The Bullying Phenomenon: The Bystander (Part 3)

In the final blog, we will explore the role of the bystander. Growing up in a society where bullying is extremely prevalent, if your child is lucky enough to avoid being bullied (or being a bully), chances are that he or she has witnessed bullying.

Bullying is fostered when the bully is able to instill fear in his victims.

However, when another person stands up to him, it interferes with his bullying. In the book The Bully, The Bullied, and The Bystander, Barbara Coloroso explains that often bystanders do at least one of these 4 things:

  1. Are fearful of the bully and blame the target for becoming the victim
  2. Join the bullying
  3. Fail to intervene because no one else is intervening
  4. See no need to stop the bullying

In fact, the author reveals that bullying is reinforced by peers in roughly 80 percent of bullying episodes. Society teaches us to not interfere with other people and concentrate on circumstances that directly affect ourselves. However, this attitude can be considered indifferent.

Parents and children need to decide what values they want to live by and collaborate on a plan to construct those values.

The author William Burroughs has made the provocative statement that “there are no innocent bystanders.” This quote insinuates that we as a human race have a responsibility to help those in need for the better good of humanity. There are several ways that kids can help to break the cycle:

  1. Break the cycle of violence – create a caring space where kindness, respect, and love are rewarded.
  2. Unconditional love – peers can be accepting of others and encourage the development of differences. Everybody has dignity and self-worth and it is important to be respectful of others and their feelings.
  3. Be self-aware – many times adolescents follow the actions of their friend groups. However, take a moment to think about how your actions and how the groups’ actions are affecting another individual.
  4. Nurture empathy – instead of breaking down the weak and making them weaker, build them up, take their side, and put yourself in their shoes.

The cycle of violence can be broken. However, it begins by reaching out and speaking for those who are unable to raise their own voice. Coloroso suggested that, “The cycle of violence can be interrupted, and circles of caring can grow bigger and stronger when even one person has the moral strength and courage to stand up and speak out.”

More in this series:
The Bully (part 1)
The Bullied (part 2)

Chelsey Beauchamp, MS
cbeauchamp @