Signs Your Child is a Bully or Being Bullied
Emma Winsor Wood, Contributor
Articles> Bullying> Signs Your Child is a Bully or Being Bullied
kids bullying boy

"I just had the worst day of my life," announced Kristin's* twelve-year-old son Ben as he slumped into the passenger seat.

Earlier that day, Ben had silenced a classmate making rude comments with a terse, "Shut up." While Ben's response could have been more polite, it did not warrant the day of torture that followed. Max the bully hounded Ben for the remainder of the day -- shoving him in the hallway, loudly teasing and taunting, calling him names -- until Ben retreated to a classroom for protection.

Kristin, who lives in Rockingham County, NH, promptly called the school to inform them of what happened -- and to say that she would not send Ben back to school until they could guarantee his safety. After a brief investigation, the school decided to suspend Max for three days.

But when he returned, the bullying resumed. While Max continued to physically and verbally abuse her son, Kristin continued to meet with teachers and administrators. Since the school had suspended Max once prior to the incident with Ben, this was his third strike. Still they did not expel him.

"The school's policy of zero tolerance for bullying is a bunch of fluff they put together to make the parent's feel good. They're not putting their money where their mouth is. At some point, Max shouldn't have been allowed in school -- for the safety of all the children, not just my son."

Kristin feels relieved that her family had already planned to move towns before the bullying began.

Sadly, Kristin's story is not unique. According to "Bullying Behaviors among US Youth," a 2001 study published in JAMA by Tonja Nansel, Ph.D, 1 in 3 youths in grades 6-10 experience bullying once or several times a week.

Staying at home, however, no longer protects kids from bullying. "Technology has made bullying easier to engage in and spread, as well as harder to escape," says Dr. Robi Ludwig, Psy.D. Parenting Expert at Care.com.

Indeed, according to iSafe.org, 42% of middle schoolers (grades 4-8) have been bullied online and 53% of them admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online.

Bullying is not new, but it is pervasive -- not to mention scary, embarrassing, and humiliating. And unfortunately not all children are as forthcoming as Ben was. How can you tell if your child is struggling with bullies too?

Is Your Child Being Bullied?

According to Dr. Joel Haber, bullying expert and author of Bullyproof Your Child for Life, your child could be a victim of bullying if he/she:

  • Is reluctant or refuses to go to school
  • Clams up when you try to discuss school
  • Demands some sort of change in a long-standing routine, like riding the bus to school or going to the park on Saturdays
  • Does not want to participate in after-school activities or play with old friends
  • Seems hungrier than usual after school - it might be a sign that someone is stealing his lunch money or that he is unwilling to brave the cafeteria at lunchtime
  • Shows signs of physical distress such as headaches, stomach-aches, or nausea
  • Goes to the nurse in order to avoid going to class
  • Performance in school (grades, homework, attendance) suddenly declines
  • Acts sullen, angry, and frequently wants to be left alone
  • Uncharacteristically uses bad language
  • Shows marked behavior change after computer time or a phone call
  • Starts asking for more lunch or transportation money without a clear explanation of why it is needed
  • Has unexplained bruises or injuries

Could Your Child Be the Bully?

While you could never imagine your own sweetie excluding or teasing a classmate, 1 out of 5 kids in grades 6-10 admits to being a bully or doing at least some "bullying" (Nansel, et al, 2001). Children know that bullying is wrong. That's why they do it when parents aren't around. That's why cyberbullying has become so common (the Internet is like one huge parentless mansion). And because adults are left in the dark, they don't often face repercussions for their actions. So they keep doing it.

Of course you don't want to admit that your child could be a bully. But you definitely don't want to let your child stay a bully. Look for the signs -- and then find a way to check the behaviors.

Read the Care.com article about how Parents' #1 Fear is Bullying

Dr. Haber says that your child could be a bully if he/she:

  • Is exclusive - refuses to include certain kids in play or study
  • Persists in certain inappropriate or unpleasant behavior even after you have told him/her to stop
  • Is very concerned with being and staying popular
  • Seems intolerant of and/or shows contempt for children who are "different" or "weird"
  • Frequently teases or taunts other children
  • Constantly plays extremely aggressive videogames
  • Hurts animals
  • Observes you excluding, gossiping about, or otherwise hurting others: As parents we have a tremendous influence on our children. As human beings, we all occasionally exhibit some bullying behaviors. It's only natural and it doesn't mean we're bad people. But think honestly about your own behavior and then ask -- do your kids also show these traits?

Bullying seems scary, but as Dr. Haber reminds us, "It's always been going on. And it's probably been going on at the same level as it always has, but it's gotten much more media attention as of late." So don't let it overwhelm you or distract from your main goal: raising your child to be a kind, understanding, well-adjusted person.

* All names have been changed to protect identities.
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(9) Comments
debbie
debbie
my daughter has went from being absoloutley great at school she gets on with her work and her peers.since last week she has started to pick on this 1 girl and the school is threatining exclusion what do i do from here
February 12, 2015 at 7:40 AM
Rebecca R.
Rebecca R.
Anna Y,
If you think bullying does not happen, just take a look around at the the world we live in!! Just because you don't know anyone that has been bullied, or haven't seen it, does not mean it does not exist. I for one was bullied for many years, up until the 8th grade. After years of being followed home, tormented, pushed, shoved, hair pulled, hit, having things thrown at me, tormented at school, had water, milk, full lunch trays dumped on me, all because I was a latch key kid and my mother didn't have a lot of money, I finally got fed up and on the way home one day, I beat the living crap out of the girls that had bullied me for so long. I was the lucky one, I survived it. So many kids commit suicide because they cannot handle the day to day torment. My God, look at what happened at Columbine in April of 1999! Do I agree with their methods of dealing with it? No! BUT, bullying is a learned behavior and those kids that shot up that school and killed all those people were bullied daily. The key to stopping bullying behavior is to check your own behavior at home and make sure that you are not saying/doing things that your kids are repeating. Also, keep in tuned to your child's moods and behaviors. Too many times in the news, the parents of a bullied child that killed themselves say well we didn't notice any changes. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR KIDS. I applaud the parents that are trying to help their kids, most school districts would rather look the other way than face what is going on right under their noses, and you have one heck of an uphill battle ahead of you. Anna, pay a little more attention to the world around you, it does exist, and it is brutal, and the psychological damage that can be done is not easily fixed, and it's that bullying that can break someone's spirit and wound them far deeper than anything else could, because it's coming from their peers.
November 21, 2014 at 11:56 PM
Katherine
Katherine
One more sign your child is being bullied is coming home thirsty and/or having a urinary tract infection because he/she is afraid to go to the bathroom at school. And teachers and administrators can help stop bullying in the bathroom by using the students' bathroom and checking the bathroom several times during the day.
November 11, 2014 at 1:37 PM
Anna Y.
Anna Y.
This bullying thing isn't real. It has never happened at the school I attend. It has never happened to anyone that I know!
June 14, 2014 at 9:04 PM
Jen MacKenzie
Jen MacKenzie
Schools aren't doing enough to protect our kids. We need to teach them how to have self-confidence and how to verbally deal with the bully without getting violent. But how? Does anyone know of any good resources out there? My son is 9 so if it were geared towards him it would need to be a children or adolescent level book. Thanks
September 4, 2013 at 6:35 PM
Azzarra S.
Azzarra S.
For most of the year, children spend more time at school than anywhere else other than their own home. Bullying is something that has been around well, forever so I have taught my kids on what to do and how to react if they are being bullied.The idea of my children being harmed or lost is not something anyone wants to consider.
April 16, 2013 at 4:03 PM
Cindy L.
Cindy L.
Bullying is not nice at all.I think we should start teaching our kids about how wrong bullying is when they are able to talk.they are learning more things earlier these days so I think the earlier we teach our kids about it the better off they will be.it just isn't in the fourth or sixth grade that it happens. It is in elementary. School too.I had that problem with my son some kids was bullying him but thank god we have a really good school and policy about that kind of thing so it got taken care of real fast.I haven't had a problem since.so my advice to parents would be talk to your dad kids about that kind of thing and let them know if there is a problem they can talk to u or a teacher and get it taken care of.but if you are one of those parents that don't care then there is something and wrong with u and u need to check yourself so talk to your kids and see what happened in school that day.if there is a problem in school go talk to school officials and if that don't work talk to the parents of the other kid and if that don't work then take it to the police but I do everything to keep your child safe.
March 27, 2012 at 9:22 AM
Pam Crider
Pam Crider
my kid is getting bullyied and I have tried to put a stop to it time after time but it just keeps happening.ughi'm tired of it
February 15, 2012 at 4:55 PM
Latoya C.
Latoya C.
I must be a crazy parent, but I would definitely speak to the parents of that bully and even if I have to involve the law, I would do so. I refuse to have my child feeling unsafe anywhere I am forced by law to send them. I would then feel forced to use the law to protect my child.
August 19, 2011 at 2:39 PM

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