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Bullying: How You Can Help Your Children

Bullying: How You Can Help Your Children

by Jennifer Jordan

Bullying—it is a situation that no parent wants for their child, but it is one that many parents will find themselves facing during the childhood years. Although 50% of parents surveyed in a National Crime Prevention Survey did not believe that bullying is serious, their children take it seriously.

Bullying is not a normal rite of childhood. School bullying (any physical, verbal or emotional aggression that occurs at school) is starting at a younger age these days; it is most common among first through fourth graders. Cyber bullying has also increased, as social networking websites provide avenues for students to taunt others. From the school playground to the Internet, bullying has become a very real problem in America. One in seven children from kindergarten through twelfth grade has reported bullying another child or being bullied. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, each day, 160,000 students across the country miss school due to fears of being bullied. The impact can have lasting consequences: poor grades, social anxiety, and even suicides or retaliation, such as the Columbine High School shooters, who were victims of bullying.

CNN recently featured a television special hosted by Anderson Cooper, “Bullying: It Stops Here,” which presented a forum at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The program’s experts debated whether parents or schools should be primarily responsible for preventing bullying. They all agreed that parents sometimes do not recognize a child’s behavior as aggressive, and that schools need to uphold strong policies against bullying behavior. However, it has also been shown that if children do speak up, they are most likely to turn to their parents first when they are being bullied. As parents, we need to know about bullying.


It is important for parents to learn to recognize when their children may be bullying others or are being bullied. stopbullying.gov, a website containing information from various government agencies, starts with the warning signs:

The child who BULLIES:

  • Becomes violent with others
  • Gets into physical or verbal fights
  • Gets sent to the principal’s office or detention often
  • Has extra money or new belongings that cannot be explained
  • Is quick to blame others
  • Will not accept responsibility for their actions
  • Needs to be the best at everything
  • Has friends who bully others

The child who is BEING BULLIED:

  • Comes home with damaged or missing clothing or belongings
  • Has unexplained injuries
  • Complains often of headaches, stomachaches, or feeling sick
  • Has trouble sleeping or has bad dreams often
  • Loses interest in schoolwork and in friends
  • Is afraid of going to school or other activities with peers
  • Appears sad, moody, anxious, or angry when they come home from school
  • Blames themself for their problems


What can we do to help a child who is the victim of bullying? 

What can we do to help a child who bullies?

First, know the definition of bullying–when children scare or hurt other children on purpose. Repeated acts of aggression distinguish bullying from teasing. Children who bully tend to target children who are younger, smaller, or less popular than they are. They usually taunt other children as a means of gaining social status. It can be as simple as name-calling and verbal taunts to hitting other children or spreading rumors about them. Interestingly, studies show that aggressive behavior does not work in the long term to improve social status. Children whom the bully might be trying to impress do not trust the bully, and the bully can grow anxious and depressed, and act out more. It can become a vicious cycle if not addressed. 

Second, parents should take action if they are concerned about their children. It is important to talk with a child who is showing the signs of being bullied and explain that you want to help. Empathize with your child and praise him for having the courage to talk about it. Never tell your child just to ignore the bullying and never blame your child for being bullied. Also, do not encourage your child to retaliate because your child could get hurt, suspended or expelled. Work with her to find strategies for handling it.Practice responses at home. Also, document the incidents. Cyber bullying can be monitored by saving messages or postings.

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If the bullying occurs at school, get the school involved by talking to the administration and teachers. Be persistent,and keep communication open, as the problem probably will not stop overnight. Ask the school if it has a bullying policy. Do not contact the parents of the child or children who bullied your child; allow the school to notify them. Be mindful of other issues your child may be having, and talk to the school counselor about any concerns.

Parents who notice bullying behavior in their children need to speak up as well. Children who bully others are at risk for other negative behaviors, including criminal activity. If your child’s school informs you that your child has bullied another child, work with the school to resolve the situation. Listen openly and objectively to your child’s side of the story. Be sure that your child understands that bullying is wrong, hurts others and your child, and that it will not be tolerated. Maintain clear and consistent rules. Praise your child when she follows the rules and determine fair consequences when she breaks the rules. Spend time with your child and be observant of her behavior toward others. Know your child’s friends. It is also important to support your child’s activities and develop her skills. Often, a child bullies to gain attention. Positive attention and love from family can build a child’s sense of self and stop the behavior. Keep monitoring your child’s behavior and speak to a school counselor if the bullying continues.

Is there an easy solution to bullying?

Unfortunately, there is no magic fix. However, research shows one method that has helped: intervention by a peer. Friends of children who intervened and stopped a bully are more likely to intervene if they witness bullying themselves. Good friendships can help protect children from bullying, and they can also help bullied children heal. All parents want their children to have safe, happy, and carefree childhoods. It is up to us to help our children if bullying affects them. Teaching children how to stand up against bullying in a safe manner is a good start. Staying involved in your child’s life and keeping open good lines of communication with him is essential. Being aware and being there can make a positive, lasting impact in a child’s life.

JenniferPrior to teaching Latin at St. James Day School, Jennifer Jordan practiced law for nine years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Classics and English as well as J.D. and Masters in Library Science. She is married with two daughters, ages 5 and 2.

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