Bullying, questions and answers
when a child or children repeatedly harass, intimidate, hit, or shun another
child who is weaker physically or has less social standing. Bullying often
involves verbal or physical aggression and may include hitting, shoving, or
taking money or belongings.
necessary for bullying. An isolated fight between two children of similar size
and social power is not bullying; neither is occasional teasing.
can be stopped through the coordinated efforts of parents, teachers, school
counselors, and sometimes psychologists or psychiatrists. Many schools have
zero-tolerance policies regarding bullying and teach children that such
aggression will not be tolerated.
Characteristics of Children Who
Children who bully:1, 3
- Are aggressive with others (including parents and teachers).
- Frequently hit or push other children.
- Are physically strong and socially dominant.
- Have a positive view of aggression.
- Have trouble following rules.
- Show little empathy for others.
Children do not
bully because they are insecure and lack self-esteem. On the contrary, they
think highly of themselves. They like being looked up to and tend to make
friends easily. They often expect everyone to behave according to their wishes.
Some children both
bully others and are bullied. These children, sometimes called
"provocative victims," can be anxious and aggressive. They may have
been bullied and then lash out at others. They may tease bullies, bringing on
more aggression against themselves.
Bullying should be
a "red flag" for parents, alerting them that their child has not
learned to control aggression. The child and the family will need professional
are at risk of committing criminal acts later in life.
How Children Can Discourage Bullying http://my.webmd.com/hw/raising_a_family/uf4901.asp
Children can take
steps to deter bullying.
- Stay away from children who appear to not like them.
- Hang out with friendly kids at school.
- Role play with their parents or other adults on how to handle
- Play or take breaks near adults while at school.
- Walk to school with older brothers and sisters or friends.
- Sit near the bus driver.
- Try to send nonverbal signals that they are confident and can take
care of themselves, including standing straight, looking other children in
the eye, and speaking firmly.
What Children Should Do if They Are
It's normal for
children to be frightened or angry when other children harass them. But they
can discourage attacks by showing confidence and not overreacting to bullying.
not fight with a bullying child or make verbal insults. This could lead to more
aggression and possibly serious injury.
"Walk, talk, squawk"
a catchy expression to help children remember how to handle bullying:
"Walk, talk, squawk."3
- Children should walk away from the bullying child or
- They should talk to the child by looking him or her in the
eye and saying strongly but calmly, "Leave me alone," or
"You don't scare me." Children who are being bullied should not
run (even though they may want to) because this undermines their show of
confidence and reinforces a feeling of power on the part of the bullying
- After the encounter, children should squawk to adults about
the episode. It might help for children to identify an adult at school to
tell if incidents occur. The adult should be told that the child will come
to him or her if harassed. Children not involved in bullying who see
another child being harmed also should seek help from an adult
Children may worry
about making other kids angry by telling on them, but exposing the abuse is the
only way to stop the problem.
What parents can do to help their bullying child http://my.webmd.com/hw/health_guide_atoz/uf4902.asp?navbar=uf4871
No parent wants to
think that his or her child harasses and hurts other children. It's painful and
disheartening. However, parents can use the following suggestions to help turn
around their child's behavior.
- Take your child's actions seriously and let your
child know that bullying
will not be tolerated. If bullying incidents occur, negative consequences
will follow, such as losing privileges and not being allowed to see
friends after school.
- Involve your child's teacher, school administrators, and school
counselor to help stop the bullying.
- Talk to your child about the importance of understanding the
feelings of others (empathy). Ask your child how he or she would feel as
the target of bullying.
- Supervise your child's activities. If your child is not already
involved in sports or community activities, encourage your child to hang
out with children you know to be good role models.
- Be a good role model yourself by not reacting to disappointments
with verbal or physical aggression.
- Praise your child for kind words or deeds.
- If the behavior does not improve, seek help for your child from a
psychiatrist, psychologist, or a licensed counselor.
Children who show
aggression need supervision and rules, but parents should not punish them
physically, such as with corporal punishment.5
Physical punishment only reinforces the belief that people can get what they
want through aggression. http://my.webmd.com/hw/raising_a_family/uf4877.asp
often does not work because bullying involves children who have different
levels of physical power and social status. Adults almost always need to
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends that parents of children
who bully seek help from their child's teacher, principal, school counselor,
and pediatrician or family doctor. These professionals can help evaluate your
child's behavior and make a referral to a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a
psychologist, or a licensed counselor who can work with your child.
The Role of Schools in Bullying http://my.webmd.com/hw/raising_a_family/uf4883.asp
Schools play a
critical role in stopping bullying
because most aggression happens on school grounds during recess, in lunch
rooms, or in bathrooms. Schools should develop zero-tolerance programs that
make it clear bullying won't be tolerated.
Bullying has been
well studied in Norway, where school-based programs have reduced the incidence
of bullying by 30% to 50%. Schools that are successful:1
- Increase awareness of bullying through school assemblies and classroom
discussion of the problem.
- Increase parents' and teachers' involvement.
- Increase supervision of children on school grounds when they are
out of the classroom.
- Form clear rules about behavior that will not be tolerated.
- Provide support and protection for children who are bullied.
Topic Overview http://my.webmd.com/hw/mental_health/hw271283.asp
Anger and arguments
are normal parts of healthy relationships. However, anger that leads to threats
or violence, such as hitting or hurting, is not normal or healthy. Physical,
verbal, or sexual abuse is not an acceptable part of any relationship. Verbal
threats erode the spirit and are very damaging in the long term.
often begins with verbal threats or relatively minor incidents, but over time
it can escalate to involve physical harm.
partner violence) is a common form of violent behavior. It is a major
problem in the United States. Each year an estimated 1.5 million women are
physically or sexually abused by an intimate partner. Approximately 25% of women
in the United States will experience partner violence at some time during their
learned behavior, so it is especially important to help your children learn
that violence is not a healthy way to resolve conflict. Living in a violent environment
increases your child's chances of developing behavior problems, depression,
stress disorder, poor school achievement, and lowered expectations for the
television and playing video games also increase your child's risk of exposure
to violence. By the age of 18, it is estimated that the average child in the
United States has witnessed more than 200,000 acts of violence on television
alone. The media in the U.S. frequently portrays the use of violence as a
justified means of resolving conflict. Children are easily influenced by media
exposure. They learn by observing, imitating, and incorporating behavior. Video
games are an especially good environment for children to learn and incorporate
violence. After exposure to media violence, children exhibit more aggressive
behavior. This aggressive behavior persists for many years.
Violence is a
greater health risk to children, teenagers, and young adults than infectious
disease, cancer, or congenital disorders. Homicide, suicide, and violent injury
are the leading causes of death in children. Violence related to guns is the
leading cause of death of children and teenagers in the U.S. Approximately
3,500 teenagers are murdered every year and another 150,000 are arrested for
Review the Emergencies
and Check Your Symptoms sections to determine if and when you need to see a
- Seek nonviolent ways to resolve conflicts. Arguing is fine, even
healthy, as long as it does not turn violent. For more information on
anger control, see the topic Anger and Hostility.
- Teach your children that violence is not a solution.
- Give your children consistent love and
- Settle arguments without yelling or hitting.
- Do not use physical discipline, such as spanking
or other forms of corporal
punishment. If you need help with discipline, consider taking a
course in parenting skills.
- Limit your child's exposure to TV, movies, and
video games to no more than 1 to 2 hours per day. By age 18 the average
American child has witnessed more than 200,000 acts of violence on TV
- Watch television with your children to discuss
or limit violent content.
- Use a "V-chip" to filter broadcast
- Participate in healthy alternatives, such as
sports, interactive play, and reading, with your child.
- Do not glamorize weapon carrying or use
firearms in play.
- Prevent violence with firearms and other weapons:
- Do not provide your children or teenagers with
unsupervised access to guns or other dangerous weapons.
- Do not keep loaded firearms in the home.
- If you must keep firearms in your home, unload
them and lock them up. Lock ammunition in a separate place.
- Do not keep firearms in a home where there is
someone who has a drug or alcohol problem, is prone to violent behavior,
or has threatened suicide.
- Make sure that no one in your home will have
access to firearms or other weapons unless they know how to use them
- Be alert to warning signs, such as threats or drunkenness, so that
you can avoid a dangerous situation. If you cannot predict when violence
may occur, have an exit plan
for use in an emergency.
- Learn how to recognize signs of
violent behavior in your teenager.
Assessing the risk for teen
Violence is a
greater health risk to children, teenagers, and young adults than infectious
disease, cancer, or congenital disorders. Homicide, suicide, and violent injury
are the leading causes of death in children. Violence related to firearms is
the leading cause of death of children and teenagers in the United States.
Approximately 3,500 teenagers are murdered every year and another 150,000 are
arrested for violent crimes.1,
There is no single
explanation for the overall rise in youth violence. Many different factors cause
violent behavior. The more these factors are present in a child's life, the
more likely he or she is to commit an act of violence.
give hints that they are considering violence toward other people. Signs that
may indicate that a teen is thinking of harming others include:
- Talking about violence, especially violence directed toward
specific people or groups of people, such as student groups, or places,
such as schools, churches, or government buildings.
- Talking, writing, or drawing about death and violence.
- Having unexplained mood changes.
- Intense anger or losing his or her temper every day.
- Frequent fighting.
- Acting aggressively toward others. This may include:
- Hurting animals.
- Teasing or taunting others by calling them
names, making fun of them, or threatening them.
- Making threatening phone calls.
- Vandalism or damaging another person's property.
- Using alcohol, drugs, or tobacco.
- Risk-taking behavior, such as speeding or drinking and driving.
- Carrying or talking about a weapon, especially a firearm. Having
access to a gun increases the likelihood of teen homicide 3 times and teen
suicide 5 times.
- Buying or talking about other means, such as poisons, that could
kill or harm others.
- Not taking responsibility for his or her actions or saying that the
actions are justified because of how he or she has been treated.
The possibility of
teen violence also increases when the following signs are present over several
weeks or months:
- Aggressive or violent behavior
- Drug or alcohol use
- Gang membership or having a strong desire to become part of a gang
- Having access to or a fascination with firearms or other violent
- Threatening other people regularly
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and usually pleasurable activities
- Fear of other people (paranoia)
- Feeling rejected, alone, or disrespected
- Being a constant victim of bullying
- Poor school performance or attendance
- Frequent problems with figures of authority
What you can do
When you recognize
violence warning signs in someone else, there are steps you can take. Don't
count on someone else to deal with the situation. Taking action and telling
someone who can help can prevent harm to yourself and others. It also will
protect another teen with potentially violent behavior from making a mistake
that will affect the rest of his or her life.
- Don't spend time with people who show warning signs. Tell someone
you trust and respect, such as a family member, counselor, or teacher,
about your concerns and ask for help.
- If you are worried about being a victim of violence, ask someone in
authority to help you.
- Do not resort to violence or use a weapon to
- Don't try to deal with situation by yourself.
Ask for help.
- Develop a safety plan to help you if you are in
a potentially dangerous situation.
Managing your own anger
You can manage
your own anger without becoming violent.
- Talk. Find a trusted friend or adult to help you one-on-one if
you're afraid to talk or if you can't find the right words to describe
what you're going through.
- Be calm. Express criticism, disappointment, anger, or displeasure
without losing your temper or fighting. Ask yourself whether your response
is safe and reasonable.
- Listen. Try to listen and respond without getting upset when
someone tells you something you may not want to hear. Don't overreact; try
to see the other person's point of view.
- Seek solutions. Work out your problems with someone else by looking
at different solutions and compromises.
What you can do as a parent
You can help protect
your teen from violent situations in the following ways:
- Be involved in your teen's life.
- Know what your child enjoys and how he or she spends free time.
- Know who your teen spends his or her time with.
- Explore ways your teen can avoid unsafe situations
and can avoid hanging out with troubled teens.
- Peers have a strong impact on a teen's behavior.
Talk to your teen about the effect a group can have on his or her life.
- Be aware of what your teen watches on TV, reads,
listens to, or does while using the computer. Teens may model what they
see and hear.
- Discourage physical violence. Help your teen find ways to resolve
conflict without resorting to violence.
- Role-play conflict. Let your teen determine
which style fits him or her best. Role-play ways to help your teen walk
away from fights.
- Be a positive role model. Use nonviolent ways to
resolve conflict in your home. Children who witness violence in their
home or community are more likely to chose violent means to resolve
- Remove firearms and other violent weapons from your home.
- Studies have shown that violent acts are more
likely to lead to death in homes that have a gun even if the gun is kept
unloaded and securely locked up.
- The most common victim when a teen fires a gun
in the home is the teen. The second most common victim is a teenage
- Encourage participation in physical activities. Encourage your
child to become involved in organized sports or recreational activities.
- Participation in sports gives teens a sense of
skill mastery and contributes to a positive self-image.
- Being part of a team is a healthy way to release
- Organized sports and other recreational
activities provide teens with good role models.
- Discourage alcohol and drug use. Alcohol and drug use are involved
in over half of all violent situations among teens. Talk with your child
about what to do if he or she is in a situation where alcohol or drugs are
- Be a positive role model.
- Utilize safety measures, such as wearing your
seat belt, whenever possible.
- React to difficult situations in a calm, relaxed
manner. Avoid yelling or name-calling.
- Monitor your own alcohol or drug use.
- Do not give your child the impression that you
have to have a drink in order to enjoy yourself.
- Never drink and drive.
- Get help. If you notice that your teen views the world as a harsh
place where people are either bullies or victims, he or she may be more
prone to violence. Talk with your teen about your concerns. Talk with a
health professional or counselor if you think your teen may need help
responding to conflict.
Factors that may contribute to teen violence http://my.webmd.com/hw/health_guide_atoz/tv6557.asp?navbar=hw271283
Teen violence is a
complicated problem. No one factor has been shown to cause violence in teens.
Known risks for violent behavior include:
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
- An association with older delinquent teenagers or adults.
- A history of early aggressive or violent behavior.
- Exposure to violence in the home or community.
- Exposure to media violence, such as television, videos, and
computer or video games.
- Involvement in illegal drug trading.
- Possession of weapons, especially firearms.
Other factors that
are thought to contribute to teen violence include:
- Access to guns and other violent weapons.
- Being a victim of school bullying.
- Child maltreatment, including physical, sexual, and emotional
- Frequent moves and changing schools often.
- Hyperactivity or poor impulse control.
- Ineffective parenting.
- Low birth weight.