What to Do if Your Child is Being Bullied
What is bullying?
among children is aggressive behavior that is intentional and that
involves an imbalance of power or strength. A child who is being bullied
has a hard time defending himself or herself. Usually, bullying is
repeated over time. Bullying can take many forms, such as hitting or
punching (physical bullying); teasing or name-calling (verbal bullying);
intimidation using gestures or social exclusion (nonverbal bullying or
emotional bullying); and sending insulting messages by phone or computer
Effects of bullying
Bullying can have serious consequences. Children and youth who are bullied are more likely than other children to
- Be depressed, lonely, anxious;
- Have low self-esteem;
- Be absent from school;
- Feel sick; and
- Think about suicide.
Reporting bullying to parents
frequently do not tell their parents that they are being bullied
because they are embarrassed, ashamed, frightened of the children who
are bullying them, or afraid of being seen as a “tattler.” If your child
tells you about being bullied, it has taken a lot of courage to do so.
Your child needs your help to stop the bullying.
What to do if your child is being bullied
- First, focus on your child. Be supportive and gather information about the bullying.
tell your child to ignore the bullying. What the child may “hear” is
that you are going to ignore it. If the child were able to simply ignore
it, he or she likely would not have told you about it. Often, trying to
ignore bullying allows it to become more serious.
- Check your
emotions. A parent’s protective instincts stir strong emotions. Although
it is difficult, a parent is wise to step back and consider the next
- Contact your child’s teacher or principal.
- Parents are often reluctant to report bullying to school officials, but bullying may not stop without the help of adults.
your emotions in check. Give factual information about your child’s
experience of being bullied including who, what, when, where, and how.
that you want to work with the staff at school to find a solution to
stop the bullying, for the sake of your child as well as other students.
not contact the parents of the student(s) who bullied your child. This
is usually a parent’s first response, but sometimes it makes matters
worse. School officials should contact the parents of the child or
children who did the bullying.
- Expect the bullying to stop. Talk
regularly with your child and with school staff to see whether the
bullying has stopped. If the bullying persists, contact school
- Help your child become more resilient to bullying.
to develop talents or positive attributes of your child. Suggest and
facilitate music, athletics, and art activities. Doing so may help your
child be more confident among his or her peers.
- Encourage your
child to make contact with friendly students in his or her class. Your
child’s teacher may be able to suggest students with whom your child can
make friends, spend time, or collaborate on work.
- Help your
child meet new friends outside of the school environment. A new
environment can provide a “fresh start” for a child who has been bullied
- Teach your child safety strategies. Teach him or
her how to seek help from an adult when feeling threatened by a bully.
Talk about whom he or she should go to for help and role-play what he or
she should say. Assure your child that reporting bullying is not the
same as tattling.
- Ask yourself if your child is being bullied
because of a learning difficulty or a lack of social skills? If your
child is hyperactive, impulsive, or overly talkative, the child who
bullies may be reacting out of annoyance. This doesn’t make the bullying
right, but it may help to explain why your child is being bullied. If
your child easily irritates people, seek help from a counselor so that
your child can better learn the informal social rules of his or her peer
- Home is where the heart is. Make sure your child has a
safe and loving home environment where he or she can take shelter,
physically and emotionally. Always maintain open lines of communication
with your child.
These and other materials are available online at: www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov
(1993). Bullying At school: What we know and what we can do. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.
Snyder, J. M.
Helen Schwab Foundation. Retrieved August 12, 2005, from What Parents Should Know about Bullying
(February, 2003) What Parents Can Do About Childhood Bullying. Schwab Learning Center, (www.schwablearning.org)
Prevention Child Abuse America Publication. South Deerfiled, MA.
- Don’t blame the child who is being bullied.
Don’t assume that your child did something to provoke the bullying.
Don’t say, “What did you do to aggravate the other child?”
carefully to what your child tells you about the bullying. Ask him or
her to describe who was involved and how and where each bullying episode
- Learn as much as you can about the bullying tactics
used, and when and where the bullying happened. Can your child name
other children or adults who may have witnessed the bullying?
with your child. Tell him/her that bullying is wrong, not their fault,
and that you are glad he or she had the courage to tell you about it.
Ask your child what he or she thinks can be done to help. Assure him or
her that you will think about what needs to be done and you will let him
or her know what you are going to do.
- If you disagree with how your child handled the bullying situation, don’t criticize him or her.
not encourage physical retaliation (“Just hit them back”) as a
solution. Hitting another student is not likely to end the problem, and
it could get your child suspended or expelled or escalate the situation.