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How to Raise Upstanders (Instead of Bystanders)


Encourage your athletes to help others as they foster their sense of personal responsibility with these five practical strategies.

As young athletes navigate through adolescence, they may run into situations that challenge their moral compass. Whether your athlete is faced with an ethical dilemma in school, in sport, or in the community, doing the right thing is important – no matter who is watching.

In a study about young children and the bystander effect, results showed that although children are typically extremely helpful to others in need, they are more inclined to assist others only when the responsibility is clearly attributed to them. Children were less likely to help when there were other potential helpers around because there was a diffusion of responsibility.

Here are five strategies to help your athletes become upstanders instead of bystanders in those complex times when their sense of responsibility and decision-making skills are tested.

Reinforce positive behaviors

Kids can learn about caring, fairness, and how to lead an ethical life from the people around them, so it’s up to adults to lead by example when it comes to intervening in a situation where someone needs help.

“One of the simplest ways to help kids learn new behaviors is to reinforce them as they happen,” explains Michelle Borba, PhD, an internationally recognized character education expert, educational psychologist, and award-winning author of 22 parenting books.

“Purposely catch your child acting morally and acknowledge their good behavior by describing what they did right and why you appreciate it.”

Teach them to become active bystanders

According to the Safety Net Coalition at Loyola University in Chicago, an active bystander is someone who not only witnesses a situation, but takes action to keep a situation from escalating or to disrupt a problematic situation.

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Sportsmanship, Issues & Advice TrueSport