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How Do You Intervene in Bullying?

William DeMeo, PhD

June 29, 2020

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Question

How do you intervene in bullying?

Answer

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
The most important thing is to intervene immediately if you see a behavior that looks like bullying behavior. Always intervene, even if you're not sure it's bullying behavior. It's better to be safe than sorry down the line.
 

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.


william demeo

William DeMeo, PhD

Dr. William DeMeo is a Developmental Psychologist who consults with an organization that serves over 1,000 daycare programs across the county. In addition, he has a private practice that specializes in serving children and families that other agencies are not able to serve in the Greater Cincinnati Area. William had coordinated the mental health services for Cincinnati Public Schools’ Early Childhood Program for the past 25 years. A former teacher, he has taught at all levels, from elementary through the university. Finally, William is a National Certified Olweus Trainer, National Association of School Psychologist Approved Provider and a National Consultant for the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention.

William has presented workshops and symposia at the national meetings for early childhood professionals at the National Head Start Association (NHS), National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Society for Developmental Education (SDE) and the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI). In addition, he has also presented numerous workshops for administrators, mental health professionals and educators at the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), National Title I Conference, American Montessori Society (AMS), Association of Middle Level Education (AMLE),​​Global Summit on Childhood, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and International Behavioral Institute for Children and Adolescents.

William continues to be one of the most sought after national and international trainers for educators in the areas of challenging behavior, mental health and brain-based learning, utilizing his extensive experience to present practical and entertaining workshops. He has authored several books, including his latest publications; ​Managing the Angry and Aggressive Child (1999), ​Brain-Based Learning: How Does the Brain Really Learn! (2000), ​The Educator’s Survival Guide for Preventing Burnout! (2003), ​Reading with the Brain in Mind! (2003), Discipline with the Brain in Mind! ​(2006), ​The Bullying Student (​2007) and ​Sensory Integration Dysfunction ​(2010), When Nothing Else Works: What Early Childhood Professionals Can Do to Reduce Challenging Behaviors (2013).


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