Bullying, Interventions, and The Role of Adults (page 2)

By and — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Feb 11, 2009

Interventions for Children Who are Victimized

The relationship problem for children who are persistently bullied is that they are experiencing abuse from peers and are not being supported by those peers who witness bullying, nor by adults who may be unaware of the problem. We must protect these children and find ways to help them develop positive connections with peers and a trusted adult.

Teachers can help promote positive relationships through:

  • establishing buddies,
  • circles of support,
  • peer mentors, and
  • by finding ways to highlight the victimized child’s talents for others to see.

For web links to specific programs visit:

There is no single profile of children who are victimized. Responses to these children must depend on an assessment of their individual and relationship strengths and weaknesses. Some of the difficulties experienced by children who are victimized include, problems with social and assertiveness skills, emotional and/or behavioural regulation, and internalizing problems. Support can be provided through programs that emphasize social skills, but especially through consistent moment-to-moment support from teachers, parents, and peers.

Interventions for Children who Witness Bullying

Bystanders hold significant power when it comes to promoting, or stopping, bullying. There is a great deal of promise in engaging bystanders to take a stand against bullying by intervening directly, telling a trusted adult, or at least by not encouraging the bullying child. Children need help understanding their social responsibility to do something when they know that bullying is taking place (11).

  • Peers can be coached in taking a stand and intervening when bullying occurs.
  • Children may need scripts for what to say and do to intervene in a positive way.
  • When more than one child steps in, it can help shift the balance of power away from the bully.
  • The key is for adults to establish conditions in which children feel responsible.
  • Children need to feel safe and to be encouraged to take the risk of speaking out against bullying.
  • Adults who listen respectfully and respond with relationship solutions will facilitate the development of social justice and give children the power to act.

The Role of Adults

Adults are responsible for constructing environments that promote positive peer interactions. If adults are not aware of the dynamics in children’s peer groups, natural peer processes will place some children at risk for victimization.

  • Adults need to discourage grouping together children who are similarly aggressive and engage in bullying. When troubled children are together, they reinforce each other for deviant behavior and in that way train each other to become more aggressive (11).
  • Within the classroom, teachers should avoid the practice of having children determine their own working groups. Instead, teachers need to take responsibility for working groups to ensure that they are balanced, with a mix of students who are highly skilled for the particular assignment and other students, who will bring strengths in other specific domains. By taking responsibility to organize and reorganize children’s social groupings, teachers can avoid embarrassment and humiliation for students who have not been chosen by any group.
  • Children need consistent lessons to develop the complex skills required for healthy relationships. They can only learn these skills in the context of positive relationships with the adults in their lives and with their friends and other peers. Solutions need to focus on promoting relationship skills for all children involved in bullying: those who bully, those who are victimized, as well as those who are bystanders. By supporting children’s healthy social and emotional development and by providing an environment that promotes healthy relationships, we can lay a foundation for healthy adaptation and positive relationships that last a lifetime.
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