Parent Resources: Bullying Prevention
Sometimes, a child will experience bullying. This can occur with the child being bullied or being the bully. In the United States, 28 percent of students in the sixth grade through 12th grade experienced bullying* and 20 percent of students in the ninth grade through 12th grade experienced it.**
However, there are signs that parents can analyze. See if any of them apply to your child.
Signs a Child is Being Bullied
Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
The federal government website, stopbullying.gov, said to “look for changes in the child. However, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs.”
Signs a Child May Be Bullying Others
Get into physical or verbal fights
Have friends who bully others
Are increasingly aggressive
Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
Blame others for their problems
Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
As shown, children need help whether they are on the receiving end of the bullying or the giving end of it. But what can be done?
Talking is encouraged. Discussing casual things such as how school was and what a ride on the bus is like can help the child feel more comfortable discussing the more troubling things to the parent(s). By “troubling things,” you need to discuss with your child what they think bullying is and educate them further on the concept. Here is a helpful definition:
“Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” –stopbullying.gov
Setting a good example on how to treat people well is also helpful. Treat others with kindness, and they will want to do the same. Keep them busy with activities. After school programs, sports and clubs will give your child new friends and prevent negativity toward him/herself and others. Make sure the child is doing something they enjoy. It also helps to get involved with your child’s daily life. Engage with their school more by going to events. Talk with your child’s bus driver, read newsletters from their school and even keep in contact with other parents.
You cannot rely on your child to go up to you and tell you if someone is bullying them. Children tend to be afraid of any consequences that go with telling you. Consequences may include further bullying, losing friends, being seen as weak, etc. You need to break through any communication barriers that are in the way so that your child can open up to you. Parents also need to be sure that teachers and school staff are also doing what they can for the child. See if your child’s school is bringing any anti-bullying activities to the students like presentations, discussions and meetings. Sometimes there are creative approaches like writing, art and acting in role-plays.
There may be times when you would have to immediately be involved. You may happen to see your child getting bullied and want to help him or her. The ways to do this are to stay calm, separate all the kids and use respectful behavior. Being forceful by making the children apologize or questioning the children in a group is not a good idea.
Cyberbullying happens when the child is being tormented online. This can happen through social media, text messaging, instant messaging and email. This kind of harassment can be more detrimental to the child as a victim or as a bully. The reason for this is that children have an “online reputation” that can be looked through later by employers and colleges. What you can do for the victim is see if the bully or bullies are breaking any laws involved with the harassment. Also make sure that no harassment and/or criminal activity is going on with them.
What if your child were stuck in the middle? Perhaps your child witnessed another getting bullied but are not sure how they can stop it. They might even be hesitant to do anything because they are afraid of getting bullied, as well. However, you can teach them that helping a victim in a situation with bullying can ease their pain. Tell the child that the ways to intervene include using humor, changing the subject, questioning the behavior, walking with the victim when needed, forming a group against the bully and discussing the matter with the victim privately. Comfort them with the fact that “when bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57 percent of the time.”***
Know of the signs of bullying and the ways to prevent it. So make sure your child gets the care and education they need from you.
National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement - PDF , 2011.*
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System - PDF, 2013**
Hawkins, D. L., Pepler, D., and Craig, W. M. (2001). Peer interventions in playground bullying. Social Development, 10, 512-527.***