After the incident . . .
Follow up with each of the “players” separately. Rely on your relationships and connections with the children to talk openly and productively about the bullying incident, and its effects and consequences.
Bullies must understand that bullying is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. To this end, it is important to impose immediate consequences that are appropriate for their offense and developmental level, and that are consistent with program policy. It is also important for children who bully to take responsibility for their actions: to understand what they did, why their behavior is wrong, how it affects their victims, how it affects others around them, and to “make amends.” Help the bully apologize or make amends by doing something nice for the victim. Consider organizing supervised activities that include both the bully and the victim so they can learn to interact in more positive ways.
Victims must know that adults care and support them. Listen carefully to their description of what happened and offer sympathy and support. Help them develop strategies for addressing the problem, should it recur in the future. Let them know they do not deserve to be bullied and they are not alone—adults and peers can help.
Bystanders must understand the effects of their actions—or non-actions. Explain that they have the power to cool down the situation by asking the bully to stop, helping the victim walk away, getting support from other bystanders, asking an adult for help, and/or reporting the bullying incident. Talk with them about what they did or did not do to help.
Inform appropriate staff. Report the incident to a supervisor and any other staff with whom the children work closely. Inform the children’s parents, as warranted.
Keep a detailed record of the incident. Include who is involved, where the incident occurred, whether it has happened before, and strategies used to address the problem. This record will reveal any patterns and help you see which interventions work best.
Check in regularly with the victim, the bully, and program staff to make sure the bullying does not continue. Create opportunities for talking about bullying issues with children in your program.