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How Addressing Bullying Behavior Prevents Lifelong Bullying

Bullying intervention ideas for elementary and middle school


Updated February 08, 2014


Believe it or not, a number of children will engage in bullying behavior at some point in their lives. It’s not that these kids are bad kids, it’s that they haven’t quite mastered navigating social situations .

In fact, according to a report in Science Daily, 35% of kids admitted to bullying their peers at moderate levels. The report also indicates that many students started bullying in elementary school but stopped by high school.

Research shows that intervening early can prevent lifelong bullying behavior. In fact, according to a Canadian study, 70 to 80% of bullying problems are temporary. What this means is that with minor interventions and support, these children come to understand what is wrong with bullying and learn to relate positively with their classmates.

Even kids who show a stronger tendency toward lifelong bullying can benefit from early intervention. Teaching positive relationship skills and problem-solving skills can head off a pattern of lifelong relationship issues.

Be proactive when it comes addressing bullying

Many times, kids don’t realize that their behavior is inappropriate. They need taught what is acceptable and what isn’t. They also need instruction in important life skills like collaboration, problem-solving and anger management. Therefore, it is important to emphasize these skills in the classroom and at home. Here are some things to focus on.

  • Be sure you are familiar with the types of bullies that you may come in contact with. By understanding the different types of bullies, you will know what to look for in your class.
  • Make sure kids know the difference between appropriate behavior and inappropriate behavior.
  • Teach kids how to collaborate with others by giving them group projects or encouraging them to work as a team.
  • Use role playing or small skits to teach kids about bullying.
  • Instruct kids on the keys to problem-solving and anger management.
  • Reward positive behavior in class and at home whenever possible.
  • Tell the class in advance what types of behavior you consider bullying. Be sure that they know you will intervene when someone reports bullying behavior or if you witness bullying behaviors.
  • Create a list of consequences for bullying. Some teachers have found it helpful to have lesser consequences for isolated instances of bullying and greater consequences for more serious or chronic bullying.

Be firm, fair and consistent when confronting bullying.

When teachers communicate that bullying will not be tolerated and then intervene quickly when it does occur, they are demonstrating that bullying will not be tolerated. They also are creating an environment where bullying is less likely to occur. Although bullying may not be completely eliminated, a quick response and a consistent discipline plan will certainly go a long way in preventing some instances of bullying. Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Intervene quickly when an incident of bullying is reported or when you witness it firsthand.
  • Pull the bully aside for a private conversation about the bullying. Avoid reprimanding a student in front of their peers. Your conversation will be much more effective if you don’t have an audience.
  • Keep the conversation about the bullying incident focused on the behavior. Don’t allow the bully to pull the victim into the discussion or to shift blame in some way. Bullies need to be taught to be accountable for their actions and not to blame others for their behaviors.
  • Encourage bullies to state what they did and to give ideas on how they might have handled the situation differently.
  • Be sure you are familiar with the risk factors for becoming a bully. This information will help you determine if the bully may benefit from seeing the school counselor or another trained professional.
  • Implement the appropriate consequences when you witness bullying or another student reports a bullying incident. Try not to delay implementing consequences.
  • Give the bully ideas on how to handle difficult situations in the future.
  • Impose more severe consequences if the bullying behavior continues or escalates.
  • Contact the parents of the child who is bullying and enlist their help in stopping the bullying behavior if bullying becomes a chronic behavior.
  • Consider getting the principal or the guidance counselor involved, if your consequences are not deterring the behavior.
  • Remember that all children, including bullies, need to know that you care about them and that you believe they can contribute in a positive way. Be sure you communicate this along with the consequences.
  • Be patient when working with bullies and understand that change takes time.

Avoid these common mistakes.

Trying to ignore bullying is never a good idea. Typically, bullying doesn’t stop or go away without some type of adult intervention. When bullying is reported to you, make sure you take action. And try to refrain from making these common mistakes.

  • Don’t assume kids can “work it out” without adult help.
  • Don’t immediately try to sort out the facts.
  • Don’t ask bystanders to announce in front of the class what they witnessed.
  • Don’t question the victim or the bully in front of other kids.
  • Don’t talk to the bully and the victim at the same time. Conversations need to happen separately.
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