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Sticking Up for Yourself


Bullying is a serious problem that can have devastating emotional and physical consequences. Children and parents need to maintain an open dialogue about bullying and educate themselves on what to do if bullying occurs.

This section of Next Step provides information on:

  • Who Is a Bully and Why They Do What They Do
  • The Signs of Bullying
  • What You Can Do About Bullying

Sticking Up for Yourself

Bullying should be taken seriously and not tolerated as a natural part of growing up. Indeed, bullying is recognized as a potentially serious threat to the healthy development of children. Bullying can happen to anyone, anywhere, and can cause serious emotional, educational, and physical harm.

Bullying is a public health issue.
—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Middle school years are a prime time for bullying. So are school transitions—between elementary and middle school, and between middle and high school. During these times, children are trying to find their place in new peer groups.

In psychological terms, bullies act out to establish their control over others. Simply put: bullying is intentional and it’s a power play.

Bullying can be physical, such as hitting, kicking, shoving, punching, and spitting. Other types of physical bullying are less direct, such as blocking, following, or encircling a victim as he or she passes by. Bullying can be verbal, such as name calling and spreading rumors, and it can be emotional, such as intimidation or social exclusion. It can occur in person or through the email, phone calls, text messages, and social networking sites.

While bullying often takes the form of verbal threats and abuse, physical violence does happen. For anyone with a bleeding disorder, this behavior can be very dangerous.

As a parent, be aware that bullying happens. Your child may be a victim of bullying, or be a bully him- or herself. Or, your child may have seen someone being bullied. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 30% of American adolescents reported at least moderate bullying experiences as the bully, the victim, or both.

Take time each day to listen and talk to your child.

Get Schooled in Bullying

Unfortunately, bullying is an issue many children deal with at all stages of their school years.

Below you’ll find helpful information on recognizing and addressing bullying.

Who Is a Bully?

A bully is someone who:

  • Needs to be in control.
  • Lacks the ability to identify with the feelings of another.
  • May have been bullied him- or herself.
  • Typically comes from a family that permits aggressive behavior, lacks consistent discipline and harmony, shows little warmth, and isn’t supportive.

Why Do People Bully Others?

  • To get attention, feel superior, and control others.
  • They are or were victims of bullying.
  • They’re jealous or resentful.
  • They may have low self-esteem.
  • It makes them feel powerful.
  • They don’t know how to resolve social problems and conflicts peacefully.

Signs That Your Child May Be a Victim of Bullying

  • Comes home with torn, missing, or damaged clothing, books, or belongings.
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, and scratches.
  • Is hesitant or afraid to go to school, ride the bus, or take part in school activities.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sudden poor performance in school.
  • Regressive behavior (for example, bed-wetting or thumb-sucking in younger children; older children will withdraw or isolate from family or friends, begin to do poorly in school, or cut classes to avoid the bully).

What You Can Do to Set a Good Example

  • Be consistent with discipline; set clear standards of behavior, limits, and expectations.
  • Be positive in your communication.
  • Be a good role model.
    • Monitor your own behavior. Children imitate their parents’ behaviors, both good and bad.
  • Practice positive conflict resolution: listening, respectful negotiating, clearly stating needs, flexibility.
  • Show understanding for how another person feels.
  • Teach your child to respect differences in others.
  • Become involved.
    • This can be as simple as helping with homework and attending school meetings, to building a network with other parents to promote school safety and prevention of bullying behavior.
    • Find out if the school has a policy on bullying. If there isn’t one, work with school officials and the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) to establish one.
  • Share any experiences you’ve had with bullying.

What You Can Do if Your Child Is a Victim of Bullying

  • Listen to your child. Be calm and reassuring.
  • Don’t blame anyone: victim, bully, or witness.
  • Do not encourage your child to physically attack or get back at the bully.
    • Practice role playing using positive social skills, such as asserting oneself and negotiating.
  • Note the details of what your child tells you and keep a log describing the bullying incidents.
    • A log is a good record when contacting the school principal and/or teachers. Be sure to list when the incidents occurred, who was involved, what was said or done, and any injuries received.
  • Contact your child’s teacher, school counselor, or school administrator about the incident.
    • Encourage the school to take the matter seriously and ask for their cooperation.
    • Write down all communications you have with the school authorities and their responses.
  • Do not contact the parents of the bully. Allow school authorities to do this.
  • Be sure that you have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and/or a 504 Accomodation Plan.