Dealing with Bullying


As a parent, it can be hard to decide the best way to deal with bullying in your child's life.
As a parent, it can be hard to decide the best way to deal with bullying in your child's life.
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Bullying is not a new phenomenon. History books and literature are filled with examples of the cruel practice. And then there are the stories of those who bravely overcame bullying -- like Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, who was teased for his appearance, or Academy Award winner Kate Winslet, who was made fun of for her weight -- and went on to lead extraordinary lives. But despite how commonplace bullying may be, when it's happening to your child, you're not likely to just dismiss it as a phase of life. Nor should you. Bullying can be detrimental to your child's emotional, psychological and physical well-being. And, in some cases, it can be deadly.

So, what is a parent to do? Likely, the mere mention of bullying brings out your fierce mama bear instincts, making you want to lash out at anyone bringing harm to your little cub. In some cases, though, you may not even know your child is a bullying victim. Your first job is to be aware of whether your child is exhibiting the following signs:

  • Frequently has damaged clothing and belongings, or unexplained injuries.
  • Is afraid of going to school or another specific place.
  • Seems to be depressed or anxious and has low self-esteem.

If you suspect bullying, there are steps you can take to help protect your child. You might contact an adult at your child's school and enlist his or her help, and encourage your child to seek protection in a pack by always staying with groups of friends. It is also important just to talk to you child, helping him or her learn to be more confident and assertive -- even helping your child practice what to say to the bully. You probably shouldn't encourage your child to fight a bully -- even if every family sitcom ever produced tells you otherwise.

Not all bullies represent a physical threat. Keep reading to learn about the different types of bullying.

Types of Bullying

Put simply, bullying is when another child uses intimidation and threats to control your child. But it can take many different forms. The type of bullying your child may have to deal with can depend on his or her age and sex. If your child is young, a bully may be nothing more than a schoolyard thug pressuring his classmates for lunch money. As your child grows into a teen, bullying attacks can be more subtle and sinister -- such as devastating rumors and hurtful pranks.

There are also bullying differences depending on whether the bully is a boy or a girl, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Boy bullies tend to physically threaten and intimidate their victims, regardless of gender. Girl bullies, on the other hand, usually go the "Mean Girls" route and attack only those within their own gender, using words, not fists, as their weapon of choice.

While most forms of bullying are fairly universal, the technological advances of the 21st century have given bullies new tools to torment their prey. Welcome to cyberbullying. By using social networking sites and tools such as Facebook and text messaging, bullies have the ability to spread rumors not just around the school but around the world. And it allows them to target your child not just during school hours but anywhere, anytime. Protecting your child from this type of bullying can be tough. Cyberbullying lends itself to bully anonymity. And, it's virtually impossible to control the spread of information online. However, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' "Stop Bullying Now" campaign offers some steps you can take to help defend your child against electronic bullying:

  • Monitor your child's online activities.
  • Encourage him or her not to respond to bullying online.
  • Save -- don't erase -- threats. You may be able to use them as evidence.
  • If the bullying is occurring through your school's Internet system, contact the school.

Knowing that your child is being bullied (and how it's happening) won't make you feel better, but it will help figure out how to help your child. Keep reading for lots more information on dealing with bullies.

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Sources

  • American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. "Bullying." May 2008. (June 4, 2010)http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/bullying
  • Bonawitz, Amy. "Kate Winslet Recounts Bullying." CBS News. November 2, 2006. (June 4, 2010)http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/11/02/entertainment/main2144550.shtml
  • Daily Mail. "From Bullying Victim to Golden Boy, the Rise of 'Human Dolphin' Michael Phelps." August 12, 2008. (June 4, 2010)http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1043819/From-bullying-victim-golden-boy-rise-human-dolphin-Michael-Phelps.html
  • Kennedy, Helen. "Phoebe Prince, South Hadley High School's 'New Girl,' Driven to Suicide by Teenage Cyber Bullies." NY Daily News. March 29, 2010. (June 4, 2010)http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/03/29/2010-03-29_phoebe_prince_south_hadley_high_schools_new_girl_driven_to_suicide_by_teenage_cy.html
  • KidsHealth.org. "Bullying Is a Big Problem." June 2007. (June 4, 2010)http://kidshealth.org/teen/school_jobs/bullying/bullies.html
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "All about Bullying." Stop Bullying Now. (June 4, 2010)http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adults/children-who-are-bullied.aspx
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Cyberbullying." Stop Bullying Now. (June 4, 2010)http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adults/cyber-bullying.aspx
  • Townsend-Butterworth , Diana. "Teasing and Bullying: No Laughing Matter." Scholastic. (June 4, 2010)http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=1438#HowStarts