Bullying is a devastating experience for a child, and its effects can be long-lasting. Some kids are bullies and others are the ones being bullied. Many kids will have experiences on both ends of the spectrum throughout their childhood. It’s imperative we equip our children with the knowledge of what to do, where to go, and who to talk to, if they ever find themselves being bullied.
Definition: Bullying can be both direct (i.e. actions conducted with the targeted child present) and indirect (i.e. spreading rumors). Bullying is defined as “unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance” (according to stopbullying.gov). This can take place physically, verbally, relationally, and/or through damage to property. It can occur in-person or online (“cyberbullying”).
Effects: About 1 in 3 U.S. students say they have been bullied at school. Middle school is the most common time frame for bullying, in which verbal and social methods are prevalent.
Bullying leads to a variety of negative emotions and experiences for a child. Feelings of fear, helplessness, isolation, and shame can all start to take root. The negative impacts of shame can be so powerful because they are tied to one’s self-worth and perception of their own value. This can lead to anxiety and depression.
How to equip your child: Here are some strategies to share with your child if they, or someone around them, is being bullied:
Tell someone in authority. It’s not being a “tattletail”. It’s the honoring act of protecting someone’s rights and value.
Tell a friend. No child should feel isolated and afraid. If you see someone being bullied, be a good friend and talk to them about it.
Be respectful and stay calm. It’s okay to confront a bully and tell them you don’t appreciate their actions. When you hear a mean joke and others laugh, you should confidently tell them you don’t think that’s very funny. You can always tell someone to “stop!” if you feel you’re being bullied.
Do the loving thing. When you see someone bullying another person, don’t join in and don’t walk away. Do something about it. Treat people with kindness. Don’t fight back.
Be wise. Stay away from places where bullying happens. Be careful online and always think about what you post. Stay near adults and other kids - most bullying happens when adults aren’t around.
If your child is being bullied at school, here are some people you should consider contacting:
State Department of Education
Here is some additional information in working with the school.