Chances are, at one point or another in your life, you have been a witness to bullying or perhaps a victim of bullying. It may have been decades ago while you were playing hopscotch in the schoolyard or perhaps it was just last week in the teachers’ lounge. When you think back upon these events, did you stand up for yourself? Did someone else jump in to help you? Do you wish you could go back and do something differently?
Today, bullying takes many different forms such as cyber, verbal, social, and physical. As a teacher, you may see blatant forms of bullying in your classroom, but chances are you probably won’t see anything at all. The good news is, even though you might not be able to directly catch bullies in the act, you can still make an impact by giving your students tools to help them combat bullying for themselves and others. Plus, you can be a trusted person whom students can come to in time of need. To help you create an open dialog about bullying in your classrooms and prevent bullying altogether, follow these six ideas that you can share with students.
Six Ways to Help Your Students Stand Up to Bullies
- Teach students not to take the bait. Ignoring a problem usually doesn’t make it go away but in the case of bullying, it could be a possible solution. Why? A bully wants a reaction. They’ll name-call and pester others to get a rise out of them. Teach your students to hold their heads high and walk away no matter how hard it seems. Bullies might come back for more, but most will get bored after their failed attempts.
- Teach students how to be assertive. Bullies look for an easy target. They will single out those who seem meek, timid, or afraid. If a bully knows nothing will stand in their way, they’ll continue to do whatever they want, and the torment can escalate. Teach your students how to communicate in an assertive, clear, and calm manner without resorting to being aggressive. Role play different scenarios with your students and give them ideas of what they can say to someone bullying them or their classmates. A firm, “stop” or “leave me alone” may be all that it takes to halt bullies in their tracks.
- Teach students to stand up for their classmates. No one wants to be the one who’s being picked on, so a common reaction to witnessing a bully is silence. According to bullying experts, “when kids nearby intervene correctly, they successfully stop the bullying more than half the time” (Mangel, 2018). Stepping in when friends are being bullied takes tremendous courage, therefore, your students need encouragement to be advocates for each other. Intervening doesn’t have to be complicated. One correct intervention strategy is to remove the victim from the situation. For example, if a student sees or hears someone being bullied on the bus or in the lunchroom, they can simply intervene and say something like, “Hey Sam, why don’t you come sit here with us.” Intervening can also be accomplished by going to a teacher, school counselor, or parent if the student doesn’t feel comfortable in the heat of the moment. Either way is ok and will help protect another student.
- Teach students not to get themselves into dangerous situations. Most physical instances of bullying happen out of sight, so remind your students not to hang out in empty parts of the school or playground. Make sure they know not to linger in locker rooms and stairwells. There is safety in numbers, and the best way for students to avoid dangerous situations is to make sure they’re always with a friend or in a group.
- Create a warm classroom environment. If there are students in your classroom who have trouble making friends, you can help by hosting activities that can create bonds within the classroom. You can also strategically place students into groups or rearrange seating assignments to encourage connections. Getting to know you games, projects, and activities are also great ways to build bonds.
- Encourage students to come to you or another trusted adult. Make it clear that students do not have to deal with bullies on their own. Tell your students that they can come to you if they feel they’re being bullied by another student at the school or if they witness bullying. Be proactive and have a conversation with them before you notice signs of bullying happening in your class. Discuss how going to a trusted adult is not tattle-telling.
October is Bullying Prevention Month
Stomp Out Bullying is an organization dedicated to reducing and preventing bullying. Check out their safe, actionable ways for kids to empower themselves to stand up to bullies and help their peers.
We all need to stand up to bullying!
Have you seen or used tactics that help identify or confront bullying? We’d love to hear it. Please leave your ideas in the comments below.
Hurley, Katie. (2018, September 26). Short term and long term effects of bullying: Psychological & societal. Psycom.net – Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1996. Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://www.psycom.net/effects-of-bullying.
Mangel, L. (2018, February 23). 10 ways to empower kids to stand up to bullying. Bosco. Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://www.boscoapp.com/single-post/2018/02/23/10-ways-to-empower-kids-to-stand-up-to-bullying.
StompOutBullying.org (Ed.). (2021). Bullying bystanders… become Upstanders. Bullying Upstanders – Be a Bystander No More! Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://www.stompoutbullying.org/bullying-bystanders-become-upstanders.