Sad as it is, social hierarchies are established very early on, with popular kids and queen bees starting to assert their dominance in elementary school. These situations are often labeled as “girl drama,” but they can apply to kids of all genders. While your son or daughter might not be directly involved in any bullying that’s going on, it’s important to teach them that sitting back and watching when someone else is being targeted isn’t okay either. But how do we raise kids to have the confidence to stand up for another person, especially when adults sometimes don’t?


♬ original sound – Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta

Raising an “upstander” instead of a “bystander” takes some skill, and parenting expert Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta offered up three tips for how to help your kids build up this trait.

  1. Storytelling: Provide your child with lots of stories of children having similar social challenges. This can come from your own experience, from books you read, or stories you hear on the news. These stories are a jumping-off point for discussing whether your child has had similar challenges and what they might do if faced with them in the future.
  2. Language: Teach your child the word “upstander.” Talk about times when you’ve been an upstander and look for opportunities to show what this behavior looks like.
  3. Social network: Help your child develop friendships with other children in their class to widen their social network. It’s not quite as hard to be an upstander when you have friends on your side.

Dealing with a bully means taking away their power and de-escalating the situation. If we provide our children with examples of upstanders before they are faced with a bullying situation, they can see how important it is to rise above bystander status and stand up for someone. Practicing what to do in these situations can make the reaction more innate once they are faced with it in real life.

Related: Using the ‘Bear Tactic’ with Bullies Is a Total Power Move

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