10 creative ways to teach your child to be an upstander

GIIS communications team
May 24, 2021
Parenting Tips

Bullying has become a life-threatening issue in schools. It has become a serious concern with reports of young children committing suicide due to bullying. Your child can help curb bullying in school by being the person who stands up for the victim as an upstander. 

An upstander is a person who speaks up or acts when they recognize that something is wrong. They stand up for what is right and help, support, or protect someone who is being hurt. Teaching children to stand up for their peers creates safer spaces in schools and instills empathy in children.

While many international schools in Tokyo have started implementing strict policies to create a bully-free school zone, many are yet to catch up. The need of the day is to train your child to be an upstander and stand up to bullies. In this blog, we have covered some creative tips to help you prepare your child to stand up to bullies. Read on to learn all about it.

1. Talk and teach your child about bullying

You can teach your child to be an upstander from a young age. Help them understand what bullying is and the different forms it can take in school. Teach your children about the different types of bullying in school and what they can do to identify and avoid it. 

Amongst others, bullying in school includes name-calling, shoving, punching, spreading harmful messages, and discriminating against another child purposely. By teaching them of the ills of bullying and the need to face it with courage, you can train them to identify and stand up to a bully. 

2. Teach your child to respect diversity

Teach your child that it is hurtful and racist to seclude people based on their facial features or skin colour. Doing this trains your child to be open and accepting of diversities in their school. It teaches them to be empathetic. It shows them how to celebrate every person’s unique qualities. Moreover, it helps them become individuals who are not bigoted. 

3. Teach them how to stop untrue or harmful messages from spreading:

Spreading gossip is another form of bullying that appears in school. Teach your child to stop hurtful messages from spreading, whether in person, via text or social media. If they know the information is untrue or is out to tarnish one of their peers, they should let the person doing it know that it is wrong. 

Tell your child to stand firm in clarifying that such behaviour is not cool or funny. They should not share the message or be involved in any form of gossip. 

4. Role-Playing:

Role-playing is a more productive way of teaching children the effects of bullying. Show, not tell. Teach some upstander skills and outline them on a card and have the kids pick a skill. 

After that, provide appropriate scenarios that are likely to happen in school. Ask them to apply an upstander skill to the situation demonstrated. Follow the role-playing with a discussion on how the scenarios made them feel when they were the victim and, conversely, when they were the upstander. 

They will gain new perspectives and become well-equipped with moral reasoning to determine their actions when faced with a real-life situation. GIIS Tokyo has started Summer Camps Program which includes activities like Role-Playing, STEM-based activities, and many more.

5. Encourage your child to be aware of the school policies:

When children are aware of the outlined school policies concerning bullying, they are empowered to take proper actions when a situation arises. 

Most schools have bullying and upstander policies that have carefully outlined the steps to take when someone witnesses bullying. If there is no policy in your child’s school, encourage your child to get involved by asking the teachers or someone in authority about how to reduce bullying. 

6. Show your child how to make friends outside his/her circle:

Encourage your child to sit with a classmate who always sits by themself during lunch. Teach them to make a new friend just by smiling at someone in the hallway to brighten their day. It’s the small things that make a difference for young kids. They could be having a bad day, and that smile could make a difference in uplifting the other child. This is an excellent way for your child to learn to be empathetic to other people, a necessary skill in being an upstander. 

7. Inspire your child to take up leadership roles:

Educate your child on the role a leader plays in creating a safe and welcome space for everyone. Taking up a school captain role or club president gives the child a voice to inspire others to call out bullies. Children learn by imitating and having a strong influence around them who can instil positive behaviour will naturally lead to a safe place in school. 

8. Assure your child that it is okay to seek help:

When confronted with bullying, most children are not sure how to respond to the situation. They may avoid confronting the bully as they do not want to worsen the situation. Such children need help and friends the most. They need parental support too.

If your child happens to be a victim of bullying in school, assure your child that it is okay to seek help from the teachers. Remind them that it is best to act before the situation gets out of hand. Tell them that you’re there for them no matter what. Words of reassurance can go a long way in making your child feel safe. Having parental backup and support can give them the confidence they need to face their bullies.

9. Let your child refuse to be a bystander:

Your children may be unknowingly acting as an enabler to the bully if they are playing the role of an unaffected spectator. Laughing at the victim is another red flag. 

Educate your child that laughing at the victim is wrong as it encourages the bully. The bully starts to believe that they’re nothing wrong because no one is saying anything to them.

Tell them to stop their friends and classmates from doing the same. Encourage your child to inspire his/her friends to stand up to the bully in unity. Doing this will create a safe space in the school for everyone, including your child. 

10. Extend help to the victim:

If your child feels unsafe to help when bullying is happening, they can always help afterwards by extending help to the victim. Your child can offer support by extending kindness and empathy. 

They can ask questions like: “How can I help? “Do you need anything?”. If the victim refuses to talk, your child can help by being physically present and continuously reassuring them that everything will be fine.

Teaching your child these strategies will empower them to better deal with bullying incidents in school. For your child to easily remember these techniques, Michele Borba, the author of End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy, has developed an acronym called BUSTER to simplify these strategies. BUSTER which stands for:

● B- Befriend the target: Approach the target and comfort them. Ask your friends to join in and offer their help. 

● U- Use a distraction: Bullies thrive when they are given attention. Creating a diversion gets the bystanders to focus on something else, thus dispersing the crowd. You could ask, “What are you all doing here?”

● S- Speak out and stand up: Confront the bully by showing disapproval or naming the behaviour. “That’s bullying!”

● T- Tell or text for help: Call a teacher or responsible adult

● E-Exit alone or with others: Try and get your friends to walk away from the crowd. If they do not want to leave, walk away, and refuse to be part of the bystanders. 

● R-- Offer a remedy or give a reason: “This is mean, you’ll get suspended.”


By practising these strategies, your will child can transform into an upstander for themselves and others. They will be able to face their bullies in school and the real world. So make sure that you equip your child with these life skills early-on.


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GIIS communications team

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