Katie Hurley, LCSW

Worry-Free Kids

Bullying

Survey Shows Kids Want Help with Helping Others

New report shows kids don't know how to help a victim of bullying.

Posted Feb 27, 2018

Pixaby/Pexels
Source: Pixaby/Pexels

Statistics show that national rates of bullying decreased between 2005 and 2015, though percentages remain relatively unchanged since 2013. Despite this downward trend, however, it comes as no surprise that bullying remains a significant issue for many students, including students in elementary school.

A new report commissioned by Stop Bullying: Speak Up (SBSU) titled, "Stop Bullying Before It Starts: Giving Kids a Voice", presents the findings of a nationally representative survey of 1,000 nine to eleven-year-olds. This report sheds critical light on what kids experience during elementary school and what we can do to prevent bullying. 

  • 77% of kids ages 9-11 say they have witnessed bullying
  • 62% of kids ages 9-11 say they have been bullied
  • 21% of kids ages 9-11 admit to bullying others

In good news, this report reveals that the vast majority of kids in this age group feel that caring for others is important (74%) and they want to learn how to help others. When asked what stops them from helping a peer who is being bullied, kids rated these obstacles as follows:

  • 58% don't know what to do or say
  • 46% fear they will make things worse 
  • 43% are afraid they will get hurt
  • 37% are afraid others will make fun of them
  • 34% feel the kid doesn't want help
  • 22% think they don't have anything in common with the kid being left out or picked on
  • 13% think the kid being picked on deserved it

These results highlight an important missing piece in addressing bullying in our schools: taking a proactive approach to prevent bullying by giving kids the necessary social skills to act as upstanders in their communities. It's not enough to plaster the hallways with "bully free zone" signs and tell kids to "be kind," parents and educators also have to teach kids how to act in these high-pressure situations so that they can help a peer in need.

No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls is a guide to help parents take a proactive approach to helping young girls cope with bullying and relational aggression and help other girls in need. By teaching girls how to navigate these tricky social situations early, they grow up with a strong foundation for acting as change makers and helpers, instead of standing by in silence and wondering what they could have done. 

Try some of these strategies to help your build your child's social interaction skills at home (these can be used with girls or boys):

Self Report Card

Sometimes girls get stuck in a certain pattern of behavior. For better or for worse, the mean girl thing feels like it works. They have friends, they're never alone, and other kids look up to them. When girls get stuck in a negative pattern of behavior, they don't necessarily see the repercussions of their choices.

Help your daughter create a weekly (or even daily) report card that focuses on soft skills she's employed, like empathy, kindness, helping others, and positive social skills. Keep it simple. Some examples might include:


●         Complimented a friend
●         Helped a friend in need
●         Invited someone into my group
●         Used kind words
●         Listened to others

Ask your daughter to give herself a rating (use emoticons to make it fun) for each category and talk about why she gave herself that rating. Do your own self report card at the same time to illustrate your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to interpersonal skills.

The self report card can be eye-opening for girls. Sometimes the act of sitting down and talking about the subtle ways we relate to others helps them see how their behavior can affect other girls.

Upstanders and Supporters

One thing we can always do is model "upstander" and "supporter" behavior. It's really hard to stand up to a bully, and some kids are stronger than others in these moments, but we can teach our kids to take on positive roles by modeling these behaviors in our own lives and role-playing at home.

  • Upstanders: Stand up to bullies with words or actions. Practice upstander phrases at home (e.g., "Stop! I don't like it when you treat my friends that way").
  • Supporters: You don't have to use your voice to lend your support. If standing up to a bully feels hard, something as simple as making eye contact with the victim or standing near the victim can show support and help the victim feel less alone.

Friendship Troubles Dos and Don'ts

Be honest: How many times have you told your daughter to "Walk away" or "Let it go" when she complains of peer issues? If your answer is "at least once and probably more" (or something like that), you're one of many. In fact, many bully-prevention programs advise kids to "walk away" or "ignore" a bully. Girls hear this message over and over again. Here's the thing: Not all peer problems are a form of bullying and walking away and getting over it are not that easy to do (particularly for young girls who are likely still living in the stage of instant gratification). Girls need guidance when it comes to coping with friendship troubles.
 
You know your daughter best, so you know what she's capable of doing in the moment but try to come up with a list of dos and don'ts to navigate tricky situations. Try these:


DO
●        Say that you need time to think. You don't have to solve every problem right away.
●         Talk about how you're feeling.
●         Use "I statements" to avoid the blame game (e.g., "I feel embarrassed when other people make jokes about me").
●         Take responsibility for your role in a conflict.
●         Use a calm but assertive voice to communicate your thoughts
(see chapter 8 for more on building assertiveness skills).
●         Be honest.
●         Listen.
●         Consider your friend's perspective.
●         Work together: State the problem. Talk about feelings on both sides. Brainstorm possible solutions.
●         Talk it out with a trusted adult if you don't know how to solve the problem.


DON'T
●        Exaggerate or lie to make the situation seem bigger than it is.
●        Gossip or build alliances to get other friends in on the conflict.
●        Blame. It takes two to have a conflict.
●        Use the silent treatment to retaliate. It never solves a problem and often makes the problem worse. If you need time alone to think, tell your friend.
●        Pretend you have no feelings or keep your face devoid of emotions.
●        Use phrases like "whatever" or "I don't care" to hide your true feelings.
●        Talk over your friend.
●        Taunt your friend to make onlookers laugh.
●        Dismiss your friend's feelings.


When kids are frontloaded with the skills to handle peer conflict and help their friends, they are better equipped to put kindness and empathy first.  

Excerpted from No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls by Katie Hurley with the permission of TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright© 2018 by Katie Hurley

References

"Stop Bullying Before It Starts: Giving Kids a Voice," Stop Bullying: Speak Up, 2018. 

"Bullying Down From a Decade Ago, but Unchanged Since 2013," National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016. 

Hurley, K., "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls," TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC., New York, NY: 2018.