Simple gestures like talking to them, sitting with them at lunch, or inviting them to play sports or other games during physical education or recess can help a lot.

     Advise the child to listen to the person being bullied, let them talk about the event.

     Call the person being bullied at home to provide support, encourage them and give advice.

     Bystanders can try sending a text message or going up to the person who was bullied later. They can let that person know that what happened wasn’t cool, and that they’re there for them.

     A bystander can help by telling the person being bullied that they don’t like the bullying and asking them if he can do anything to help.

     Bystanders can also help the person being bullied talk to a trusted adult.[xxiii]

  1. Tell a trusted adult, like a family member, teacher or coach.An adult can help stop bullying by intervening while it’s in progress, stopping it from occurring by being alert and vigilant, or simply giving the person being bullied a shoulder to lean on.


      Bystanders can tell a trusted adult in person or leave them a note.

      If bullying is occurring, bystanders can go find, or ask a friend to find, a trusted adult as soon as possible. Perhaps they can help stop it from continuing.

      Remind children who witness bullying not to get discouraged if they’ve already talked to an adult and nothing has happened. They can ask a family member if they will help, and make sure the adult knows that it is repeated behavior.

      Try talking to as many adults as possible if there’s a problem—teachers, counselors, custodians, nurses, parents—the more adults they involve the better.[xxiv]


  1. Help the person being bullied to get away from the situation.There are a few simple, safe ways children can help the victim get away from the situation. However they do it, make sure the child knows not to put themselves in harm’s way.


  Create a distraction. If no one is rewarding the child who is bullying by paying attention, the behavior may stop. Bystanders can help to focus the attention on something else.

  A bystander can offer a way for the person being bullied to leave the scene by saying something like, “Mr. Smith needs to see you right now,” or “Come on, we need you for our game.”

  Remind children to only intervene if it feels safe to do so and never use violence in order to help the person get away.


  1. Set a good example. Do not bully others.If a child knows not to bully others, then other students will follow their example. To help even more, children can actively participate in anti-bullying activities and projects.


  Make sure children don’t bully others and don’t encourage bullying behavior.

  Encourage kids to look for opportunities to contribute to the anti-bullying culture at their school through school clubs and organizations.

  Have kids create anti-bullying posters, share stories or show presentations promoting respect for all.

  Use tools like the youth leaders toolkitfrom www.stopbullying.govto help older teens work with younger children to prevent bullying


  1. Don’t give bullying an audience.If one of your child’s friends or peers begins to bully someone, your child shouldn’t encourage the behavior by giving it an audience. Instead of laughing or supporting the friend’s actions, have your child let the bully know that his or her behavior isn't entertaining.


    Oftentimes, those who bully are encouraged by the attention that they receive from bystanders. Children can help stop bullying by actively not supporting it.

    Remind them that when they see bullying, they can act disinterested or blatantly state that they don’t think bullying is entertaining or funny.

    Children can help by keeping their distance from the situation. If they ignore it, it may stop.

    If the bullying doesn’t stop, the bystander should follow other tips like telling a trusted adult.

So what really is the role of the parent in stopping bullying?

As stated earlier, bullying leaves no child behind.  If 25% of every child in America states that at some point they have been bullied by someone with more power, and we know that bullying happens in the adult workforce as well, then we know that this issue must be addressed by every parent with every child.  At some point in time, your child will be a victim, a bully, or a bystander.  No child will get through school without seeing bullying or hearing about bullying, even if they don’t ever experience being a victim.  As a society, we need to change our climate and culture so that bullying is stopped.  Ignoring the problem does not work.  Throwing a one-time shot program at kids does not work.  The only way to stop bullying is to develop a multi-prong approach that a) models good social competencies for youth by adults; b) teaches good social skills to youth; c) intervention when necessary without using punitive no tolerance policies for bullies;d) provide emotional support for victims, bullies, and bystanders; and e) have a frank societal discussion about the issues and consequences of allowing the behavior to continue.  There are no easy answers to the problem of bullying but there are answers.

[vii] Berlin, Robert Hon., Dupage County State’s Attorney; Hon. Darlene J. Ruscitti, Ed.D., Superintendent Dupage County Regional Office of Education.  “Best Practices in Bullying Prevention and Intervention,” January 2011, Revised November 2011.  A manual created for school districts by the Dupage County ROE to assist in developing a model bullying policy as defined by state law.