Some may see bullying as the topic de rigueur. I believe it is a real problem in our society, and statistics back me up. Among the facts about bullying the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported, 28 percent of students in the United States in grades 6–12 have experienced bullying.
In some cases, the actions of others led the bullied child to make a terrible choice. The tragic case of Michael Morones, an 11-year-old boy who hung himself because of bullying, is only one example of many.
Why do children bully others?
The website StopBullying.gov defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”
I asked Garvin to give me an idea as to why one child might bully another. She noted it is often because the perpetrator is trying to gain attention and control – things they may not have other crucial areas of their life. Also, the bully may not have learned how to express anger and other feelings by the adults in their lives.
“I believe it is a learned behavior and can also be unlearned by educating children on appropriate emotional expression, empathy, healthy boundaries and acceptance of consequences,” says Garvin.
What signs of bullying should a parent look for?
Stopbullying.gov not only has some great information on how to respond to bullying, but it also has a list of signs a child may be being bullied:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors, such as running away from home, harming themselves or talking about suicide
Additionally, Garvin says children usually won’t show when they are having problems with bullies.
“This can be due to fear of retaliation, worrying adults will not believe them, low self-worth or feeling they deserve it,” says Garvin. “Parents should watch for changes in the child’s behavior at home, school or with peers and performance in school or other outside activities.”
What can happen to children who are constantly bullied?
Constant bullying can have some pretty serious effects – like it did with Michael Morones. However, there may be effects that are not easily recognizable.
“Along with the obvious damage to self-esteem and view of relationships, children may experience increased rates of anxiety, depression, substance use, self-harming behaviors and suicidal ideation,” says Garvin.
Additionally, Garvin notes that research has linked the negative effects of childhood bullying to the effects of childhood abuse and neglect.
What can parents do to help?
Any parent with a child being bullied will want to act. It’s just human nature. The first thing Garvin recommends is to talk to the child.
“Talk to them about what is going on, ask questions and monitor social media/technology,” says Garvin. “If it is found that the child is being bullied, it is important that the child feel heard and validated.”
Garvin also says, if the bullying happens at school, it is very important to talk to the school administrators to help the child feel safe – through increased supervision, avoiding interactions with the bully or identifying certain adults the child can go to as needed.
Helpful resources Susan suggests include:
- cde.state.co.us (for Colorado)
- azed.gov/ (for Arizona)
A child dealing with a bully should never feel alone dealing with the problem. As parents, it’s our job to be the support they need. If you suspect your child is being bullied or is bullying someone else, step in and make a difference.
Also read: Bullying resources