What Can I Do If I Think My Child Is Being Bullied?
It is important that any adult (at home or at school) take action right away if a child reports bullying. Here are some more things you can do if your child tells you he or she is being bullied:
If you think your child is being bullied:
a. Share your concerns with your child’s teacher.
b. Talk with your child. Tell him or her that you are concerned and ask some questions, such as:
• Are students teasing you at school? • Is anybody picking on you at school?
• Are there students who are leaving you out of activities at school on purpose?
c. Try to find out more about your child’s school life. Here are some questions you could ask:
• Do you have any special friends at school this year? • Who do you sit with at lunch ?
• Tell him or her that bullying is wrong and not his or her fault. Say that you are glad he or she had the courage to speak up. Tell him or her that you will do something about it and explain what you are going to do.
• If you disagree with how your child handled the bullying, don’t criticize him or her.
• Do not tell your child to fight back. This is not likely to end the problem and could make it worse by getting your child in trouble at school.
What else can you do if you think your child is being bullied:
a. Focus on your child.
• Support your child and find out more about the bullying. Do not ignore the bullying or tell your child to ignore it. This sends the message that bullying is okay.
• Don’t blame your child for the bullying, your child does not deserve to be bullied.
• Listen carefully to what your child tells you about the bullying. Ask him or her to describe what happened. Ask who was involved, where it happened, and if there were any witnesses.
Although a child who is bullied is never responsible for the bullying, there are things you can do to help your child handle the situation:
• Encourage your child to develop interests and hobbies that will help him or her handle
difficult situations like bullying.
• Encourage your child to spend time with friendly students in his or her class. Allow your child to spend time with these children outside of school, if possible.
• Help your child meet new friends outside of school.
• Teach your child safety strategies, such as how to seek help from an adult.
• Make sure your home is a safe and loving place for your child. Take time to talk with your child often.
• If you and your child need additional help, talk with a school counselor and/or mental health professional.
What to Do If Your Child Is Bullying
If your child bullies other children at school, it will need to be stopped. We are doing a number of things at school to prevent bullying and to stop bullying once it occurs. Here are some things you can do at home to help.
- Make it clear to your child that you take bullying seriously and that it is not okay.
- Make rules within your family for your child’s behavior.
- Praise your child for following the rules and use nonphysical and logical consequences when rules are broken. A logical consequence for bullying could be losing rights to use the phone to call friends, using email to talk with friends, or other activities your child enjoys.
- Spend lots of time with your child and keep close track of
his or her activities. Find out who your child’s friends are and how and where they spend their free time.
- Build on your child’s talents by encouraging him or her to get involved in positive activities (such as clubs, music lessons, or nonviolent sports).
- Share your concerns with your child’s teacher, counselor, and/or principal. Work together to send a clear message to your child that his or her bullying must stop.
- If you and your child need more help, talk with a school counselor and/or mental health professional.
What to Do If Your Child Witnesses Bullying
Many children are observers or “bystanders” in cases of bullying at school. It is important that even students who are bystanders in a bullying situation take action to get help, so the bullying stops. We are taking steps to teach this important information to students at school. Here are some things you can do to support these efforts at home.
If your child talks to you about the bullying that he or she witnesses at school, you are encouraged to do the following:
- Teach your child how to get help without getting hurt.
- Encourage your child to intervene, not physically, but by using their words if it is safe to do so. Some things they could say, “Knock it off. We don’t do that at school.”
- Tell your child not to cheer on or even quietly watch bullying. This only encourages a child who bullies.
- Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult about the bullying. Be sure they know the difference between telling and tattle-telling.
- Help your child want to help others who tend to be bullied.
- Teach your child to include these students who are bullied in activities.
- Praise and reward “quiet acts of courage”—where your child tried to do the right thing to stop bullying, even if he or she was not successful.
- Work with your child to practice specific ways he or she can help stop bullying. For example, role-play with him or her what he or she could say or do to help someone who is being bullied.
— This information has been adapted from a publication originally created for “Take a Stand. Lend a Hand. Stop Bullying Now!” a campaign of the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.