What is bullying?
Bullying is persistent, intentional physical or verbal aggressive behavior that involves an imbalance of power. The bully does not target a child of equal stature but rather a child who’s perceived to be weaker. Children who bully may also single out a child because they are LGBT-Q, have a disability, or are from a different race, culture or religion.
How does bullying differ from other types of conflict? Many conflicts occur among children but bullying is distinctive because the bully is trying to gain power over the other child through intentional and continuous taunts, physical violence and/or social isolation.
Should you treat this situation seriously? Yes. In different eras, bullying was seen as a rite of passage for children. That is no longer the case. Research shows that there is a strong correlation between child suicides and being the bully or victim of bullying. In addition, in the majority of school shootings in the past 25 years, bullying played a “key role in the decision to attack,” according to a U.S. Secret Service study. Even when situations are not that extreme, being bullied can cause academic and social problems that affect the child’s ability to reach their potential.
What are the risk factors for victims of bullying?
Reduced academic achievement and aspirations
Loss of self-esteem
Depression and PTSD
Missed days at school
Other physical ailments
Feeling suicidal or harming self in other ways
What are the risk factors for children who bully?
Children who bully are more likely to do poorly in school, use drugs and alcohol, vandalize property and engage in other antisocial behavior. They are also at higher risk to end up in prison. One study showed that two-thirds of boys identified as bullies in 6th through 9th grade had been convicted of a crime by the time they turned 24; 40 percent had multiple arrests by age 30, according to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center.
Signs your child is being bullied:
Many times, children won’t tell their parents that they are being bullied because they’re ashamed or are afraid of retaliation if they tell an adult what’s happening. That’s why it’s important to look for signs that something’s wrong. Does your child:
Come home with bruises, cuts, ripped clothing, missing belongings, etc.?
Refuse to go to school in the morning or complain of having frequent stomachaches, headaches or other illnesses that require parents to keep the child home?
Show a sudden loss of interest in school and schoolwork?
Appear depressed, moody and becoming tearful without a reason?
Become socially isolated with few good friends?
Rush in to go to the bathroom after getting home from school? Bullying often takes place in the school bathroom because adults aren’t present and it’s easy to block the exit.
Get in trouble at school? At times, the child who is being bullied lashes out in response.
What to do if your child is being bullied.
1. Ask your child what is going on if you suspect that bullying is occurring. Find out the name or names of the others involved and the details of what happened.
2. Don’t assume or imply that your child did anything to instigate the bullying.
3. Don’t try and fix the situation. Instead, talk with your child about strategies to use when the bullying occurs. Ask questions like: “What do you think you could say the next time this person says …..?
4. Don’t tell you child to ignore the bullying or to “toughen up.” These are not strategies that will prevent future incidents.
5. Don’t tell your child to retaliate.
6. Keep a detailed log of any incidents and print out copies of online messages on Facebook, texts or emails. Monitor your child’s online activity. (Link to section on cyberbullying.)
7. If you feel your child is not safe physically and is at high risk of physical harm, take immediate action to protect your child’s safety. If the bullying is occurring on the way to or home from school, either take your child to school or make arrangements for another adult to take your child to school.
8. If you suspect your child is being bullied but your child won’t talk to you about what is going on, seek out another adult they can talk to an aunt, uncle, grandparent, family friend, school counselor or therapist.
What to do if you suspect your child is suicidal.
Get help immediately. Seek out a professional counselor and a psychiatrist. If your insurance plan does not provide mental health services and you cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket, seek out free or low-cost mental health services in your community. In Southern Arizona, contact SAMHC (Southern Arizona Mental Health Corporation) at 520-617-0043 to make an appointment or their 24-hour crisis line at 520-522-6000 or 800-796-6762. You can also call national toll-free suicide hotlines:
The National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
Strategies to help your child use confidence, assertiveness and humor in dealing with bullies.
Children who bully seek to intimidate and isolate other children. Ignoring this behavior may not make the conduct stop. But responding with confidence, assertiveness and humor can help stop the bullying. If children who bully don’t get the response they’re seeking – anger, fear, sadness – they will move on and leave your child alone. Role play with your child to help them come up with confident responses and reactions to taunts that will won’t give the instigator the reaction they’re seeking.
How you and your child can help bullying victims by being active bystanders.
The role of the bystander is critical in preventing bullying. Research shows that bullying typically involves a group dynamic, where others egg on the instigator or witness what is occurring. Passive bystanders allow the bullying to continue even if they are not directly complicit. Empower your child to be an active bystander who speaks up and defends the child being bullied. Also, encourage your children and their friends to not exclude or isolate other students but to make children feel welcome and part of a larger group. As a parent, if your child reports to you that another child at school is being bullied or if you witness a bullying incident, report it to your child’s teacher or the school’s principal.
What is provocative bullying?
In some cases, a child who is the victim of bullying may also appear to engage in bullying behavior. This occurs in a small percentage of bullying situations and typically involves a child who has poor social skills, does not follow rules, relates to adults aggressively and may have a learning disability, ADHD or autism. The difference in this situation is that the child (unlike a typical bullying instigator) has no power and is lashing out impulsively. A child in this situation needs more support from the entire community. For more information about how to help a child in this situation, go to the Bullying Prevention Resource Guide: www.bullyingprevention.org/repository//Best%20Practices%20PDFs/ProvocativeVictim.pdf
Signs your child may be bullying other children:
Children who bully are not just angry outsiders looking for a fight. In fact, many are popular, do well in school, come from middle-to-upper class families and relate well to adults. The common factor is a lack of empathy and a willingness to harm another in order to advance in the social pecking order.
If your child’s school contacts you about a bullying incident, keep an open mind. Your child might be at fault.
Ask yourself whether your child often excludes others; is kind to younger children and animals; is physically aggressive; uses intimidation or taunts to get his/her way; lacks empathy; blames others for bad behavior or doesn’t take responsibility for actions. These are some of the traits found in children who bully.
Modeling behaviors at home
Creating a loving and stable home environment goes a long way toward inoculating your children against many social problems. Research shows that children are less likely to bully others or become victims if their parents do not hit or yell at them. Do you use intimidation tactics to discipline your child threats, put-downs, taunts, hitting or do you treat your child with respect?
How do you treat other adults? Do you use threats, anger or intimidation to get your way? Your child will model your behavior.
How do you talk about people with different sexual orientation, race, religion or color? Do you use slurs or show intolerance toward those who are different from you?
Do you limit your child’s access to violent video games or movies? Do you monitor their computer usage? Do you ensure that they do not have access to dangerous weapons?
Consider all these factors when determining whether any of your conduct is contributing to your child’s behavior.
Should you talk directly to a child who is bullying students or to that child’s parents?
Do not directly approach the parents of the child. This can make the situation worse. Instead, contact your child’s teacher, school counselor and principal.
How to talk to your child’s teacher, school counselor and principal.
Make an appointment to talk with your child’s teacher, the school counselor or psychologist and the principal to discuss the situation. Explain what has happened and ask how these educators plan to intervene and ensure that your child feels safe at school. Levels of anti-bullying training differ school-to-school, so don’t assume that educators at your school have received specialized training in how to deal with bullying situations. Also, remember that children who bully often act when an adult is not present or not watching, and social bullying is very difficult to identify.
Do not agree to a scenario where the child identified as a bully and your child are brought in together to talk with the teacher or principal about what happened. They should be interviewed separately. Bullies will often try to minimize their conduct and even blame the other child, which can cause further intimidation.
What to do if the bullying does not stop after you’ve spoken with your child’s teacher and principal do not effectively deal with the bullying situation?
If you feel that school officials are minimizing what happened or in denial that bullying occurs at your child’s school, seek out their superiors. Principals typically report to an assistant superintendent and school districts have an individual who supervises counselors.
If your child’s school does not have a comprehensive anti-bullying program in place, recommend that school and/or district officials act to provide trainings and institute a school-wide program.
You can also appeal to elected school board members and the school district superintendent if your child attends a district school. In charter and private schools, there is not a publicly elected school board, but there may be appointed board members who you can contact. If your child attends a charter school, you can find out which agency reviews the school’s charter for renewal and directly report the problem to that agency as well.
What are your child’s civil rights?
Certain types of bullying may violate your child’s civil rights. Bullying and discriminatory harassment that involve your child’s race, nationality, color, gender or disability may be a federal civil rights violation if it creates a hostile environment where harassment is encouraged, tolerated, not sufficiently addressed or ignored by school employees. Federal civil rights laws do not currently cover individuals who are discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. For more information about your child’s federal civil rights and to find out how to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, go to: www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-factsheet-201010.pdf
At what point do you report an incident to police?
Physical violence, threats of violence, hate-motivated violence, types of harassment and robbery, extortion or vandalism are all crimes. If the bullying incidents involved any of these crimes, contact the authorities.
How to stop bullying among siblings at home.
Bullying does not just take place at school. It happens at home as well. This goes beyond sibling rivalry and involves one sibling persistently and intentionally xxx. This can be just as serious as bullying that occurs at school and can contribute to your child becoming either a bullying victim or a bully at school. Research shows that when parents spend more quality leisure time with their children and less time arguing with them, the siblings are less likely to bully each other.