When a child sees a classmate being treated poorly or not included, it can be difficult and sometimes scary to stand up for this person and be an inclusive ally. But being an inclusive ally instead of a bystander (one who observes and does not step in) can be easier than you may think, and it can even help a child feel empowered instead of helpless.
We have all been excluded from a game or a playdate, and although it may hurt, it is usually a temporary situation. But when a schoolmate (we’ll call her Susie) is purposely excluded in a mean or an ongoing way, it’s time to do something. Here are several things to try: 1) Invite Susie to join your group at lunch and/or include her in a game at recess. 2) Bring a friend or two over to her, so you can all eat lunch or play a game together. 3) Invite Susie over after school to get to know her better. Other solutions including talking to an adult. 4) Brainstorm with a parent about ways to be more inclusive with Susie. Together you will probably come up with some great ideas. 5) Let your teacher know that Susie is not being left out. Teachers often have a variety of activities that help bring kids together.
Most of us have felt the sting of a classmate saying or doing something unkind to us, and it can be very hurtful. When it happens to someone else, (let’s call him Jack) it is often difficult to know what to do. When a classmate is treated unkindly with words or actions, it is important that those who see or hear the situation do something. Here are some ideas: 1) Speak up and tell the person who is being unkind to stop. When someone is being mean and bystanders are watching and don’t speak up, the person who is being mean thinks that what he says or does is ok. He also thinks the bystanders actually agree with him. If it feels uncomfortable to say something directly to someone who is being mean, get Jack out of the situation. 2) Tell Jack that his teacher, the nurse, the recess teacher or someone else needs to see him. This way you can help get Jack away from the trouble. 3) Tell an adult what is happening. Teachers, administrators and other adults do not want kids to be treated in an unkind way and should have protocols to deal with these situations.
There are many things kids can do to be inclusive allies instead of bystanders. Inclusive allies help make the school community, the other kids and themselves feel stronger and more empowered.