To Prevent Bullying . . .

Intervene when children are young. Children who bully are not born bullies and children who are victimized are not born victims. But many young children engage in aggressive behaviors that may lead to bullying, while others react by submitting or fighting back. Adults can stop these patterns before they are established by encouraging cooperative behaviors such as sharing, helping, and problem-solving, and by preventing aggressive responses such as hostility, hurting, and rejection.

Teach bullying prevention strategies to all children. Don’t assume that only “challenging” children become bullies or that only “weak” children become victims. Most children are likely to be victimized by a bully at some point in their lives, and all children can benefit from learning to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors; how to stand up for themselves, and others; and when to turn to an adult for help.

Take bullying seriously. Pay careful attention to the warning signs and to children most at risk. Make sure children know that bullying will not be tolerated and that you will work with them to make bullying stop.

Encourage empathy. Children who can empathize understand that bullying hurts. They are less likely to bully and more likely to help children who are bullied.

Teach by example. Be an effective role model. Children learn how to behave by watching and emulating the adults in their lives. Consider how you solve problems, discipline, control your own anger and disappointment, and stand up for yourself and others without fighting. If children observe you acting aggressively, they are more likely to show aggression toward others.

Help children critically evaluate media violence. Children may learn aggressive behaviors by watching television and movies that glorify violence and by playing violent video games that reward violent behavior. Help children understand that media portrayals of violence are unrealistic and inappropriate. Intervene when you see children imitating media violence in their play or in their social interactions.

Provide opportunities for children to learn and practice the qualities and skills that can protect them from bullying. Children who are confident are less likely to tolerate bullying and more likely to have the courage and inner-strength to respond effectively. Children who are assertive know how to react to a bully in effective, non-aggressive ways, and they are less likely to be targeted by bullies in the first place. Children who know how to make and keep friends can rely on them for protection from bullying. Children who know how to solve problems constructively avoid responding aggressively to conflict. 

Encourage children to talk about and report bullying. When they do, listen carefully, and be patient: Talking about bullying can be difficult, and children may feel embarrassed or afraid to share their concerns.

Develop strong connections with the children in your care. Children are less likely to bully if they know it will displease an adult whom they respect and trust.Similarly, children are more likely to confide in an adult with whom they have a caring and trusting relationship.

Reexamine your own beliefs about bulling. Misconceptions may prevent you from “seeing” a potential bullying incident or intervening as quickly as you should.