What Is “Passive” Bullying?


By Sifu Nancy Tei

To witness bullying and ignore it is to passively accept it. Unfortunately, surveys show that most students fail to help victims because they either lack the courage (“I thought I should help but didn’t”) or the stewardship (“I didn’t help because it was none of my business”).

“My child does not hit other children or call them names,” you might say. Hopefully this is true. However, when your child witnesses bullying, what do they do? Do they help the bully? Help the victim? Walk away without choosing a side?

Bullying is perpetuated by both active and passive bullies. Active bullies are the ones doing the kicking or name-calling. Passive bullies are the children who stand behind them while they do it and avoid the bully’s favorite victims in order to avoid being bullied themselves. Bullies are often the most popular, charming, and confident children in class thanks to the support of bystanders who have not been taught to disassociate themselves from “mean” kids.”

I can recall many incidents throughout my formative years when bullies were harassing an unpopular child and I did nothing because I didn’t want to attract any negative attention to myself. I knew bullying was wrong, but no adult ever held me responsible for not acting, so the price of action often seemed too high. The price of my non-action was discomfort, guilt, and ultimately, lower self-respect.

All of my adult friends agree that they were affected by bullying in some way, whether because they were bullied or because they realized they had unintentionally bullied others. As a teacher I would like to see more comprehensive anti-bullying education programs in schools that emphasize compassion toward victims and consequences for bystanders who witness bullying and do not report it.

Sifu Nancy Tei teaches at California Academy of Martial Arts in Burbank. Tweet her @burbankwingchun

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