You can do more than you think.

By Liz Steelman
Updated January 27, 2016
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Middle school really is the worst. And bullying seems like an unnecessarily, cruel addition to the nonnegotiables (think puberty and dodgeball). But now research offers some advice on eliminating bullying from the adolescence experience. For the new review published in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, researchers compiled more than 20 years of peer-to-peer intimidation research to determine the best intervention strategies.

“Bullying is not a harmless rite of passage for children,” study author Dr. Amy Bellmore, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a statement. “Bullying is destructive to youth who experience it directly, to the schools in which it resides, and to the broader public."

And since bullying affects so many different people, each stakeholder—children, parents, school administrators, and new media platforms—can play a part in fighting it. For example, researchers recommend schools elect long-term anti-bullying initiatives with explicit rules and discipline for bullies, rather than an assembly or one-time curriculum supplement. But how can parents help? Drawing from the new recommendations, here are three things you can do now to stop bullying.

1. Teach Your Child to Speak Up. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Stop Bullying campaign, if a bystander calls it out, 57 percent of bully will stop their behavior within 10 seconds. The study reports, too, that the more often peers intervene on the victims’ behalf, the less likely bullying occurs overall. Is your child not the confrontational type? Any acknowledgement of the situation helps, whether it’s sharing emotional reactions, offering support, or finding a peaceful solution.

2. Designate Someone to Tell. Some children may not understand that adults can only help reduce bullying if they know it’s happening. Just 20 to 30 percent of students notify an adult when they're bullied, says Stop Bullying. Clearly telling your child which teacher or administrator should be told if they witness bullying can help facilitate communication between students, parents, and administrators.

3. Listen to Your Children’s Problems. Parent-child relationships are an important factor in who become bullies and victims. According to the findings, children are less likely to be bullied or bullies if they have a warm relationship with their parents. And if your child is already a victim? Listening and responding to your child’s situation rather than going directly to the other child’s parents can help to break the cycle by teaching conflict resolution skills.