How do you intervene in bullying?
Steps to Intervene
- Intervene immediately
- Intervene even if you're not sure it's bullying
- Stand between or near the victim and the bully, separating them if necessary, so as to stop the bullying behaviors
- Respond firmly and describe the behavior you observed and why it is unacceptable
- Don’t ask children to “work things out” for themselves
- Impose consequences focusing on restitution
- Stick around
How do you intervene? First, stand between the bully and the young child who's being bullied. That immediately protects and more importantly, it stops the bullying behavior. Then respond firmly and describe the behavior you observed and why it is unacceptable within your program. For example, "Jimmy, I saw you push Andrew. That looked like bullying behavior. That behavior is not acceptable within our program. It goes against our guidelines of kindness."
It's extremely important that you do not ask children to work things out for themselves. I totally agree that conflict resolution is a very appropriate intervention strategy for young children with a number of behaviors, but it is not effective for bullying behavior. This is due to the imbalance of power that is present between the bully and the victim. Because of that imbalance of power, the bully will take over and control the situation and will actually re-victimize the other child.
With bullying behavior, you as an adult need to facilitate the intervention. There should be consequences, and the consequences imposed should be associated with restitution. Since you did something that was hurtful and harmful to your friend, now you have to do something that is going to help them. There are lots of different ways that you can implore restitution and consequences regarding bullying behavior into your program. After you intervene, stick around and make sure the behavior does not continue.
This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Bully Proofing Your Early Childhood Program, in partnership with Region 9 Head Start Association, by William DeMeo, PhD.