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How bullying affects your child

By Diane Griffith

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Whether your son comes home from school with a black eye or your daughter comes home with bruised feelings – you want your kids to know how to protect themselves.

Children who feel insecure at school can’t learn or thrive, and school is where most bullying takes place. Whether a child is called names, excluded or physically harassed, the effects of bullying can last a lifetime.

Signs of bullying

Some children are ashamed to admit the problem. If you notice any of these signs in your child, he may be a victim:

  • Claiming illness to avoid school
  • Trouble with schoolwork
  • Problems concentrating
  • Bedwetting
  • Disappearance of possessions or money
  • Irritability

Your child may be targeted by bullies if she has any of the following characteristics:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Emotional reactions (such as crying)
  • Inability to stand up for herself
  • Feelings of insecurity
  • Lack of social skills

What parents of a bullied child can do

Offer these suggestions to your child:

  • Don’t get angry. The bully wants him to react emotionally.
  • Crack a joke. Making a joke at one’s own expense denies the bully the hoped-for reaction.
  • Don’t get physical. Fighting back can cause your child physical harm.
  • Walk away. Ignoring the bully and walking away with her head held high shows the bully that she doesn’t care.
  • Agree with the bully. He can say something like, “You’re right, I do stink at basketball. I’m a lot better at baseball.”
  • Stand up for herself. For instance, if someone criticizes her appearance, she can say, “I like the way I look.”
  • Keep safe. Tell him to stay with friends. There’s safety in numbers.
  • Find an adult. Tell her to talk to an adult if she’s being bothered.

Regaining dignity

Help your child find ways to rebuild his self-respect. Without regaining his confidence, the aftereffects of bullying (including depression and low self-esteem) can haunt him for a lifetime.

Girls can be bullies, too

We teach girls that they can do anything boys do, but that shouldn’t include bullying. Female bullying is usually emotional instead of physical, but no less hurtful. Whether they exclude other girls from a group, fail to invite them to parties, openly ignore them, spread nasty rumors about them or try to publicly humiliate them, female bullies can inflict just as much pain as males.

If your child is the bully

Studies show that boys who bully grow up to continue the pattern. Up to 25 percent of young boys who bully have criminal records by age 30. They don’t do well in school and don’t have much success in their careers or personal relationships. Many become alcoholics, batter their wives and abuse their children, producing a new generation of bullies.

What the parents of a bully can do:

  • Tell her the behavior won’t be tolerated.
  • Teach him non-violent ways to express anger.
  • Let her know there will be negative consequences if the behavior continues.
  • Praise and reward appropriate behavior.
  • Consider counseling.
  • Don’t allow siblings to taunt him or call him names.
  • Teach her to appreciate the differences in others instead of ridiculing them.

Anti-bullying programs

Many schools have programs that help victims, discipline bullies and make bystanders aware that by doing nothing to help, they become part of the bullying. See if your school district has such a program. If not, work with other parents to form one.

View the original How bullying affects your child article on myOptumHealth.com 


  • Bully Police USA
    • Safe Child Program
      • Nemours Foundation
        • Psychology Today
          • American Counseling Association
            • Parenting.org


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