Bullying, Part 1: Children and Bullies

We call it bullying when one child repeatedly picks on another child. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, over the phone, or over the Internet.

The effects of bullying are serious and can include mental health problems and substance abuse. Children who are bullied frequently and repeatedly develop signs of depression and anxiety and poor self-esteem. School grades may fall as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips for handling bullying.

If Your Child Is Bullied

  • Help your child learn how to respond. Teach your child how to look the bully in the eye, to stand tall, and stay calm in a difficult situation—and then to walk away.
  • Teach your child how to answer back in a firm voice. A child being teased and bullied can say things like, "I don't like what you’re doing." "Please don’t talk to me like that." And, "Why would you say that?"
  • Teach your child when and how to ask for help.
  • Encourage your child to make friends with other children.
  • Support activities that interest your child.
  • Alert school officials to the problem and work with them on solutions. For example, if bullying is occurring on the school bus, have your child sit up front by the driver and make the driver aware of the situation.
  • Make sure an adult who knows about the bullying can watch out for your child's safety and well-being when you cannot be there.
  • Try to minimize any time that your child must be alone with the bully without adult supervision.

If Your Child Is The Bully

  • Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
  • Set firm and consistent limits on your child's aggressive behavior.
  • Be a positive role mode. Show children they can get what they want without teasing, threatening, or hurting someone.
  • Use effective, non-physical discipline, such as the losing of privileges.
  • Develop practical solutions with the school principal, teachers, counselors, and parents of the children your child has bullied. For example, some children are asked to write letters of apology to other children and/or participate in anti-bullying classes or community service.
  • Watch your child. If you know your child is prone to being aggressive or mean socially, you need to police your child and be ready to pull them out of a situation when his or her behavior could become inappropriate.

If Your Child Is A Bystander

  • Tell your child not to cheer on bullying when it is happening—or even to quietly and passively stand by and watch.
  • Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult about the bullying.
  • Help your child support other children who may be bullied. Encourage your child to include these children in activities.
  • Encourage your child to join with others in telling bullies to stop.

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