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Guide to Bullying Prevention

Bullying amongst children is a serious problem that is far too often written off as a rite of passage, or as "kids being kids." It is, however, a very dangerous form of aggression that causes injuries, fear, embarrassment, reduced self-esteem, and depression in the victim. Studies have shown that bullying occurs on the playground as often as every seven minutes. In the classroom, a child is bullied every twenty-five minutes. Even the Internet has turned into an instrument of aggression in the form of cyberbullying, which can take place at any time, day or night. Whether it occurs on the playground, in the classroom, or online, bullying can become so severe that some children may avoid going to school out of fear or embarrassment. In the most extreme cases, children have even committed suicide as a means to escape it. Despite its severity, little is done to put a stop it when it takes place. According to the National School Climate Center, eighty-five percent of the time there is no intervention from either other children or adults. Parents who understand bullying and the effect that it has on kids can make strides to prevent it from occurring.

What Does it Mean to be a Bully and What do They Do?

When a person repeatedly and intentionally sets out to injure, traumatize, or demoralize another person, he or she is considered a bully. Hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing, and other form of aggressive physical contact are actions that are most recognizable as the actions of a bully. In addition, a bully may use words to embarrass or threaten his or her victim. Courtesy of the Internet and cellphones, written words in the form of text messages or posts on social networking sites may also be used to intimidate others. In some instances, neither words or physical contact is needed. The Internet may be used to spread embarrassing images or videos to classmates, or passive-aggressive tactics such as silence may be employed.

How to Recognize Bullying

Because children often do not tell their parents that they are victims of bullying, it is important that parents pay attention to any potential signs. This may not be as simple as it seems as signs of bullying are varied, with some more obvious than others. Bruises are the most obvious and visible indications that a child is the victim of a bully. For this reason, parents should both look for and question the presence of bruises. In addition to bruises, bullied children may have ripped clothing and also claim to lose lunch money or other belongings. A child who becomes moody, less talkative, isolates his or herself, or begins to have frequent emotional outbursts, may also be suffering at the hands of a bully. Oversleeping, an inability to sleep, or recurring nightmares all indicate some potential form of emotional distress. Because kids will want to avoid the bully or bullies as much as possible, they may suddenly claim illnesses that are difficult to verify in order to avoid going to school.

Putting a Stop to Bullying

If a child is the victim of bullying, his or her parent will want to put a stop to it as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, kids often do not tell that they are being bullied and when they do it is with difficulty. For this reason, parents will want to be supportive and comforting when discussing the topic. Parents who suspect bullying should sit down with their children and ask if there are any problems that the child wants to share. When a child voluntarily tells his or her parents about being bullied, it is critical that it is not marginalized or treated as unimportant. The more accepting and willing parents are to listen to their children, the more comfortable their children will feel talking to them. It is important that parents get as much information about the bullying as possible. They will want to know who the bully is, how their child is being bullied and how frequently, and what the school has done to stop it. The next step is to discuss ways to avoid the bully, such as never being alone, being more assertive, or ignoring the bully. Parents will also need to speak with their child's teachers or school administrator about the incident about what can be done to stop the behavior. At no point, however, should parents approach the bully directly. Speaking to the bully's parents may be necessary if the school is unable to stop it. Another option is to check out the state's anti-bullying laws, particularly when violence, or embarrassing pictures or videos are involved, as legal action may be necessary.

Preventing Bullying

In order to stop bullying, steps must be taken to prevent it from occurring in the first place. One way that parents can prevent bullying is by teaching their children not to be bullies. Parents should lead by example and treat others with respect. Creating a positive home environment is also critical and can help children feel happier and better about themselves. Any mean-spirited behavior should be addressed immediately, and they should discuss how negative actions and words can be hurtful to others. Additionally, kids should be made aware of the potential legal consequences of certain behavior.

Parents can help prevent their children from falling victim to bullies by helping them feel more confident and boosting their self-esteem. Encouragement and praise are beneficial and will help toward accomplishing this goal. Establishing regular, open communication will also make children feel more comfortable about approaching their parents when the bullying first starts. Early intervention is critical and can put an end to it before lasting damage occurs. Encouraging the school to establish an anti-bullying program is another step in the right direction. Programs should teach kids not to bully, and should also explain what to do if they witness another kid bullied. Intervention from parents, schools and other children are all instrumental at putting an end to the dangerous actions of bullies.

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