Bullying is a form of abuse, harassment, violence, and/or manipulation that harms or frightens other youth. Children act like bullies in several ways—usually when one or more kids use threats, violence, or intimidation to negatively affect someone else. In addition to physical harassment, bullying happens when one kid or a bunch of kids are really mean to someone just to hurt her feelings, laugh at her, show dislike, or prove that one child isn’t as good as the others.
What are the signs of being bullied?
Warning signs that a child is being bullied are: being afraid or unwilling to go to school, having lots of headaches or stomachaches, sleeping poorly or having nightmares, losing interest in school, and suffering academically. More signs to watch for include:
- Comes home with torn, dirty or wet clothes, or damaged books, or “loses” things without being able to give a proper explanation of what happened.
- Has bruises, cuts, scratches, and injuries that can’t be explained.
- Chooses an “illogical” route to and from school.
- Seems unhappy, downhearted, depressed, or has mood swings with sudden outbursts of irritation or anger.
- Steals or asks for extra money to bribe or soften up the bully.
What If Your Child Is Being Bullied?
The best way to know what’s going on in your child’s life—at school, after school, during practice, or while hanging out with friends—is to be involved. Ask lots of questions and listen to their answers.
Try and create a daily routine where your child tells you about his day.
Take the time to listen and respond.
If your child reports feeling bullied, don’t laugh or shrug it away or explain that it’s “just the age.” Bullying is serious—treat it that way. Be prepared to speak to teachers, coaches, and other adults in charge because they may not have noticed the behavior. One possible solution is to have a meeting to discuss what is happening.
Having a Bully-Free Family
How can you stop a child’s bullying behavior? Good question. One way to start is to examine the dynamics of your own family. Is it possible that the child is copying behavior he’s seen modeled? What are your family’s rules about how to talk to each other? Let your children know what’s okay and what’s not okay. Every child needs to learn the importance of treating other people with respect. Make sure your children understand that it’s not right to take advantage or hurt someone just because they feel as if they can.
Humor is a great element to include in your family’s conversations, just make sure to keep it positive. Playful teasing is normal—usually it’s something funny between two people who already know each other. For example, if your child finishes everything on his plate at dinner and his grandparent says, “I guess you weren’t very hungry,” that would be gentle teasing. In contrast, mean teasing is hurtful and is intended to hurt the person’s feelings.
If a child’s behavior seems like bullying to you, it probably is. Parents need to set limits and show what acceptable behavior is. After all, bullying can even happen in the home. If parents ignore behavior they don’t like, they are accepting it. Do not ignore this behavior or hope he’ll grow out of it. Bullying is not something that is likely to disappear. Bullying hurts everybody!