Bullying is acting in ways that scare or harm another person. Kids who bully usually pick on someone who is weaker or more alone, and they repeat the actions over and over. Bullying can happen at school, on the bus, in the neighborhood, by text, or online. Using technology to bully is called cyberbullying.
The types of bullying include:
Emotional and social bullying doesn't leave bruises, but the damage is just as real.
Bullying is a serious problem for all children involved. Kids who are bullied are more likely to feel bad about themselves and be depressed. They may have physical symptoms like an upset stomach. And they may fear or lose interest in going to school.
Kids who bully others are more likely to drop out of school, have drug and alcohol problems, and break the law.
If you think your child is being bullied—or is bullying someone else—take action to stop the abuse.
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Children who are being bullied may be embarrassed and not want to talk about it. Be aware of the signs that your child is being bullied so you can help resolve the problem.
If your child is being bullied, they may:
Children who are bullied are not to blame for attacks against them. Make sure your child understands this.
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If your child talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:
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Bullying is less likely to occur when children are in groups and are in areas supervised by adults.
Children can help avoid bullying if they:
Children who bully look for an easy target. Bullies are less likely to pick on those who:
Bullying is reinforced when it is ignored or quietly accepted. Encourage children to stand up for each other. Help your child think of ways to help someone who is being bullied. For example, you might suggest that a child say, "Why are you picking on him? If you think it makes you look good, you're wrong." Other simple ways include refusing to watch or participate in bullying. Sometimes distracting a bully, such as by starting a conversation, can prevent a confrontation.
Defending another child may be difficult. Help your child understand that they should tell an adult.
Bullying can be stopped if people pay attention and take action.
Bullying most often occurs in school. If bullying is happening at your child's school, talk to a teacher, administrator, or counselor.
Children are often scared and angry when they are bullied. They may not know what to do. Teach them to:
Say, "Leave me alone," or "You don't scare me." Have your child practice saying this in a calm, strong voice.
Don't run, unless you are in danger of being harmed.
A parent or teacher can then take steps to stop the bullying.
When you see someone else being picked on, it can help to say something like, "Cut it out. That's not funny." If this is too hard or scary to do, walk away and tell an adult. Children may worry about making other kids angry by telling on them. But exposing the abuse is the only way to stop the problem. A child can ask to remain anonymous when reporting an incident.
If someone sends you a mean message about another person, don't forward it to others. Show it to an adult.
Bullying can happen when children exclude others. This type of bullying is called emotional or social bullying, and it is very isolating. It's also hard to manage because the pain it causes is not physical and can be hard to explain to an adult.
Try some of these tips to help your child.
Trying to ignore it won't make it go away. Help your child understand that they are not to blame.
Practice ways to respond to hurtful comments or actions. Help your child think up different scenarios and different ways to respond to them.
Help your child develop friendships through activities such as clubs, sports, or drama.
Ask your child if they really want to continue to be in the activity. If the bullying occurs in a school setting, work with teachers, administrators, and counselors to help your child.
You may not be able to come up with the perfect answer for the problem. But you can help by telling your child that you will always be there to listen and help.
As with many issues related to growing up, openly talking about bullying before it happens is most helpful for children. Teach your child how to recognize and react to bullying. Also, talk about and model empathy, which is being sensitive to and understanding how other people feel. This can help prevent your child from becoming involved in bullying others.
If you witness bullying, get involved and speak up. Make it clear that you will not tolerate it.
Be familiar with signs of bullying. These may include frequent headaches, stomachaches, or not wanting to go to school. Also, ask your child questions, such as who eats lunch with them or who do they play with at recess. If you sense something is wrong, trust your instincts. Many children are too embarrassed or are afraid to tell an adult about bullying. They may think that involving an adult will only make the problem worse.
Here are some ways you can help your child deal with bullying.
It can be hard to accept that your child may be bullying other children. But once you recognize the problem, you can help solve it by helping your child learn how their actions affect others. Being sensitive to others' feelings (empathy) is largely a learned skill that you can teach your child.
Let your child know that bullying will not be tolerated. Set up and follow through with consequences, such as losing privileges.
Ask your child's teacher, school administrator, or school counselor for help.
Ask your child how they would feel as the target of bullying.
Know where you child is spending their time. Ask about community or school programs for after school.
Show your child how to treat other people with respect and kindness. Avoid reacting to disappointments with verbal or physical aggression.
A child who bullies may need professional counseling to learn healthy ways to interact with people.
Schools play a critical role in stopping bullying, because most aggression happens on school grounds during recess, in lunch rooms, or in bathrooms. Schools should have and enforce zero-tolerance programs that make it clear that bullying won't be tolerated.
School-based programs can help reduce bullying when they:
You can help your child's school develop bullying policies by becoming involved in parent-teacher organizations (PTO or PTA) and by volunteering to help teachers.
In the classroom, teachers should make it clear that bullying will not be tolerated. Teachers must be prepared to follow through with consequences if bullying occurs. Doing so sends the message that adults are serious about the problem. It also encourages children who are not involved in bullying to report any problems they see.
Conferences can be held—separately or together—with the parents of both children involved in bullying incidents.
School-based programs are one piece of a larger plan to help children understand the importance of treating one another with kindness and respect.
Current as of:
February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Susan C. Kim MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineLouis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Current as of: February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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