In an anti-bullying workshop I recently lead for kids, one of the most common fears expressed about helping a peer who was being picked on was that the tables might be turned on them. Both boys and girls alike were concerned that if they didn't join in or remain silent when someone was being bullied or put down, they might become the target. They felt that intervening would put them at risk.
So we practiced having someone simply stand next to the person being picked on, putting their arm around the person (if comfortable doing so), and walking away together with a word or two of reassurance like, "Hey, don't pay any attention to what they were saying. It wasn't true at all."
Subtle acts can make a big difference. Did you know that when peers intervene to help someone being picked on, the bullying stops in less than 10 seconds 51% of the time. Pretty powerful stuff. So if your kids are afraid to say anything to the person who's bullying, encourage them instead to offer some gesture of support to the person being picked on. That's what upstanders do, and the more upstanders out there, the less bullying we'll see.
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