Nine-Step Process to End a Bullying Situation

The development of an action plan to end a bullying situation is a learning opportunity for all students involved, with a significant confidence-building potential. Each of the steps outlined below is accomplished by the student, with the help, suggestions and support of the adult. The needs of the student are always more important than the method, which is simply meant to provide a format for this process.

1. Determine what the problem is. Give the student an opportunity to explain the problem and to piece together basic information about the situation, such as: how, how often, when and where the bullying occurred; who was present; etc. It is important to give the student ample space and time to describe the situation, and to avoid interrogating or pressuring for information.

2. Identify what has already been done or attempted in order to resolve the problem. By the time a student seeks help from an adult for a bullying situation, it is likely that the student has tried to find solutions alone (or with peers) without success and has reached the limit of his or her own resources. Exploring the history of those efforts will be important for the development of new strategies.

3. Brainstorm options for possible solutions. This is meant to be a creative and unfettered process where all suggestions are accepted and noted without discussion or judgment. It is particularly important that the student be encouraged to participate actively at this stage. The process of assessment and reflection comes later.

4. Assess the options, identifying the potential risks and benefits of each one. Now is the time for critical thinking on the part of the student and the adult. While the student needs to remain in charge at this stage, input from the adult can be very helpful. The adult can raise concerns by asking questions enabling the student to reflect and arrive at independent conclusions. For example: “What do you think might happen if you bring along your big brother to scare the child who is bullying you? How might she/he react?” or “Do you think your father will always be able to pick you up after school? All year?” The tone and the attitude of the adult are very important during this process. The adult needs to find many ways to communicate: “I respect and have confidence in your abilities and your intelligence.” This can be communicated through words, tone of voice, body language, facial expressions, etc.

5. Choose a solution. Once a thorough discussion of the pros and cons of the various options has taken place, it is crucial that the student make this decision without adult interference. It is important for both the adult and the student to remember that, if this solution is unsuccessful, it is always possible to try again.

6. Make an action plan. Encourage the student to be as concrete and detailed as possible when devising an action plan. Again, the adult can help to develop this process through the use of gentle and respectful questions with the goal of probing and fully exploring the situation.

7. Implement the action plan. Try to ensure that the child has support, if it’s wanted, during the implementation of the action plan. For example, seeking support from a friend or a trusted adult (such as you) can be built into the action plan at the time it is developed.

8. Follow up on the action plan once it has been implemented and evaluate the results. This is a crucial phase, as it is easy for a student to become discouraged and possibly to withdraw if the initial action plan has not met with success. It will be important for the adult to maintain an attitude of optimism and confidence at this point and to frame the student’s experience as a natural part of the problem-solving process, rather than a failure.

9. If necessary, start over again at step 5. The process of problem-solving is ongoing and involves a great deal of trial and error. Unsuccessful strategies need to be perceived as a constructive part of the learning process.