What is bullying?
Bullying often happens at school, summer camp, afterschool programs, or online. It can range from teasing to posting rumors online to physical threats of violence. Bullying can lead to emotional trauma. Luckily, as a parent, there is a lot you can do to protect your child from bullies.
Most children have experienced it. It goes beyond a light joke that both kids involved enjoy and laugh at. It's intentional behavior that is meant to hurt someone else. It can include:
- Silent treatment
- Exclusion from a group
- Mocking or imitating
- Spreading rumors in person or online
- Making threats
- Extortion (the classic "give me your lunch money")
- Physical violence like hitting and shoving
- Sexual harassment
- Harassment via online messaging
Bullies focus on anything about their target, including: their gender, sexuality, race, country of origin, disability, religion, and more.
Bullying is repeated behavior that happens over and over again. It also sometimes plays out the power structures present in society. For example, children with a higher status often become bullies. They could be more popular, or simply larger than their target.
How to talk to your child about bullying
Before bullying even happens, talk to your child about it. Tell them what it is and what it might look like, including examples of online bullying. This will help them to recognize when it is happening to them or another child and can prevent them from becoming a bully.
In addition to simply talking to them about bullying, make a practice of asking them about their day and their feelings. This lets your kids know that you are open to listening to their experiences without judgement, creating a safe space for them to tell you about any bullying.
You don't need to make your daily conversations focus on bullying. Let your child tell you what they want by asking open-ended questions like "How was your day?" or "Tell me the good and bad things that happened at school today”.
If they do mention anything that sounds concerning, stay calm and get more details. You can say "Tell me more about that," or "How did that make you feel?" to find out if an incident was bullying.
Signs of bullying
Even if you make a practice of encouraging your kids to talk openly with you, they may not always tell you everything. Here are other signs of bullying to watch out for:
- Acting different than usual
- More anxiety
- Not eating
- Not sleeping well
- Doesn't feel like doing activities they usually like
- More easily upset
- Avoids or resists places they usually go
What to do if you suspect bullying
Every bullying situation is different. However, the first step is often to go to your child's school. There you can talk to a teacher, a school administrator, or a school counselor depending on the situation.
If you want to speak to the bully’s parents, it's best to do so with another party, like a school administrator, present. Most schools have anti-bullying policies, and some towns even have anti-bullying laws. Research your local policies and see what can be done for your child.
If the bullying continues, and the school isn't able to do much about it, you can contact the school superintendent or even the state Department of Education.
If you believe the bullying is due to race, skin color, nationality, religion, gender, or disability, and the school isn't addressing it properly, you can contact the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights or the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
Give your child advice including:
- Use a buddy system. Your child should always have a friend around them on the bus, on the playground, or anywhere they might encounter the bully.
- Avoid the bully. Tell your child to avoid situations where they might be alone with the bully.
- Ignore the bully. Most bullies enjoy the rise they get out of their victims. By not reacting, your child won't be giving fuel to their fire.
- Don't fight. Some kids' instinct is to start a physical fight with a bully to get them off their back. However, that doesn't work. It just escalates the situation.
- Know when they can defend themselves. Make sure your kid knows the difference between starting a fight and defending themselves from a physical attack.
- Tell an adult. Give your child examples of trusted people they can tell including teachers, clergy, coaches, and counselors.
Bullying can escalate quickly. The childhood suicide rate increased by 60% between 2007 and 2018. If you think your child is depressed and considering suicide due to bullying or something else, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You or your child can also text CONNECT to 741741 to reach their text line.
Latest Healthy Kids News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
UC Davis Health: "Even before COVID-19 pandemic, youth suicide already at record high." ?unicef: "How to talk to your children about bullying."
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Get Help Now."
Victoria State Government: "My child is being bullied."
Top How to Keep Your Child Safe From Bullying Related Articles
ADHD in Children: Understanding, Discipline and Better ParentingADHD is a common disorder seen in children. Parents can learn tips and techniques to teach children life skills, coping mechanisms, and better ways to learn with ADHD.
Childhood ADHD QuizFind out causes, symptoms, and treatments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a widespread behavioral condition commonly seen in children. Take the Childhood ADHD Quiz.
Autism Spectrum DisorderAutism in children and adults is a developmental disorder, characterized by impaired development in communication, social interaction, and behavior. Autism is classified as a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), which is part of a broad spectrum of developmental disorders affecting young children and adults. There are numerous theories and studies about the cause of autism. The treatment model for autism is an educational program that is suitable to an individual's developmental level of performance. There is no "cure" for autism.
Autism SlideshowWhat is autism? Learn about the signs, symptoms, and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Get information about the causes of autism and available autism treatment options.
Bipolar Disorder in Children and TeensBipolar disorder, or manic-depressive illness, is a disorder that causes unusual and extreme mood changes. Symptoms of bipolar disorder in children and teens include having trouble concentrating, behaving in risky ways, and losing interest in activities they once enjoyed. Treatment for bipolar disorder in children and teenagers incorporates psychotherapy and medications.
BullyingBullying is repeated physical or verbal aggression that involves an imbalance of power. Types of bullying include physical, verbal, relational, reactive, and assaults on a person's property.
Children's HealthChildren's health is focused on the well-being of children from conception through adolescence. There are many aspects of children's health, including growth and development, illnesses, injuries, behavior, mental illness, family health, and community health.
Depression in ChildrenChildhood depression can interfere with social activities, interests, schoolwork and family life. Symptoms and signs include anger, social withdrawal, vocal outbursts, fatigue, physical complaints, and thoughts of suicide. Treatment may involve psychotherapy and medication.
How Does Single Parenting Affect a Child?A single parent brings up a child without the assistance of a partner. The effect of single parenting on a child may be good or bad.
ParentingGood parenting helps foster empathy, honesty, self-reliance, self-control, kindness, cooperation, and cheerfulness, says Steinberg, a distinguished professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. It also promotes intellectual curiosity, motivation, and desire to achieve. It helps protect children from developing anxiety, depression, eating disorders, antisocial behavior, and alcohol and drug abuse.
Parenting a Child With ADHDADHD is a behavioral condition with characteristics that include hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. Parenting a child with ADHD presents a variety of challenges. Treatment options for children with ADHD include medication and behavioral therapy.
Parenting Guide: Healthy Principles That WorkGood parenthood isn't magical. It takes learning, dedication, and hard work. Learn how to set rules, offer love, and discipline children appropriately and set yourself on the track to becoming a better parent.
Teen Drama: Handling Mean Girls, Cyber Bullying, and TextingHere are tips on dealing with teen dating, sexting, cyber bullying, mean girls, periods, bad breath, and more as health experts explain when and how to get help.
What 5 Qualities Make a Good Dad?Your parenting will have a real effect on what kind of grown-up your child becomes. The five qualities that make a good dad are that they are involved, encourage independence, discipline appropriately, work with the other parent and they are financially responsible.
What Are Teenager Problems with Parents?Teenhood is a complex phase of life in which there are so many physical, emotional, and intellectual changes. The teenager might be coping with a variety of issues at this age. They may have a constant conflict with their parents because they want to assert their independence and be in control of their lives.