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Tom D'Amore
Tom D'Amore
Attorney • (800) 905-4676

Neither the bully nor the bullied: How to help your child stand up for others


In any bullying situation, there are three parties: the bully, the bullied, and witnesses. If your child or teenager is neither a bully nor the bully’s target, you still have the opportunity to help them learn leadership, develop empathy, and be a part of the solution to the huge problem of bullying.

Most kids and teens won’t interfere with bullying unless it directly affects them. By speaking up, they feel that they would risk their own social status – or worse, become a target. Here’s how you can help:

  • Educate your child about bullying even if it’s not a problem for him or her. Kids can become accustomed to seeing each other bullied or treated poorly, and they fail to recognize bullying for what it is. For older kids or teens, you can also explain to them that bullying often mimics criminal behavior: if the aggressor was an adult, physical behavior like punching, kicking or hitting would be considered assault.
  • Set a good example of empathy towards the problems of others. Kids have ultra-sensitive hypocrisy radar, so let your children or teens see that you are not afraid of standing up for what is right, and dealing with the consequences.
  • Make it clear that it is their responsibility to report bullying of other students to parents or teachers. Often, kids don’t want to report bullying to adults because it betrays the trust in the kid-code. Try explaining that they are not protecting anyone: negative consequences could haunt the bully as well as the bullied child. The bully may be a victim at home – although that is not always the case – and an intervention by a trusted adult may be necessary.
  • At the very least, your kid can be kind to the bullying victim. Most kids are not anxious to put themselves near a bullying target, but if they are able to sit with the targeted child at lunch, on the bus, or even talk to them at school, it can help create a protective barrier.
  • According to stopbullying.gov, many bystanders want to stop the bullying – but don’t know how. Encourage him or her to assume a leadership role by gathering other bystanders to stop the bullying. There is strength in numbers – and having a bigger group of witnesses standing up to the bully diversifies the new target pool. If kids are unified in condemning the bully’s behavior, it becomes less rewarding for the bully.

There is no such thing as an innocent bystander when children are being harmed. Silent witnesses are contributing to the epidemic of bullying, and have a unique opportunity to take positive action to help a bullied child, and in the process, help themselves.


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    Great information. I think many of us tend to forget the “third party” in any bullying situation, the witnesses.

    Fear of retribution is definitely a major reason why other children don’t intervene. I think another factor may also be the “bystander effect” where people witness something terrible but don’t take action because they are waiting for someone else to do something. The classic example being the all the witnesses to the Kitty Genovese murder.

    Thanks for helping spread the word about this problem.


  2. Tom D'Amore says:
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    Thanks for your comment, John. Great point about the bystander effect.