Although it often comes across as a very straightforward matter in films and popular literature, bullying can be one of the most difficult issues facing young people at school. Roughly 70 percent of today’s students feel that bullying is a problem at their schools, and an increase in bullying within a student body is linked to higher dropout rates, according to a study by the University of Virginia. Dealing with bullies is a huge challenge, and people continue to debate the pros and cons of responding with direct confrontation.

Confronting bullies

A number of movies glorify bullying victims who stand up to their tormenters. However, this rarely occurs in real life. Bullies select their victims in part because they are the least likely to fight back. Contrary to the outcomes of Hollywood films, harassment rarely ceases even if a victim does fight back. In fact, it may have the opposite effect of goading the bully to increase the abuse, and cause the victim to suffer serious injuries and increased emotional stress.

Parents sometimes take it upon themselves to confront their children’s tormenters. This often backfires. For one thing, it can humiliate the victims of the harassment by further highlighting their victimhood. In some cases, it can even lead to legal problems if the vigilante parents are accused of assault.

It is interesting to note that when student bystanders do speak up at the scene of harassment, it usually stops. Bullies are counting on the submissiveness of both their victims and their fellow students. Although confrontation on the part of the victim rarely improves the situation, outspoken peers can have a major impact.

Ignoring bullies

Many parents teach their children to simply ignore bullying. If victims do not respond to the harassment, the thinking goes, the bullies will lose interest in harassing them. Unfortunately, passivity rarely leads to a reduction in harassment, and it further emphasizes the victimhood of the one who is harassed.

Parents may assume that teachers and sympathetic fellow students will catch and deal with any serious instances of bullying. Unfortunately, this is generally not the case. Bullies have a genius for laying on the torment in a way that bypasses the perceptiveness of authorities, and their peers rarely tattle, even if they are sympathetic to the victims. The bystanders are often too fearful of social rejection to speak up.

Another option

Parents can help their bullied children address the situation without getting directly involved. One of the best ways for parents to support their kids against bullying classmates is to help them reason through the issue. Problem-solving gives kids confidence by allowing them to come up with their own solutions. Rather than simply giving advice, parents can help their children explore the issue and devise ways of dealing with different types of bullying. Speaking to an attorney may also give parents and their children legal options to employ, and may lead to compensation for physical and emotional injuries.