Bullying

Every day, more than 160,000 children stay home from school because of bullying. From taunting in the hallways to fighting on the playground, bullying is an issue affecting thousands of children — both bullies and victims — every day.

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Is your child being bullied? Or maybe your child is the bully? There are positive ways parents, other adults and children themselves can deal with this tough issue.

What is Bullying?

First of all, what exactly is bullying? The simple answer is bullying is either mental or physical, occurs repeatedly and is a conscious attempt to harm another person. But let’s get more specific.

Direct bullying includes teasing, taunting, threatening and hitting. This type of bullying is more often used by boys.

Indirect bullying includes spreading rumors, intentionally excluding or socially isolating someone. Girls are more often involved in this type of bullying.

Why do children bully others?

Bullying happens when one child or children have a willful, conscious desire to hurt someone else, either physically or emotionally.

Children often bully because they learn from the adults around them. Bullies often experience:

  • Physical punishment
  • Lack of parent/adult involvement and/or emotional care
  • Need to feel powerful and in control
  • Low self esteem

How does bullying affect victims?

Bullying is not “just a part of growing up”. It can have damaging consequences on children, including:

  • Elevated levels of depression, anxiety, insecurity and low self-esteem
  • Fear of school, a place where they feel unsafe and unhappy (which can lead to poor academic performance)

Bullying doesn’t only affect its direct victims. Even children who are not bullied may fear bullies and avoid certain activities or areas of school in order to avoid them. Sometimes the indirect effects of bullying are even more severe. As we’ve seen in recent years across the country, bullying has played a part in tragic events that have resulted in the deaths of other children and adults.

How can parents of victims help and protect their children?

Stay in touch with your child. Many victims will try to keep it a secret because they are ashamed or don’t want the bullying to get worse. A child being bullied may seem quiet or depressed, have injuries, “lose” belongings or money and lose interest in school or other activities. If you suspect your child is being bullied, have an open and honest discussion about it. Make it clear to your child that they should not be ashamed and do not deserve to be bullied.

Work with your child to develop ways to deal with the bully. Once you discuss the bullying, discuss some peaceful ways that they might deal with the problem. Each case is different, but you may discuss staying in a group, staying confident, walking away when a bully approaches, etc.

Encourage school to have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. Work with teachers and administrators to protect children while at school. Establish tough rules against bullies or have educational programs for students and parents about bullying. Attend PTA meetings to discuss the issue with other parents.

Do parents of bullies need to take action too?

Bullying is not something that children just outgrow. Agression often persists into the teen and adult years, sometimes in the form of criminal behavior, teen battering and dating violence, spousal and child abuse and sexual harassment.

Without intervention, bullies are 6 times more likely to do jail time as adults. So, YES! Parents of bullies should take action to help their children too.

Stay in touch with your child. Tune in to their behavior at home and stay involved at their school. By helping at the school and attending school events, you will have a chance to see how they are interacting with others. Generally, children whose parents are intimately involved in their lives are less likely to act aggressively toward others. Take note if they enjoy putting others down, disrespect authority, disregard rules or seem to enjoy violence.

Talk about bullying. Ask your child why they are bullying others. Make it clear that you think bullying is unacceptable behavior, then discuss other ways they can express their frustration or anger.

Teach tolerance. Be a good example for your children by treating others with respect and not using violence or intimidation when solving problems. Don’t use derogatory words or foul language.

Conclusion

15% of all children are involved in bullying — either as victims or as the bullies. It is important as parents that we do something to protect our children. Both victims and bullies can suffer the consequences for years to come.

By staying involved in your children’s life at school, and encouraging open discussion about bullying, you can help prevent it from happening. If it’s already occurred, use these steps to understand the problem and work with your child to stop it.

Above all else, we can all model positive, peaceful behavior for our children. Bullies and victims alike need positive role models to teach them how people can effectively interact without violence. Our children’s future — and our community’s future — depends on it.