Bully Bystander

The other day, NHL got in trouble at school.  He saw one kid bullying another kid and decided to get involved.  He walked up to the bully, confronted him, and tried to get him to stop.  Unfortunately, he got tripped by the bully for his efforts.

When he got home, B told him that he should have stayed out of it and gone to an adult instead.  I’ve got to say, though, that in a way I’m proud of NHL.  As someone who was bullied constantly growing up, I wish someone had stood up for me and told the bullies to back down.  At the time, I didn’t have the courage or self-confidence to do it myself.  It would have been nice to have someone help me when I needed it.  Instead, most people walked on their way and ignored the situation.

The problem with NHL directly confronting the bully, however, is two fold.  First of all, NHL has trouble understanding normal social situations.  Secondly, NHL is already a target for bullies.  Confronting a bully situation without it turning violent can be tricky.  Confronting a bully situation when people see you as someone to be bullied and when you struggle to come up with the correct reply can be near-impossible.

In addition, NHL’s misreading of social cues means that he can easily misinterpret a situation as bullying when it really isn’t.  If he intervenes in this case, he could not only anger everyone involved in the mistaken bullying situation, but he could wind up in trouble or being the person bullied because of his actions.

In the end, we told NHL to get an adult if he sees bullying from now on.  Sadly, I know that this might not solve any bullying incident.  Teachers might write off NHL’s complaints as being made up.  They might also decide, instead, to ignore the situation.  (Sadly, we’ve had personal experience with school officials trying to sweep bullying under the rug.)  Still, it seems like the best way for NHL to take action and not ignore any bullying he sees.

What do you tell your kids to do if they witness bullying?