5 Steps to Take if a Child is Being Bullied

Each year, millions of students are bullied in schools across the country, and an estimated 160,000 teens skip school every day to escape the harassment. It has even been suggested that one in 10 students drop out of school completely because of ongoing bullying. Has your child ever been accused of bullying or been bullied themselves?

School bullying can take many forms. It can be in the form of physical intimidation, such as threatening to beat someone up or pushing another child into their locker, or even social exclusion, such as gossiping and shunning to bully others. The Internet has added a new dimension to the harassment, with both boys and girls of all ages using social media, email, and text messages to threaten and demean others.

At one time such verbal and physical abuse was treated as a childhood rite of passage, but now both parents and school authorities are appreciating the long-term psychological damage that bullying can inflict and starting to take action. Preventing and stopping it at school requires teachers, school administrators, and parents working together to stop it in its tracks.

Teachers and School Administrators

For educators, preventing bullying means knowing what to look out for. Taunting, teasing, and physical intimidation tends to occur in areas where supervision is limited or nonexistent, such as on the bus and in bathrooms, crowded hallways, and isolated areas of the playground. It even happens in classrooms when the teacher is either absent or has left the room. Increased supervision of these and similar areas can cut down on the amount of bullying that takes place on school property.

In addition to reducing opportunities for bullying, teachers need to immediately intervene when they witness it. This includes recording the incident and notifying the appropriate school authority. Students should be explicitly reminded that bullying is not acceptable and will incur consequences. Please follow your county or district’s guidelines as far as how to handle physical altercations.

Parents of Bullied Children

Children don’t always let on when they’re being bullied. This is usually because they are ashamed, afraid, and worried that their parents might go to the school and make the situation worse. If parents notice any of the following signs, they should gently inquire further.

  • Fear about going to school
  • Crying a lot
  • General anxiety and depression
  • Nightmares
  • Ripped clothing

A sensitive and open-ended conversation can provide insights into what is really going on at school so that parents can take appropriate steps to stop the bullying, such as discreetly notifying the school. It is extremely important that the child be reassured that the harassment is not their fault and their parents love and support them no matter what.

Parents of Bullies

For many parents, the news that their child is bullying others will come as an unwelcome surprise. A conversation with their son or daughter could reveal that the child simply has difficulties reading social cues and has no idea that their behavior is hurtful. In other instances, the child has low self-esteem and bullies other kids to feel better about themselves. Parents and need to address and discipline such behaviors and, if necessary, remind the child that bullying can have legal repercussions.

Students who experience regular bullying are going to feel depressed, anxious, and fearful. Support from parents, teachers and, if necessary, mental health professionals can help them work through their feelings and develop both resilience and the confidence they need to succeed in and out of the classroom.

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Written by MCUSA