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Children's Health

Bullying

03/27/2009

Question:

What if anything is being done to help these kids who do the bullying? And if a program is in place is it effective?These kids can`t be all bad and should be given the same chances as those being victimized, do you agree? I am no expert, but I would think if not treated the issue would follow them well into their adult life, correct? Can you recommend any publications for learning how to handle troubled kids?

Answer:

Thank you very much for the question. There is a push to change the language to aggressor (bully), target (victim) and bystander (witness). Children can switch to each of these roles at any given time. The most important point to realize is that the bystander has the most power in the situation. When bystanders step enter the situation, the bullying usually stops. The question is how to empower our children to be appropriate bystanders and not 'tattle tails". The Penn State College of Medicine Bullying project uses the concept of "getting someone into trouble vs. keeping someone out of trouble." By doing various role playing exercises children can develop an understanding of this concept.

As for dealing with the aggressor, there are a number of strategies that teachers, parents, and other supervisor adults can implement. First, adults should explain that that kind of behavior is unacceptable. Second, do not allow the child to make excuses for aggressive (physical or verbal) behavior. Lastly, the adult should discuss why the behavior is inappropriate and provide alternative strategies for interaction. There is a very nice website on bullying at http://www.stopbullying.gov/. Please visit for additional information.

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Response by:

Stephen E Wilson, MD, MSc Stephen E Wilson, MD, MSc
Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati