For Adults

How to Stop Bullying and Create a Positive Community for All

Our culture promotes bullying whether through violence in national sports teams, acceptance of domestic violence, or depictions of intimidation in reality TV shows and violence steeped programming.

We ourselves may even display bullying behaviors, thinking it is the way to get results from athletes, employees, or soldiers. But ‘where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to get people to do better, we first have to make them feel worse?’ At one local high school, it was reported to be a status symbol to bully. National statistics now show that a third of all children, 1 in 3 kids! are bullied….

Cyberbullying is a growing form of bullying, hugely invasive with the power to hurt and humiliate others for control or revenge. The use of social media to spread rumors, ‘diss’ or expose people has devastating and even lethal effects.

With current brain research, we know that when people feel threatened, scared, or humiliated, extra Cortisol is released; the neural synapses in the rational brain slow and the limbic or reptilian parts of the brain are engaged. Due to this process, we cannot integrate instructions, learn, or think as rationally to communicate respectfully. Some become the walking wounded others strike back based with responses that have been modeled for them, sometimes it is both, “Hurt people, hurt people”.  Bullies often report having been bullied. When rational brains go offline and the reptilian brains engage, we can be destructive to ourselves and each other. In communities across the US, bullying is at epidemic proportions. Many of our children’s ability to learn and achieve success in their lives is damaged by this lack of safety in our schools and community.

We can break the cycle. We all make the difference. There are many stepping up to be the upstander not just the bystander. There are growing efforts to introduce measures for prevention and develop mutual respect and dignity in families, schools and communities. What is true is that all people do better when they feel better.


What can adults do?

As adults in this immediate intervention, be compassionate to all the people in the situation. Be kind and firm at the same time; follow-up and follow-through. Keep in mind….

Everyone is striving for belonging and significance. When you see bullying or other disruptive, hurtful, or inappropriate behaviors, remember there is a belief behind it. Where is the discouragement coming from? How can we look beyond the behavior to see the belief behind it and help that person feel connected and find meaning?

Strive to find connection before you attempt correction. Our brains are wired for connection and relationships. If you want to be heard or better understand what is happening, first find connection with that person. Then look for ways to solve the problem.

Listening can make all the difference. Make a point of letting your kids know you are available. When at home or around your children, encourage strengths, observe changes, and take cues from them about things they want to share or talk about.. Should your child be in distress or stressed, often with big emotions, the first thing to do is to calm your own emotions so that you can better assist them. Next, ask what and how questions for information about circumstances or their point of view. Try to stay genuinely curious. Role model how you would like to be heard and received, cared for and encouraged.

When everyone’s rational brain is back online and your kids seem ready to engage, explore ideas for solutions or next steps to make it better. Your calm and encouragement may be all that is needed. If your direct intervention is needed work with school officials or coaches. Avoid becoming a bully by being blameful, defensive or demanding. Explore policies, procedures and options for interventions that are respectful to all and build a community where people find belonging and significance and positive influence.

Hurt people, hurt people. Bullying can stops with YOU…We can start with modeling the way we want to be treated! Moving beyond traditional antibullying campaigns, people are intentionally creating a more kind and compassionate culture. Coaches, teachers, parents and peers play a role in stopping the cycle of bullying AND they also have a crucial role in modeling for children and youth what we DO want to see and be like as people in our community.


Summary Tips

Important ways to help:

  • Pay attention to how you treat others and model good behavior.
  • When bullying happens, help each other (step in, create calm, and seek safety).
  • After it happens, listen to each other.  Listen to your kids.
  • Ask questions that encourage for problem solving.
  • Be compassionate to all the people in the situation.
  • Be kind & firm, follow-up and follow-through.
  • Get more information with additional resources here
  • Get more information with LGBTQ resources here 

    *This information was provided by Jane Weed-Pomerantz and Monica McGuire