Here are some additional ideas you or your kids might consider as a means to stop bullies:
1. Consider an intervention to stop the bullying
Depending on the circumstance, many cases of bullying can be handled by arranging a good, well-moderated sit-down between the primary parties involved. It won’t help in situations where the bullying is indiscriminate or the result of “thrill bullying,” but it can solve problems in the many cases where bullying arises out of some feud, grudge, or other social dynamic. The goal in an intervention isn’t to see the bullies’ point of view, nor seek revenge, nor become friends, nor expect an apology. It’s to arrange a truce to stop the abuse. Here are some guidelines:
- Without blaming or pointing fingers, have each child give their version of what is going on.
- Make it clear that the victim is not out to get the bully in trouble.
- Help the kids themselves come up with a solution. There is no way to justify bullying, and so with adults as witnesses, a bully can’t simply choose to not stop without losing face. But by having them commit to the solution, they are far more likely to follow through in the real world, since it feels more like something they came up with and agreed to rather than something that was forced upon them.
- Outline clear consequences if the bullying continues, and without setting up something that seems like extortion, consider rewarding kids if they follow through and do the right thing.
No matter what the outcome of such a meeting, making an attempt at reconciliation is a brave step on the part of the victim and an accomplishment in itself. You should praise kids for trying.
2. Stop bullies through strength in numbers
Research has demonstrated that youth who have a group of friends (or even one friend) to confide in can handle the taunts and torments of bullying better than kids who are isolated and pretty much on their own. (Hodges, Malone & Perry, 1997; Pellegrini & Bartini, 2000) In addition to making it easier to cope with, grouping together can work to prevent it from occurring to begin with: “research demonstrates that having a group of friends works to prevent some bullying from taking place at all. Certainly the teens we talked to confirm this in subtle and not so subtle ways. If you have your ‘homies to watch your back,’ you can be assured that fewer instances of bullying behavior are going to come your way.” (Garbarino & deLara, 2002, p. 147)
So try to find ways to group together to stop bullies. See if there are any other victims of a particular bully and band together. Parents might want to consider reaching out and delicately (without mentioning any names of possible bullies) contacting other parents to see if any are having similar problems, and if so, trying to connect the kids to one another or arrange social excursions where they can get to know one another. (Do this without mentioning any names of alleged bullies.) Once you can get a group together, walk down the halls in a group, sit down and eat lunch as a group and hang around each other. It can greatly reduce their vulnerability as a target.
3. Arm your child with a cell phone to stop bullies
If the bullying is serious, provide your child with a cell phone. Instruct them to call 911 if they are attacked on their way to or from school.
When to take bullying to the police
When bullying reaches a certain level of severity, it may be necessary to take the issue up with police.
1. If the bullying behavior displays an inescapable or unstoppable pattern of harassment or stalking.
2. If your child has been threatened with significant bodily harm.
3. If the bullying has led to documentable injuries. This is ASSAULT. You wouldn’t put up with it in adulthood; don’t expect that it’s OK for youth to be physically attacked repeatedly without there being criminal consequences for police protection.