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Sign of Bullying & Bully Proof Your Child

October 02, 201711 min read

Signs of Bullying

Children may:

  • be frightened of walking to and from school (Fear of meeting a controller, or ambush or beating)

  • change their usual route (same reason)

  • not want you to go on the school bus (bags thrown around the bus, out of window, covert beating, threats, insults, no proper supervision)

  • beg you to drive them to school (attacks etc on the way even by those accompanying)

  • be unwilling to go to school or be ‘school phobic’ (general fear of continued bullying including homophobic bullying)

  • feel ill in the mornings (fear and stress)

  • start truanting (to avoid the pain)

  • begin to do poorly in their school work (stress, fear, sometimes being asked for work to be copied)

  • come home with black eye, bruises etc

  • come home regularly with clothes or books destroyed (result of physical bullying)

  • come home starving (bully taking lunch or dinner money)

  • become withdrawn, start stammering, lack confidence (extreme fear and stress)

  • become distressed and anxious, stop eating (extreme fear and stress, feeling of hopelessness, due to one or other form of bullying)

  • attempt or threaten suicide (feeling of hopelessness, possibly due to bullying that he or she can not verbalise)

  • cry themselves to sleep, have nightmares (feeling of no redress, hopelessness)

  • have their possessions go missing (bullying, robbery)

  • ask for money or start stealing (to pay the bully)

  • continually ‘lose’ their pocket money (payment of bullies or blackmail)

  • refuse to talk about what’s wrong (fear of bully threats, hopelessness)

  • have unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches (physical bullying)

  • begin to bully other children, siblings (many bullied children do this)

  • become aggressive and unreasonable (taking out frustrations on other targets)

  • give improbable excuses for any of the above (fear, hopelessness, no redress)

  • get upset after receiving text message or after computer visit (cyber bullying)

What to Teach Kids about Bullying

Facts and advice to help kids overcome bullying

Most bullying happens when adults aren’t around, such as in between classes, at lunch or recess, after school, and online. Still, bullying rarely takes place without an audience – kids are around to see bullying 85 percent of the time. But even though they see it, kids usually don’t try to stop bullying, and may even be unknowingly encouraging it.

Most of the time that kids witness bullying, they stand by passively. This causes bullying to last longer because it reinforces the bullies’ power and status, two reasons that people bully. Most kids don’t want to watch bullying, and don’t want it to happen at all. But many kids don’t know how to do this and worry that by stepping in they might become the next victim. These worries, and witnessing verbal and physical abuse, take a toll on bystanders.

Possible Effects on Bystanders:

  • Feel angry, helpless, and guilty.

  • Don’t feel safe where bullying takes place, like in certain hallways in school, on the bus, in the park, or online.

  • Fear of becoming the next victim

Two out of three kids want to help when they see bullying, and helping out is one of the most effective ways to stop bullying and prevent it from happening again. When friends help out, 57 percent of the time bullying stops in 10 seconds (Hawkins, Pepler, and Craig, Social Development, 2001).

There are effective and safe ways for kids to step in and help others being bullied.

Some work better in certain situations than others. You can help kids decide when to use each method by role-playing bullying situations with them. Remember to emphasize that kids should only step in when they feel safe.

  • Walk away. This shows bullies that their behavior is not funny or okay.

  • Speak up. Tell bullies that what they are doing is wrong. By saying, “that’s not funny, let’s get out of here” or something similar, kids can stand up for each other. This may also give other bystanders the confidence to speak up or walk away.

  • Be a friend. Sometimes kids get picked on because they don’t have any friends or anyone to stand up for them. When kids befriend someone being bullied, bullies are less likely to pick on them. Friendship can also give children the support and the confidence to stand up for themselves.

  • Ask others to help. When more kids stand up to bullies, the bullies will be more likely to realize their actions are not okay.

  • Get an adult. Sometime kids who are bullied are scared to ask an adult for help because they think it will make the bullying worse. Kids can help by telling an adult what is happening, or going to speak to an adult with kids being bullied.

What You Can Do

Standing up to peers is a hard thing to do for people of all ages. But you can make it easier for kids by giving them the confidence and the support they need to do so. Here are some ways parents can help children develop these traits:

  • Teach children to be assertive. Emphasize peaceful ways to solve problems and encourage kids to stand up for themselves verbally, not violently.

  • Show kids safe ways to help others. Make it clear that you expect kids to take action if they see someone being hurt, or if they are hurt themselves.

  • Hold kids accountable. If children stand by and watch someone being bullied, make it clear that their behavior hurts the victim too.

  • Get to know their friends. Encourage your children to invite their friends to your home or accompany you on family outings.

  • Be a good example. If you see someone being bullied or hurt, help them.

  • Build empathy in your kids. If you see examples of people being bullied or hurt in movies, television, or books, talk with your children about how these people must feel. Ask your children how they would feel in that situation and what they would do to make it better. Point out ways characters helped out, or didn’t, and have your children think up different ways to help.

  • Help them develop social skills. From a young age, encourage your children to play with others and to be friends with many different people. Have them spend time with people of different ages, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religions, and mental and physical abilities.Ten ways to bully proof your child


  • 1. Model compassionate, respectful relationships from the time your child is small. The most effective way to keep children from being bullied, and from becoming bullies, is to make sure they grow up in loving relationships, rather than relationships that use power or force to control them. Children learn both sides of every relationship, and they can act either one. If you spank, your child will learn that physical violence is the way to respond to interpersonal problems. If your discipline methods use power over your child, he will learn to use power over others, or to let others use power over him. Don’t worry, you don’t need that kind of discipline. For compassionate discipline that works, see the Aha! section on Positive Discipline. 2. Stay connected to your child through thick and thin. Lonely kids are more likely to be bullied. Remember, parenting is 90% connection — a close relationship with your child — and only 10% guidance. The guidance won’t stick unless you have the relationship to support it, and will just drive your child away. Keep those lines of communication open, no matter what.

    3. Model confident behavior with other people. If you tend to back down easily so you don’t make a scene, but then later feel pushed-around, it’s time to change that. Your child is learning from watching you. Experiment with finding ways to assert your own needs or rights while maintaining respect for the other person. It’s also important not to put yourself or your child down, because you’re teaching her to follow in your footsteps.

    4. Directly teach your child respectful self-assertion. Kids need to know they can get their needs met while being respectful of other people. Give him words to stick up for himself early on:

    “It’s my turn now.”

    “I want a turn now.”

    “Hey, stop that.”

    “Hands off my body.”

    “It’s not okay to hurt.”

    “I don’t like being called that. I want you to call me by my name.”

    5. Teach your child basic social skills. Kids who are outsiders are more likely to be bullied. Bullies prey on children whom they perceive to be vulnerable, including needy children who are so desperate for peer acceptance that they continue to hang around a group of peers even when one of the group leaders begins to mistreat them. Role play with your child how to join a game at the playground, introduce themselves to another child at a party, or initiate a playdate. Kids who are successful in joining groups of kids usually observe first, and find a way to fit into the group, rather than just barging in. Make games out of social skills, and practice at home.

    6. Teach your child basic bully avoidance. Bullies operate where adults aren’t present, so your child should avoid unsupervised hallways, bathrooms, and areas of the playground. Sitting in the front of the school bus, standing in the front of the line, and sitting at a lunch table near the cafeteria chaperones are all good strategies for bully avoidance.

    7. Teach your child that there is no shame in being frightened by a bully, in walking away, or in telling an adult and asking for help. Bullying situations can escalate, and saving face is less important than saving their life.

    8. Teach kids to intervene to prevent bullying when they see it. Bullying expert Michele Borba says that when bystanders — kids who are nearby — intervene correctly, studies find they can cut bullying more than half the time and within 10 seconds.

    The best interventions:

    Partner with the victim and remove her from danger – Go stand with the victim physically, turn the victim away from the bully and walk her off in the other direction — towards adult help. Say “You look upset” or “I’ve been looking for you” or “The teacher sent me to find you.”

    Get help – Bullies love an audience. Get the other kids on your side by waving them over to you, yelling, “We need your help.” Confront the bully: “You’re being mean.” Then walk away: “C’mon, let’s go!”

    And of course, if you’re at all worried about safety, dial 911 or shout for a teacher.

    9. Coach your child to handle teasing and bullying by role playing. Research shows that bullies begin with verbal harassment. How the “victim” responds to the first verbal aggression determines whether the bully continues to target this particular child. If the aggression gives the bully what he’s looking for — a feeling of power from successfully pushing the other child’s buttons — the aggression will generally escalate. It’s imperative to discuss this issue with your child BEFORE he is subject to bullying, so he can stand up for himself successfully when a bully first “tests” him.

    Roleplay with your child how he can stand up to a bully. Point out to your child that the bully wants to provoke a response that makes him feel powerful, so showing emotion and fighting back are exactly what the bully feeds off. Explain that while he can’t control the bully, he can always control his own response. So in every interaction, how he responds will either inflame the situation or defuse it. Your child needs to avoid getting “hooked” no matter how mad the bully makes him.

    The best strategy is always to maintain one’s own dignity, and to let the “bully” maintain his dignity, in other words, not to attack or demean the other person. To do this, simply say:

    “You know, I’m just going to ignore that comment.”

    “I think I have something else to do right now.”

    “No thank you.”

    Then, just walk away.

    Teach your child to count to ten to stay calm, look the bully in the eye, and say one of these things. Practice until your child has a strong, self-assured tone.

    10. Don’t hesitate to intervene. Your job as the parent is to protect your child. That means that in addition to teaching your child to stick up for herself, you may well need to call the teacher or principal. Don’t give your child the message that she’s all alone to handle this. And don’t assume that if there isn’t physical violence, she isn’t being wounded in a deep way. Despite the old rhyme about words not hurting, mean words and isolation are terribly damaging to our psyches, and cause lasting negative effects. If the school cannot protect your child, consider transferring to a different school, or even homeschooling.

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