Child Safety: Bullying
What is bullying?
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among children that involves a real or imagined imbalance of power (such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, intelligence, etc.) that is used to control or harm others.
The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious long-term problems.
Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
Signs A Child is Being Bullied
Some children may come right out and tell you they are being teased, hurt, or bothered, but others may say nothing at all. Below are some signs to look for if you suspect your child is being bullied.
- Not wanting to go to school after always enjoying it.
- Complaining of feeling sick, having a stomach ache before going to school
- A sudden change in normal behavior (may be sad, angry, or withdrawn)
- Refusing to answer questions about school
- Alluding to certain kids he/she doesn’t like at school or who aren’t nice to him/her
- Coming home with unexplained injuries
- Is clingy or whiny (more than normal)
(Source: Education.com, About.com Preschoolers, Parentmap.com)
Signs Your Child is a Bully
There is no specific image of a bully. They can be from all races, religions, income levels, and family structures. They can be outgoing or shy, academically talented or struggling in school. However, there may be some symptoms to watch out for so you can decide if a talk and/or professional help for your child may be necessary. Is your child:
- Getting into physical or verbal fights with other children.
- Having friends who are bullying others.
- Becoming increasingly aggressive.
- Getting sent to the principal’s office or having other disciplinary action frequently.
- Having unexplained money or belongings
- Blaming others for his/her problems.
- Not accepting responsibility for his/her actions.
Effects of Bullying on the Victim
- Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness or loneliness
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- Loss of interest in activities he/she used to enjoy
- Health complaints
- Decreased academic achievement
Effects of Bullying on the Bully
Kids who bully are more likely to take part in violent and risky behaviors into adulthood. Some of the long-term effects of being a childhood bully may include:
- Alcohol or other drug abuse in adolescence and adulthood
- Getting into fights, vandalizing property
- Dropping out of school
- Engaging in early sexual activity
- Having criminal convictions and traffic violations as adults
- Being abusive toward romantic partners, spouses, or their children as adults
Effects of Bullying on the Witness
- Kids who witness bullying are more likely to:
- Have increased use of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
- Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
- Miss or skip school
What do I do if my child is being bullied?
- If your child is at a daycare center or school, request a time to talk to the teacher as he or she will be the closest person to witness the situation. Do not approach the teacher from an accusatory point of view, but enlist her help in finding out more about the situation. See if he/she is aware of what is going on, ask what the teacher has seen between your child and the other child involved, and ask if anything is being done to fix the situation.
- Ask the teacher for advice on dealing with a bully as she has likely had many years of experience dealing with similar situations.
- Offer your child support. Let your child know that you love him/her and will help them deal with the bullying situation. Make sure your child is aware that he/she doesn’t have to handle the bullying alone Most importantly, let your child know it is not his/her fault for being bullied. By building up your child’s self-esteem, he/she will be more likely to stand up for himself/herself in the face of a bully.
- Teach your child how to handle the bully. It is important to give him/her several options since all bullies respond to different tactics.
- Ignore the bully. If your child is being verbally teased, called names, etc., sometimes the best course of action is to simply walk away from the bully when he/she starts to speak negatively. If the bully doesn’t get a reaction, he/she may get bored and give up. However, if the bully is physically harming your child, instruct your child to tell the teacher immediately.
- Be brave. Teach your child how to stand up for himself/herself (without physically fighting back). Give them a phrase such as, “Leave me alone” or “I don’t like that” that they can say loudly and firmly to the bully. If your child tends to be quiet, you may need to role play this situation with your child to help him/her stand tall and speak with a firm and steady voice that the bully will respect. By helping him/her to gain confidence, your child will let the bully know that he/she is not someone to be messed with anymore.
- Play with other friends. Encourage your child to play with other friends that are nice to him/her. Bullies are less likely to bother with a group.
- Tell the teacher. Let your child know that if someone makes him/her uncomfortable with their words or actions, it is not being a tattletale if he/she tells the teacher. This is the time to let a grown up help.
- Help your child learn how to manage his/her feelings. Help your child gain the vocabulary needed to express his/her feelings so he or she can stand up to the bully with confidence.
- If you have taken all of the steps mentioned above and nothing has changed, consider changing your child’s classroom or stop making time to spend with the bully.
(Sources: Education.com, what to expect.com, About.com Preschoolers, Early Childhood News)
What do I do if my child is the bully?
- Kids bully for a variety of reasons. Some do it to feel powerful or in control. Others do it because they were bullied themselves at some point. No parent wants to realize that his/her child is a bully, but parental involvement is essential in stopping the bullying cycle and getting the child back on the right track for a successful future. Below are some ideas if you suspect your child is bullying others:
- Acknowledge the problem. Communicate directly with your child and let him/her know you are aware of their bullying behavior, that you take it seriously, and you won’t allow it to continue. You do no one any favors, especially your child and the victim, if you deny obvious bullying behavior. The sooner you stop the bullying, the better for everyone.
- Be a hands-on parent. Talk to your child and listen to what they have to say. Know who your child’s friends are, where they go, be a presence at school, communicate with the teacher regularly. If your child knows that you truly care about them and their lives, they are more likely to have develop positive self-esteem and less likely to try and exert control over others.
- Look for a source. Have your child’s speech and hearing tested to ensure that he or she is not frustrated by not being able to communicate clearly. Give plenty of attention for positive behavior so your child doesn’t seek negative attention instead.
- Decrease violence at home. Turn off violent TV and video games. Also, look at your own behavior. What happens when you get angry? What does this teach your child?
- Teach positive behavior. Use positive reinforcement when your child treats someone with empathy or kindness. Model these skills for them in your own interactions. Provide your child with opportunities to work cooperatively with others, such as caring for a pet or having a supervised play date. Help your child channel his/her energy into positive interests by enrolling him/her in classes or activities that build his/her self-confidence and give your child an opportunity to practice social-emotional skills.
- Encourage problem solving skills. Teach your child ways to work through disagreements without aggression or name calling. Help them to practice and learn problem solving strategies that all can agree with. This will lead to better friendships and greater happiness for the child.
- Seek professional help if needed. Sometimes situations are more than parents can handle and a professional therapist may be needed. According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, bullying can be a sign of other serious antisocial or violent behavior, which can lead to future problems with school and the law.
(Source: Education.com, Overcomebullying.org)
- Shrinking Violet by Cari Best
- Myrtle by Tracey Campbell Pearson
- Stop Picking On Me (A First Look at Bullying) by Pat Thomas
- Everyone Matters: A First Look at Respect for Others by Pat Thomas
- Bully B.E.A.N.S. by Julia Cook
- Tease Monster: A Book About Teasing Vs. Bullying by Julia Cook
- Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns About Bullies by Howard Binkow