The Power of the Bystander
Liz Pearce, Director of Parent Engagement
Children’s Museum of Richmond
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. It’s often hard to talk about bullying, let alone do something about it. As parents, we want to help, but sometimes feel powerless to act – just like our kids! Here are a few things we know about bullies:
One thing we can ALL do, and teach our children to do, is to be an active bystander. Dr. Michele Borba discusses how to be an active bystander on her website in great detail, and I encourage parents and caregivers to read through her suggestions to learn how to become an active bystander. Recently, she conducted an experiment with middle schoolers who staged a bullying situation. Here’s the link:
· Studies show that if a bystander discourages the bully there is a 50% chance that the bully will stop.
· Befriending the victim can often be as powerful as standing up to the bully
What to teach your children to do:
1. Talk with an adult. Names do not need to be mentioned. For example: '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.'”
2. Show support to the victim by inviting them to walk to class with you, or something similar. Children should not be encouraged to intervene physically in a fight or any dangerous situation.
3. Create a distraction by focusing on something other than the bullying.
4. If it’s relational aggression (I.e. being mean), bystanders can speak to the victims after the event, to let them know others care, which may in turn lead to other bystanders showing support as well.
5. Set a good example. Make it clear to your friends that you won’t be involved in bullying behavior.