Sunday, August 12, 2012

Be An Active Bystander--Be A Friend

Instead of kicking back this week, we're going to step forward. As a speech-language pathologist working for a public school and a parent, I have witnessed and heard about the impact of bullying. The 2009 Indicators on School Crime and Safety collected statistics from a variety of studies and found that one third of teens reported being bullied at school.

What can be done?

For some solutions, I'm turning Kick Back Moments over to Sandra McLeod Humphrey. Sandra is a retired clinical psychologist, a character education consultant, and an award winning author of eight middle-grade and young adult books. She's also the recipient of the National Character Education Center's Award for Exemplary Leadership in Ethics Education (2000) and the 2005 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children's Literature. You can learn more about her books by visiting her website at

Sandra McLeod Humphrey

Bullying Then and Now

School bullying is nothing new and was once considered a character-building rite of passage for our children, but now it is seen for what it is--a form of victimization and abuse which can leave lasting psychological scars.
Unfortunately, school bullying is on the rise everywhere, and schools need to have anti-bullying policies in place and operational. The stories in my book Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs are all based on actual bullying experiences that students shared with me during my school visits and is dedicated to a 12-year-old Minnesota boy who took his own life as a result of being bullied. Unfortunately, bullycides are becoming all too common these days.

During my school visits, we role-played different bullying scenarios, so that the students could "feel" the same situation from the perspective of the bully, the bully's victim, and the bystander and I always emphasized the importance of the role of the bystander who can inadvertently (or sometimes purposely) facilitate the bullying situation.
The difference between bullying then and now is that, in the past, a student was able to get away from the bullies and find at least temporary refuge in his or her own home. There is no such refuge for today’s victims with the advent of cyberbullying. Bullying that begins at school can continue via cell phone and the social networking sites. Victims can feel overwhelmed and powerless, sometimes leaving them to believe that suicide is their only option.
The good news is that public awareness about the serious ramifications of bullying is increasing, thanks to anti-bullying campaigns and new legislation; TV coverage by people such as Anderson Cooper, Dr. Phil, and Oprah Winfrey; the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention; and even students themselves (see
Like any other kind of abuse, school bullying is intolerable and it’s time for all of us to dispel the old adage that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Words do hurt!
Some Parental Tips:
1. Listen: Encourage your children to talk about school,
    friends, activities, etc.
2. Take your children’s complaints of bullying seriously:
    Remember that children are often afraid or ashamed to
    tell parents that they have been bullied and a simple
    bullying incident may turn out to be quite significant.
3) Watch for symptoms of victimization: social withdrawal,
    drop in grades, personality changes, etc.
4) Use children’s books to initiate a discussion about
    bullying: Judy Blume’s Blubber is a classic novel about classroom dynamics, shifting alliances, and the bullying that can go on unseen by adults. Trudy Ludwig’s Just Kidding emphasizes the distinction between tattling (trying to get someone in trouble) and reporting (trying to help someone in trouble).  And my book Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs offers specific bullying scenarios which encourage readers to talk about the choices they would make in those situations.   
Some Student Tips (Remember, bullying is all about power, so try not to give the bully that power):
1) Ignore the bully when possible: the bully is waiting for
    you to react, so stay calm and don’t react when
2) There’s strength in numbers: bullies generally don’t
    pick on groups, so hang with your friends.
3) Don’t retaliate in kind: this usually will just escalate
    the situation. Violence usually leads to more violence.
4) Tell an adult you trust: If the bullying continues, tell
    a parent or teacher or some other adult you trust. 
5) Don’t underestimate your role as bystander: bystanders
    can unintentionally (or sometimes intentionally) have
    the power to facilitate or stop the bullying situation.

Remember, No one deserves to be bullied, so don’t suffer in silence. Do something or tell someone!

Some Suggested Internet Resources: 
International Bullying Prevention Association:
Olweus Bullying Prevention Program:
Rachel’s Challenge:

Thanks Sandra for stopping by and sharing this important information with us.


One way to prevent bullying is to inspire young people to greatness. They Stood Alone...25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference by Sandra McLeod Humphrey does just that.   

Here is my review as it appears on and Goodreads:

Inspirational and fascinating, "They Stood Alone" by Sandra McLeod Humphrey provides a fresh biographical account of twenty-five men and women who changed the world. I learned about the simplistic values of Henry David Thoreau, the rebellious spirit of Galileo Galilei, the courage of Mohandas Gandhi, and the compassion of Mother Teresa. Although these peoples' names are familiar to most, I discovered new facts, like Clara Barton was a painfully shy child and Albert Einstein dropped out of school at fifteen because he not only hated school but his family had financial problems. In the end, these heroes overcame personal obstacles and achieved greatness. I also learned about less famous champions like Marion Anderson, the first black singer to sing with the Metropolitan Opera and pioneer of the modern environmental movement, Rachel Carson. Told with clarity and verbal imagery, Sandra Humphrey takes us on a journey into prominent lives that won't be forgotten. In fact, you may initiate stimulating conversations at social gatherings when you ask questions such as, "Did you know that Isaac Newton was only an average student?" Engaging, intriguing, and informative, both children and adults will be inspired to achieve their goals and dreams after reading, "They Stood Alone."


Since bystanders and friends are antidotes to bullying, let's go with: You've Got a Friend by James Taylor


In my soon to be released novel, A Stop in the Park, Michael Stolis realizes the importance of friendship:

"Michael welcomed the symphony. There wasn't anyone he could share his anguish with, but Rufus seemed willing to listen, maybe even help. It suddenly occurred to him what was happening. He was making a friend. At this point in his life, he had some acquaintances, who he didn't really care for, but no buds to hang with. Michael smiled. He liked the idea of having a friend." 


  1. Peggy - guest hosting Sandra was an excellent and highly credible choice. Her expertise, insights, accomplishments and works are all timely elements of the anti-bullying movement and her books are essential teaching aids needed in schools everywhere. As a non-professional, I have approached the topic of bullying on my own blog on a couple of occasions, targeting the very young child because I believe that these essential life lessons must begin at home at a very young impressionable age, to prevent them from becoming bullies themselves or from being bullied. Sandra is indeed an inspiration on many levels for anyone who wants to get involved in this necessary cause.

    1. Thanks so much, Linda, and speaking of young kids, I was amazed to see how early cliques and bullying begin. I help out at our church preschool and we already have a few "Queen Bees" in the making and some bullying in the form of social exclusion. What I love about preschool is that it's so easy for us to "redirect" some of the maladaptive behaviors and encourage healthier behaviors. Thanks so much for dropping by!

  2. Peggy, this is an excellent post. I can only pray that bullying stops. It's not just children anymore who are bullied, the elderly are as well. Who will protect them? Thank you for the interview with Ms Humphrey. I have read and truly enjoyed her book mentioned above. Have a blessed day! Deirdre

    1. I pray that it stops too, Deirdre, but many of our kids seem to be lacking in empathy these days and we really have to stress the importance of the role of the bystander. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. I work with children who have disabilities and we discuss bullying at length. It was funny because so many of these children are sheltered that being treated meanly was something new for them and they would start to cry. We used confidence exercises and imitating the behaviors one should have with a bully in order for them to learn. My comment to them was that a bully is much more handicapped than they are.

    1. What a gratifying profession! When I used to do school visits, I loved role-playing with my students and I'm so glad you're using tool that with your students. Thanks for caring about all our kids and thanks for stopping by!

  4. Peggy, we just got home and thanks so much for inviting me to be your guest--I always love visiting your blog! Thanks also for reviewing They Stood Alone and I love James Taylor!

  5. This is wonderful, Peggy. I love what Sandra is doing. Do you all see the news where a 14 year old went through plastic surgery due to severe bullying at school? This is very sad to me.

    Keep up the great work, ladies.
    Your website and innovative idea to hightlight authors is so neat, Peggy and to have Sandra on this blog is simply awesome.

    Cherrye S. Vasquez, Ph.D.

    1. Thanks, Cherrye, and speaking of "awesome," the work that you're doing it "totally awesome!" Thanks so much for doing what you're doing and thanks for stopping by!

  6. I feel honored to have Sandra post on Kick Back Moments. She is an expert in the area of bullying and it is such an imporant issue to address and discuss. I appreciate your comments.

  7. Sandra's work is extremely important in today's society. I have just now finished reading "They Stood Alone" and I am handing it off to my son momentarily. It is a book that every family should have in their library and while it isn't one of her books specific to bullying, each one of the 25 biographies teaches the importance of self-worth, which is absolutely essential for any child. If every child had a sense of self-worth, bullying would cease to exist. Peggy, great choice for a guest blog.

    1. You made such a good point, Linnea, a strong feeling of self-worth--knowing who you are and believing in yourself--is so important! Thanks for your comment and thanks for stopping by!

  8. Peggy, I had read Sandra's post and what a great idea featuring her as a guest on your blog. It is so sad that bullying has become such a critical issue in today's society. A most important concept we should all keep at the top of the list is instilling self-esteem into our children. Theirs is a tough battle and as parents, we cannot always be right there by their side.

  9. I know bullying from back when I was a child until lately, not even two years ago, when it was called "mobbing" and I was a victim.
    I'm still asking myself where the difference is - whey it's called differently - and why one would think an adult takes something like this better than a child.
    It's bad in any case - and I'm so sorry for the children having to go throught this. I can only guess it's much worse than it was in my childhood.
    I do admire Sandra for her work!!!

    1. It is so hurtful, Raani. People really do need to step in when they witness bullying and say, "This is not okay."

  10. Peggy,
    Informative blog.

    I like your site so today I gave you the Liebster Blog Award. Please go here to get the rules and the button for your website:

    Have fun!

    1. Hi Sunni ~ Thanks so much for the award! I'll stop by tour blog before the day is over. ~ Peggy

  11. Hi, nice to 'meet' you. I found you on the Book Writers group on LinkedIn and I'm your newest follower.

    1. Hi Kitty and welcome. I'll look for you on Book Writers.

  12. Hi Peggy, thanks for leaving a comment on my blog and I have great pleasure in telling you that you have been chosen to receive the free e-book from Carmen Falcone. Can you please message me with your email details so I can pass them along to her publicist so you can receive your book. Cheers and thanks Jen

  13. Hi Peggy,
    Thank you for this article by Sandra Humphrey. Even though I don't personally have children of my own, I work with kids in my church and other settings and it is so nice to hear that some of the things that I have instinctively done were correct.
    And I love the song by James Taylor. Although I couldn't hear it because of GEMA restrictions in Germany, I have that song on an album and I just love it.