Millions of children are victims of bullying each year, but many parents feel at a loss about how to prevent bullying, whether children are being bullied themselves or bullying others.
Firstly, for a behavior to be considered bullying, it needs to be aggressive, have an imbalance of power and be repetitive or have the potential to happen again.
Examples of bullying may include physical or verbal attacks, threats or intimidation and preventing or blocking access (e.g. blocking the bathroom door, blocking the hallway or classroom, locking them in lockers or rooms). Also spreading rumors or excluding someone from a group can be considered bullying. For more information, visit stopbullying.gov.
Parents: Know When Your Child is Being Bullied
Here are signs that may mean your child is being bullied:
- Unexplained injuries
- Frequently feeling or faking feeling sick
- Refusal to go to school or to be in social situations
- Changes in eating habits
- Changes in sleep patterns or appearance of frequent nightmares
- Loss of interest in school or decline in grades
- Sudden loss of friendships
- Changes in self-esteem, depressed mood, expressions about suicide, self-harm or self-destructive behaviors
Coming home with lost or broken belongings.
What Can Parents Do to Prevent Bullying
Let your child know that he/she is not alone and that you support them. Help restore their confidence by taking part in things they enjoy such as spending time with friends and family. With all children, remind them of the great qualities they have.
Other steps can include:
- Encouraging your child to stand up for themselves by looking the bully in the eyes and asking them to stop.
- Discouraging reciprocal aggression. Problems are not solved with hostility.
- Making sure you child understands that looking out for their safety is not tattling, and that it’s OK to tell an adult.
Talk to a teacher, principal or counselor, and develop a plan to watch for and resolve the bullying.
What Are the Signs of Bullying?
Children who are bullies may exhibit the following behaviors:
- Showing or increase of aggressive behavior
- Getting into physical or verbal fights
- Lacking understanding of others
- Blaming others for their problems or behaviors
- Overly worrying about their popularity
- “Hanging out” with friends that bully others
- Being sent frequently to the school office for discipline matters
- Bringing home money or objects that are not his/hers
- Being highly competitive.
What to Do if Your Child is a Bully
Before acting, talk to your child to make sure they are not being bullied themselves, are struggling with their own mood or have low self-esteem. Always try to understand what’s happening before reprimanding your child.
If you suspect bullying is happening:
- Help your child take responsibility for their behavior and provide consequences that are related. For example, if the behavior is happening during a sport, suspend participation. Also, you can restrict use of phones, computers or video games.
- Help your child understand the feelings of the child that is being bullied and to see the value in others. Also, discuss how bullying can affect others now and in the future.
- If the bullying happens in school, discuss and support a plan to manage the behavior with school personnel.
Healthcare Network offers mental and behavioral health support for children and adults, integrated within primary care.
By Dr. Angelique Meléndez-Blanch, Licensed Psychologist