When Your Child is a Bully’s
Unless your kid comes home with
bruises or torn clothes, you might not be sure he is a victim of a bully.
Many youngsters, especially as they get older, will be embarrassed or
ashamed of getting harassed. They may feel they did something to
provoke an attack, and older kids often think they need to handle these
situations on their own. The best way to know what’s going on in your
child’s life is to be involved. Create a daily routine in which you and your
child chat casually about the day. Take the time to listen, ask questions,
According to the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) report
there are many warning signs that may show a child is being bullied.
Signs to watch for
include a child:
frequently of illnesses
Not wanting to go to school, avoiding
certain classes or talking about dropping a course
Feeling picked on
swings, including frequent crying
Attempting to take
protection to school, such as a stick, rock, or knife
are some steps you need to take for your child’s protection.
If your child is a victim of bullying at school, inform school officials
immediately. Keep your own written records of the names, dates, times, and
circumstances of bullying incidents. Submit a copy of this report to the
Take e-mail and Web page threats seriously and consider reporting them
to school officials or police authorities.
Encourage your child to talk about the bullying and listen in a loving
Tell your child that he or she isn't to blame for being bullied. Don't
assume that your child did something to provoke or aggravate a school bully.
A bully often picks on someone for no reason at all.
Support your child's feelings. Instead of dismissing their concerns or
simply saying that it'll work out eventually, express understanding and
Ask your child if he or she has ideas about how to stop the bullying.
Don't encourage retaliation against a bully.
Talk to people at school, including teachers and principals.
Work together to find real solutions now. Don't contact the bully's parents
yourself. Let the school handle that potentially sensitive situation.
your child has been physically attacked or is threatened with harm, talk to
school officials immediately to help determine if police should be involved.
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Who are the Bullies?
It can be shocking and upsetting to learn that your child has
gotten in trouble for picking on others or has been labeled a bully.
If you receive word from the school or other concerned adults, it may be
tempting to downplay its importance or dismiss the report as an
over-reaction. As difficult as it may be to process this news, it's
important to deal with it right away. Whether the bullying is physical or
verbal, if it's not stopped it can lead to more aggressive antisocial
behavior and interfere with your child's success in school and ability to
form and sustain friendships.
Kids bully for many reasons. Some bully because they feel insecure. Picking
on someone who seems emotionally or physically weaker provides a feeling of
being more important, popular, or in control. In other cases, kids bully
because they simply don't know that it's unacceptable to pick on kids who
are different because of size, looks, race, or religion.
Bullies will typically have one or more of the following traits. They may:
Be quick to blame others
and unwilling to accept responsibility for their actions
compassion, and understanding for others’ feelings
Be bullied themselves
social and interpersonal skills
Want to be in
Be frustrated and
Come from families
where parents or siblings bully
trying to fit in with a peer group that encourages bullying
Have parents who
are unable to set limits, are inconsistent with discipline, do not provide
supervision, or do not take an interest in their child’s life.
you see these traits in your child, you may want to look into the issue.
If you notice behavior at home and wonder if it is bullying, it probably is!
But if your child is bullying, take heart. There’s a lot you can do to help
correct the problem. Remember, bullying is a learned behavior and it can be
Off Bully Behavior in Your Child
comes to bullying, what’s a parent to do?
for the influences on your child's behavior, look first at what's happening
at home. Kids who live with yelling, name-calling, putdowns, harsh
criticism, or physical anger from a sibling or parent/caregiver may act that
out in other settings.
It's natural - and common - for kids to fight with their
siblings at home. And unless there's a risk of physical violence it's wise
not to get involved. But monitor the name-calling and any physical
altercations and be sure to talk to each child regularly about what's
acceptable and what's not.
It's important to keep your own behavior in check too. Watch
how you talk to your kids, and how you react to your own strong emotions
when they're around. There will be situations that warrant discipline and
constructive criticism. But take care not to let that slip into name-calling
and accusations. If you're not pleased with your child's behavior, stress
that it's the behavior that you'd like your child to change, and you have
confidence that he or she can do it.
child needs to learn the importance of treating others with respect.
Let your children know what’s okay and what’s not. Make sure they
understand that it’s not right to take advantage of or hurt someone just
because they feel they can.
know that bullying is unacceptable and that there will be serious
consequences at home and school if it continues. At the same time, try to
understand the reasons behind the behavior. In some cases, kids bully
because they have trouble managing strong emotions like anger, frustration,
or insecurity. In other cases, kids haven't learned cooperative ways to work
out conflicts and understand differences.
Be sure to:
Make sure your kids understand that you will not tolerate bullying at home
or anywhere else. Establish rules about bullying and stick to them. If your
child acts aggressively at home, with siblings or others, put a stop to it.
Teach more appropriate (and nonviolent) ways to react, like walking away.
to treat others with respect and kindness.
Teach your child that it is wrong to ridicule differences (i.e., race,
religion, appearance, special needs, gender, economic status) and try to
instill a sense of empathy for those who are different. Consider getting
involved together in a community group where your child can interact with
kids who are different.
your child's social life.
Look for insight into the factors that may be influencing your child's
behavior in the school environment or wherever the bullying is going on.
Talk with parents of your child's friends and peers, teachers, guidance
counselors, and the school principal. Do other kids bully? What about your
child's friends? What kinds of pressures do the kids face at school?
Positive reinforcement can be more powerful than negative discipline. Catch
your kids being good - and when they handle situations in ways that
are constructive or positive, take notice and praise them for it.
Set a good
Think carefully about how you talk around your kids and how you handle
conflict and problems. If you behave aggressively toward or in front of your
kids chances are they'll follow your example. Instead, point out positives
in others, rather than negatives. And when conflicts arise in your own life,
be open about the frustrations you have and how you cope with your feelings.
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Sources & More Resources
SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services:
Bullying Is Not a Fact of Life
Take Time To Talk About Bullying
Action Against Bullying,
SAMSHA Family Guide:
Bullying Affects All Middle School Kids
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
Among Children & Youth
Stop Bullying Now!
School Bullying Affects Majority Of Elementary Students
Bullying in Middle School May Lead to Increased Substance Abuse in High
Kids Health, 2007.
What Kids Say About Bullying
Parent-Teacher Association Our Children Magazine,
The Mayo Clinic:
Help Your Child Handle a School Bully
Helping Your Child Deal with Bullying
Kids Against Bullying
National Middle School Association – Middle School Journal:
Bullying in Middle School: Prevention and Intervention
American Psychological Association:
Bullying is Not Limited to Unpopular Loners
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