Four fears keep bullying targets and witnesses silent
Updated: Oct 10
In my experience, four fears keep bullying targets and witnesses silent. The good news is that with new skills to rely on and consistent support from educators, children can move past them.
Fear of being seen as a snitch. This is a big one. Children don’t want to be shunned by peers for speaking out. Our virtual Bullying Prevention and Life Skills program addresses this fear in several ways:
We teach children a toolbox of six skills that can help them avoid or resolve many bullying situations themselves. If you’d like to learn what these skills are, and how we help children learn and practice them, you can read my post about it here.
We give your school community a common definition of bullying. The child and their peers will recognize when the behavior they are seeing is wrong, and they are also taught that their laughter or silence supports it. Once the caring majority in a school is mobilized, they become allies of bullying targets.
Fear their reports of bullying won’t be taken seriously or that they will be blamed. When bullying targets and bystanders find they can’t solve a problem themselves, we give them four tips to help them ask for adult help more effectively, in a way that won’t be mistaken for tattling. We also share these tips with parents. Watch this video clip from our parent program to see the tips.
Fear of retaliation. Children who are targets fear that bullying will get worse if they report it, and witnesses don’t want to become targets. Our three professional development modules help ensure all educators and staff members respond to bullying incidents consistently. When educators and staff act as one, and it is clear to all that bullying behavior will not be tolerated, children have more confidence that their report of bullying will be met with predictable action. We also help educators understand how to protect the target’s dignity and sense of safety. In addition, we let children know that, when they witness bullying, even taking a small action within their comfort zone matters. We call this concept “Initial Positive Action” or IPA. If a child doesn’t feel comfortable saying something to a bully, perhaps they may feel comfortable silently taking the targeted child by the hand and walking with them away from the situation. They can also tell an educator or parent about what they’ve witnessed.
Fear that telling a parent or guardian will make things worse. Children worry that their parent or guardian will show up at the school, embarrass them and make the ringleader angry. Our three modules for parents help them recognize signs that their child may be a target of bullying. We give them tips to start a conversation with their child and to respond to their child’s confidences in a non-reactive way. We also encourage them to bring any issue to their child’s teacher.
When children have tools to help themselves and each other, and they are supported by a united group of parents/guardians and educators, we CAN prevent the lasting, and sometimes lifelong, harm of unchecked bullying.