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Bullying and Bullies

Dealing with a Bully


Updated May 01, 2011

Two school girls whispering and laughing at another girl, a form of bullying.

Two school girls whispering and laughing at another girl, a form of bullying.

Photo by Chris Whitehead/Getty Images

Many parents have first-hand knowledge of bullying from when they were kids.

If they weren't bullied at school themselves, then they likely saw other kids being victimized by bullies. Some may have been a bully themselves.

Unfortunately, many of those same parents are now having to put their experiences with bullies to use as their own kids are having to deal with bullies.

This may include:

  • physical bullying - hitting, punching, pushing, or kicking, etc.
  • verbal bullying - teasing, taunting, threatening, or name-calling, etc.
  • psychological or emotional bullying - intimidation, spreading rumors, excluding someone socially, or spreading rumors about them, etc.

And the increased use of technology at an early age, including cell phones, instant messaging, texting, email, and Facebook, has made new ways of bullying possible, such as cyberbullying.

I was rather surprised when my first grade twins brought up the topic of bullies recently. Luckily, it was because they were talking about bullies in class and not because they were being bullied or because they had bullied anyone.

Bullying Statistics

Bullying is common. The latest bullying statistics show that:

  • between 15 to 25 percent of students in the United States are bullied sometimes or often
  • between 15 to 20 percent of students in the United States bully other students sometimes or often
  • bullying usually begins in elementary school, peaks in sixth through eight grade, and continues in high school
  • boys are more likely than girls to bully others
  • only 24 to 50 percent of children who are bullied talk to an adult about the bullying
  • bullying increased by five percent, even as other forms of school violence decreased by four percent between 1999 and 2001
  • nearly half of the kids who reported being bullied said that the bullying had gone on for at least six months
  • more than 14 percent of children between third and eighth grade reported that they were afraid of being bullied
  • 18 percent of children between sixth and eight grade reported being the victims of cyberbullying
  • just over five percent of students reported that they had not gone to school for at least one day because they thought they would be unsafe at school or on their to or from school
  • overweight children are more likely to be bullied than children who are not overweight

On a positive note, 56 percent of tweens who observed a child being bullied said that they usually try to stop the bullying or report it to an adult.

Signs of Bullying

Many children don't tell their parents, teachers, or anyone else that they are being bullied. That makes it important to look for possible warning signs that your child is being bullied.

These signs of bullying might include:

  • having few friends at school
  • being afraid to go to school, ride the bus, or frequently refusing to go to school
  • coming home from school with unexplained bruises, torn clothing, or missing belongings, etc.
  • a sudden drop in grades or loss of interest in his usual activities
  • an increase in physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomaches, trouble sleeping, or a los of appetite
  • signs of anxiety or depression

It is also important to look for signs that your child is a bully, including that he is impulsive, gets easily frustrated, lacks empathy, has trouble following rules, and/or views violence in a positive way.

Dealing with a Bully

Bullying is serious. Children who are bullied often develop low self-esteem and can develop problems at school and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

The consequences for children who bully are also serious too, as they are more likely to go on to develop more antisocial and violent behaviors when they grow up.

Unfortunately, dealing with a bully and helping a bullied child is rarely easy. Many adults by into the standard myths about bullying, such as that bullying isn't serious, that it doesn't happen at their school, or that bullying is a simple conflict between kids that they need to work out on their own.

Some good practices to help with dealing with a bully can include:

  • looking for signs of bullying, just in case your child is being bullied and hasn't told you
  • supporting your child if he tells you that he is being bullied, but don't blame or criticize him or encourage him to fight back or try to simply ignore the bully
  • being sure to tell your child that it isn't his fault that he is being bullied
  • listening to what your child has to say about the bully and bullying tactics
  • reporting the bullying to school officials, including his teachers and/or the school principal
  • not getting overly emotional about the bullying
  • allowing school officials to contact the other child's parents and not trying to do it yourself
  • not allowing the school to send your child to a mediation session with the bully, as most experts do not view bullying as a form of conflict, but instead as a form of victimization.
  • asking what your child's school and school district is doing to help stop bullying

Most importantly, help your child become more resistant to bullying by providing a safe and loving environment at home, boosting his self-esteem, helping him make some more friends, and developing more interests and activities. It can also help to get help from your pediatrician and/or a child psychologist or counselor if your child has any developmental delays or social skill problems that may make him more of a target for bullies or if he simply needs some help with the effects of being bullied.

Even if your child isn't being bullied, it is important to regularly talk about bullying so that he knows that it is wrong to bully others and that he should tell an adult if he sees a bully targeting another child.


CDC. 2007 Nation Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) Survey. http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/index.htm Accessed May 2010.

Lumeng, Julie C. Weight Status as a Predictor of Being Bullied in Third Through Sixth Grades. Pediatrics. May 2010.

U.S. Dept. of Justice. Addressing the Problem of Juvenile Bullying. OJJDP Fact Sheet. June 2001.

Stop Bullying Now Tip Sheets. http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adults/tip-sheets/default.aspx. Accessed May 2010.

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