Bullying is unacceptable. Although it is degrading to the victim, often they do not tell adults or ask for help. Researchers tell us that, developmentally, adolescents typically feel they’re supposed to be working things out themselves, not running to an adult. They are also unlikely to tell if they feel there’s any possibility the adult could overreact or act without them and make things worse in the tricky social milieu at school.
The Youth Voice Project found, after surveying 12,000 students throughout the US, that the advice adults typically give kids – e.g., “tell the person how you feel,” “walk away,” “tell the person to stop,” “pretend it doesn’t bother you”, etc. made things worse for the respondents “much more often than they made things better.”
The survey showed that, when an adult is brought in, the top 3 most helpful things were “listened to me,” “gave me advice” on how to handle the situation, and “checked in with me afterwards to see if the behavior stopped” Very often that helper adult is someone at school.
They stated that the top 3 ways friends or peers have helped include to “Spent time with me,” “Talked to me,” and “Helped me get away.”The Youth Voice Project authors found that “positive peer actions were strikingly more likely to be rated more helpful than were positive self actions or positive adult actions.”
To encourage our children to involve us and if we want to help, our course of is quite clear: listen diligently and calmly, then collaborate with our children on developing a plan for dealing with the problem. If we go in “with guns blazing,” we really can make things worse for our kids – and we’ll only give them more reason to avoid adult intervention.