Dear Your Teen:
How do I encourage my teenager to get involved in a bullying situation? I don’t think it is enough to not be a bully. I want my son to be an upstander — to step in and in some way intervene and help the bullied teenager. What’s your advice?
How Your Teen Can Intervene in Bullying
In addition to making it clear to your teen that he should always be polite to all of his classmates, even if he does not particularly like some of those classmates, make it clear that you expect that he will do at least one of three things if he witnesses bullying:
1. Reach out to the victim.
He could reach out to the victim. Perhaps your son could ask the victim to join him and his friends in their activities. Or to sit at their lunch table.
2. Stand up to the bully.
He could stand up to the bully – perhaps telling the bully to “give it a rest” or to leave the victim alone. This can be tough for teenagers who may worry that the bully — or his friends — will turn on them. Sometimes, more popular teenagers have more success standing up to bullies than less powerful (socially) teenagers do.
3. Speak up to an adult.
Your son could tell an adult at school (a trusted teacher, a school counselor) and he should also tell you about it at home.
Make it clear to your son that you expect him to do at least one of these things regardless of how he feels about the teenager who is being victimized.
Dr. Lisa Damour is the co-director of the Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls in Shaker Heights, Ohio and the author of the New York Times bestseller Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls through the Seven Transitions to Adulthood.