is a common experience for many children and adolescents. Surveys
indicate that as many as half of all children are bullied at some
time during their school years, and at least 10% are bullied on
a regular basis.
Bullying behavior can be physical
or verbal. Boys tend to use physical intimidation or threats,
regardless of the gender of their victims. Bullying by girls is
more often verbal, usually with another girl as the target. Recently,
bullying has even been reported in online chat rooms and through
Children who are bullied experience
real suffering that can interfere with their social and emotional
development, as well as their school performance. Some victims
of bullying have even attempted suicide rather than continue to
endure such harassment and punishment.
Children and adolescents
who bully thrive on controlling or dominating others. They have
often been the victims of physical abuse or bullying themselves.
Bullies may also be depressed, angry or upset about events at
school or at home. Children targeted by bullies also
tend to fit a particular profile. Bullies often choose children
who are passive, easily intimidated, or have few friends. Victims
may also be smaller or younger, and have a harder time defending
If you suspect your child is bullying
others, it's important to seek help for him or her as soon as
possible. Without intervention, bullying can lead to serious academic,
social, emotional and legal difficulties. Talk to your child's
pediatrician, teacher, principal, school counselor, or family
physician. If the bullying continues, a comprehensive evaluation
by a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health
professional should be arranged. The evaluation can help you and
your child understand what is causing the bullying, and help you
develop a plan to stop the destructive behavior.
If you suspect your child may be
the victim of bullying ask him or her to tell you what's going
on. You can help by providing lots of opportunities to talk with
you in an open and honest way.
It's also important to respond
in a positive and accepting manner. Let your child know it's not
his or her fault, and that he or she did the right thing by telling
you. Other specific suggestions include the following:
* Ask your child what he or she thinks should be done. What's
already been tried? What worked and what didn't?
* Seek help from your child's teacher or the school guidance counselor.
Most bullying occurs on playgrounds, in lunchrooms, and bathrooms,
on school buses or in unsupervised halls. Ask the school administrators
to find out about programs other schools and communities have
used to help combat bullying, such as peer mediation, conflict
resolution, and anger management training, and increased adult
* Don't encourage your child to fight back. Instead, suggest that
he or she try walking away to avoid the bully, or that they seek
help from a teacher, coach, or other adult.
* Help your child practice what to say to the bully so he or she
will be prepared the next time.
* Help your child practice being assertive. The simple act of
insisting that the bully leave him alone may have a surprising
effect. Explain to your child that the bully's true goal is to
get a response.
* Encourage your child to be with friends when traveling back
and forth from school, during shopping trips, or on other outings.
Bullies are less likely to pick on a child in a group.
If your child becomes withdrawn,
depressed or reluctant to go to school, or if you see a decline
in school performance, additional consultation or intervention
may be required. A child and adolescent psychiatrist or other
mental health professional can help your child and family and
the school develop a strategy to deal with the bullying. Seeking
professional assistance earlier can lessen the risk of lasting
emotional consequences for your child.
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