The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: Book Summary

Instructor: Audrey Farley

Audrey is a doctoral student in English at University of Maryland.

This lesson presents a summary of Barbara Coloroso's nonfiction book, 'The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander' which teaches parents ways to stop the cycle of violence and bullying among adolescents.

About the Book

The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander is a nonfiction book by Barbara Coloroso about the causes of bullying and how the cycle of bullying can be ended situationally. The author claims that the book was inspired by a horrific school shooting near her home in Colorado, which was the result of the shooter having been bullied by his peers.

How to Identify the Parties

In the first section of the book, Coloroso identifies the three parties in the drama (the scenario): the bully, the victim who is bullied, and witnesses. She explores ways to 'rewrite the script', in which the drama of bullying does not continue its cycle of violence and hurt. She explains that bullies have contempt for others, rather than merely feelings of dislike. She further explains that bullies are willing to torment and dehumanize others, which are not small acts of teasing. She also identifies as traits of the bully: intolerance of differences, shamelessness, attitudes of entitlement, and the desire to dominate.

Victims, by contrast, tend to be insecure and afraid to act or speak independently. Often, victims feel as though they deserve to be abused. Bystanders are also often insecure, and lack the courage to intervene or fear for their own safety if they get involved.

Bullying is Everyone's Problem

One of the author's primary claims is that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander. She claims that witnesses have a moral obligation to intervene in instances of bullying. She also advises parents that they should never reward their children for standing up to bullies, since they should be expected to do this. She urges parents to talk to their children about how they can do more to help the bullied.

How to Stop Bullying

In Part Two of the book, Coloroso offers strategies for remedying a bully's behavior, supporting a victim of bullying, and emboldening a bystander to intervene. She advises parents and teachers to manage bullies by intervening immediately with discipline, creating opportunities for bullies to show kindness and good will, nurturing empathy skills through dialogue, and monitoring the films and music that the bully enjoys.

The author advises the parents of bullied children to work harder to build their child's confidence. This is because bullied children often lack the confidence to alert an authority when they are being mistreated. Coloroso encourages parents to teach their children that they should never be the victims of abuse.

Likewise, she encourages all parents to teach their children to feel empathy and show compassion towards others. If children learn to understand their ethical obligation toward others, they will be more likely to intervene in situations, rather than idly standing by.

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