Step In, Speak Up: 10 actions you can take to help eliminate bullying

The latest research is startling: More than half of all children have been involved in bullying as a perpetrator, target or both. Those who aren’t directly involved often witness others being bullied.

Bullying affects kids of every race, gender identity, grade and socioeconomic sector. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are 10 actions you as a parent or Scouter can take to help address bullying.

Talk — and listen

Adults are often the last to know when young people are bullying others or being bullied.

Talk to your kids about their social lives. Ask open-ended questions about their school friends, what they do between classes, their lunchmates, and what happens on the way to and from school.

If children feel comfortable talking to you before they’re involved in a bullying event, they’ll be much more likely to get you involved after.

Be present

Research shows 67 percent of bullying happens when adults aren’t around.

Volunteering at school or a Scouting event once a week or once a month can make a real difference. Your presence will encourage kids to play well with others.

Ask your child’s teacher, principal or Scout leader how you can best serve.

Lead by example

Kids learn a lot about power relationships by watching you. When you get angry at a waiter, driver or fellow Scout leader, you have a great opportunity to model effective communication techniques.

Don’t blow it by blowing your top. Any time you speak to another person in a mean or abusive way, you’re teaching your child that bullying is OK.

Learn the signs

Most children won’t tell anyone, especially adults, that they’ve been bullied.

That makes it vital for parents to learn to recognize possible signs of their being targeted, such as frequent loss of personal belongings, complaints of headaches or stomachaches, looking upset after reading a social media post on their phone or computer, avoiding recess or school activities, or getting to school very late or very early.

Create healthy habits

Help develop anti-bullying and anti-victimization habits as early as preschool and kindergarten.

Coach your children on what not to do, including hitting, pushing or teasing. Help your child to focus on how such actions might feel to the child on the receiving end by asking, “How do you think you would feel if that happened to you?”

Learn the policies

Know how your child’s school and Scout unit address bullying.

Research shows “zero-tolerance” policies aren’t effective. It’s better to use ongoing educational programs that help create a healthy social climate in the school.

This means teaching kids of all ages how to be inclusive leaders and how to be empathic toward others.

Establish household rules

Your children and Scouts need to hear explicitly from you that bullying is not OK. They shouldn’t tolerate being bullied, either.

It’s important to define bullying, because many children don’t know when they’re bullying others. Help young people find other ways to exert their personal power, status and leadership at school, and implement a kindness plan at school and in the Scout unit.

Encourage upstanders

Research shows that kids who witness bullying feel powerless and seldom intervene.

Children shouldn’t put themselves in danger, but they can often effectively diffuse a bullying situation by stating firmly, “Stop! You’re bullying!”

People who stand up to bullying are called “upstanders.” Teach all kids (and adults) to be upstanders.

Talk about cyberbullying

Children often don’t realize what cyberbullying is.

It includes sending rude, vulgar or threatening messages or images; posting private information about another person; pretending to be someone else to make that person look bad; or intentionally excluding someone from an online group.

These acts are as harmful as physical violence and must not be tolerated.

Spread the word

Bullying should not be a normal part of childhood.

Some adults think of bullying as a typical phase of childhood that must be endured or that can help children “toughen up.” That’s wrong.

All forms of bullying are harmful to the perpetrator, the target and even witnesses. The effects last well into adulthood. By sharing this information with other adults you know, we can work together to end bullying. 

Anti-bullying Resources

BSA Youth Protection:

Bullying Research Network:


Federal anti-bullying site:

Selected books about bullying:


  1. As a long term law enforcement trainer, NRA TC and youth leader in shooting sports and church programs for kids I, have studied at length what causes active shooters. How to intervene with the violence of the active shooter cycle preventing, the next shooting. And Studying the profile of an active shooter as our culture creates them. Demeaning, isolation, adult and youth bullying, too much exposure to violent videogames, classmates callousness towards others that are different are all elements of the development of an active shooter. Those individuals begin to disassociate from others, Which accelerates the behavior of others to stay away, ignore, isolate, tease bully and abuse. Each missed opportunity to include welcome befriend a person in pain only makes things worse. Scouting covers everything our society is loosing. “Unified scouts” can make a difference in someone’s lives. Pediatricians, psychologists, and teachers know that lack of positive emotional releases and violence whether real or in a game pushes hurting people, to further isolation and more focus on a violent solution. Where inclusion, getting others involved in fun outings and other fun behavior resulting in including can break that violence addition in as few as three days if caught early. When are we going to stop hearing “I knew that person was going to be a shooter” and start hearing, “you look like you need a friend, join us.”

  2. My son was in the same troop since bear. He bridged over to Boy Scouts and I thought everything was fine. About 3 yrs in he would start “loosing” stuff like his sash with merit badges and backpacks and he slowly started telling me he didn’t want to go to the meetings anymore. One camping trip that my husband went with him he saw how he was crying and he didn’t want to tell his dad why. Well eventually he told him that they kept calling him names and blaming him for loosing a competition. I had seen the boys in his troop tease him here and there but his leaders have this mentality of “boys will be boys”. I never actually got mad and told them to stop. That was my fault, I didn’t want to seem like “Oh, you’re a mom”. Well my husband packed up and brought my son home. He finally opened up on how there were many kids in his troop that would always call him by names and never let him join in any activities. They would exclude him and blame him when things would go wrong. We just never took him back. He stopped doing something he loved because he was being bullied from kids he was with for about 5yrs. I really think these boys aren’t being thought how to be nice young men.

      • I agree however when the scoutmaster is not modeling the best solution, and there is no committee to support the scouts, what are the options? It is very limiting to a scout and their parent.

  3. I gave this talk to our troop recently after a bullying incident:

    I wanted to talk with you all about this kid I know. You all probably know him too. Nice enough kid. Pretty smart. Tries to do the right thing. Sticks by his friends, so trustworthy, loyal, friendly. Does what he’s told around the house, so helpful. Like most kids your age, he says please and thank you – when he remembers, so courteous. But this kid has it rough. Foster parents aren’t very nice to him, make him do all the chores, and talk down to him all the time. Doesn’t get presents on his birthday, no real treats. They call him a freak, don’t really understand him, or tell him that what he can do is good. Some of his class mates stare at him – because of his, umm, deformity. (Bad scar) One kid in the group actually gets others to be mean to him, and pretty soon there’s a group that not only pick on him, but they’re really out to hurt him. But that’s not the worst. Some of his teachers pick on him.
    This kid’s got it pretty rough. There’s almost nowhere he can go to just hang, without feeling threatened or confused. Not home. Not school. Not even downtown or shopping. He always feels threatened. Kids try to physically harm him. This kid doesn’t have a smart phone or internet access, so he can’t see what kids are writing about him online. That’s another way he could be bullied, on Snapface or Instachat. I’m sure he can tell when kids are laughing behind his back.
    He’s being verbally bullied. Physically bullied. Maybe bullied on social media, so cyberbullied.
    You think he can stand up for himself?
    When a person gets bullied, he can lose the ability to fight back. He can start to believe that he deserves to be treated like he’s not as good as the rest of the kids. He doesn’t have the energy to defend himself or tell an adult. Those other kids can see what the bully is doing and feel like it’s ok to pick on this kid. It gives them “power.” And maybe it makes those other kids glad that they’re not the ones being picked on. Those other kids probably feel intimidated and scared. They’re not going to stand up to the bully. And they probably feel threatened, so they’re not going to tell an adult what’s going on either.
    Luckily this kid’s got a couple of buddies who believe in him, a couple of adults who stick up for him. He helps them out when they’re being threatened by those kids who are out to get them. So he’s brave. He tries to cheer up the kids around him who have it worse than he does. He tries to do the right thing, so he’s clean, reverent even.
    You’re all scouts. You have a code by which you live. Trustworthy. Loyal. Helpful. Friendly. Courteous. Kind. Obedient. Brave. Cheerful. Clean. Reverent. Think about this kid. He needs you to live the Scout Law. He needs your strength and your support.
    Just like all of the scouts in this troop need you. If you see something happening to another scout that you wouldn’t want to happen to you, be a brave friend and help that person to get out of the situation. If you’re afraid, find the senior patrol leader, or the scout master, or any adult who you trust. Don’t get pulled into social media bullying – either don’t send the message on, or tell the sender that you don’t like what he sent. And tell an adult. See someone getting pushed or bumped? Get the senior patrol leader, or an adult, or start talking to the kid being picked on and get out of the situation. Get a group and help the kid out. It’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to do. Especially when the bully is a friend.
    It’s like Dumbledore said:
    “There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

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