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Bullying - Identifying and Preventing Bullying Behaviors
Bullying: Identifying and Preventing Bullying Behaviors
Most children will experience some form of bullying. They may see bullying happen, be the target of bullying, or be the person who bullies. Parents, caregivers, and teachers can watch for warning signs and help children understand how to identify and respond to bullying.
Bullying happens when someone takes advantage of a power imbalance, such as knowledge of embarrassing information, physical strength, or being popular, to intentionally cause harm to another person or group of people. They usually bully the same target(s) repeatedly. Children may encounter four types of bullying:
- Verbal Bullying involves name-calling or teasing, often regarding physical appearance, ethnicity, or ability traits. This can also include threats, taunting, or inappropriate sexual comments.
- Social Bullying, or Relational Bullying, occurs when a child spreads rumors, leaves people out of activities on purpose, embarrasses someone in public, intentionally damages a reputation, or breaks up friendships.
- Physical Bullying is when a child hits, shoves, or kicks to impose his or her will on another. It can also include tripping, rude hand gestures, and breaking or stealing another person’s belongings.
- Cyber Bullying, or Electronic Bullying, has developed with the growth of technology. In this case a child uses digital devices to humiliate or harm someone by posting false rumors, embarrassing photos, or sharing other negative information. Cyberbullying is unique in that it can take place twenty four hours a day so it is difficult to escape. Negative posts are often permanent public record if they are not reported and properly removed.
Warning signs that a child is involved in bullying can be difficult to spot – bullying can influence a child’s behavior, physical health, and emotional well-being. The signs of bullying vary depending on the role the child has in the experience.
- Targets of bullying may become depressed, anxious, or lonely; withdrawn from activities they once enjoyed, or perform poorly in school. They may have nightmares, headaches, stomachaches, unexplained injuries, changes in eating habits, and have missing or destroyed personal items.
- Observers of bullying are more likely to develop anxiety, skip school, or engage in risky behaviors.
- Children who bully may behave aggressively, get into fights, be frequently assigned detention, possess money or belongings that are not theirs, refuse to take responsibility for their actions, abuse alcohol or drugs, vandalize, end up dropping out of school, or engage in other criminal behaviors as adults.
Parents, caregivers, and teachers have the ability to take steps that can help prevent bullying. Some ways you can help build a child’s empathy, tolerance, resilience, and social skills include:
- Speak and behave in a way that models respect, kindness, and tolerance towards others. The example you set helps children understand what your expectations are for their behavior.
- Talk about bullying. Discuss what it means to bully, and the importance of telling an adult when you need help or see someone else being bullied.
- Encourage children to develop strong friendships and get to know their friends.
- Teach children skills for resolving conflicts such as taking turns, voting, rolling dice to decide who goes first, or listening to each other and negotiating a compromise.
- Help build the confidence of children by encouraging their interests (hobbies, sports, or clubs).
- Build children’s empathy by allowing them to help care for a garden, take care of a pet, or do charitable volunteer work.
- Keep the computer in a central place where its usage can be easily monitored.
- Establish clear rules for using digital devices, talk to children about digital citizenship (being kind online), and use parental controls or apps to monitor digital usage.
- Report suspected bullying to the school. Report cyberbullying to the social network or game administrator.
- Familiarize yourself with the school’s rules and policies regarding bullying. Be proactive in providing feedback about a school’s position and response to bullying behaviors.
If you believe a child is being bullied, talk to him or her and offer support. Sometimes children who are being bullied are embarrassed to ask for help, or they are afraid it will only make the situation worse, and so they keep silent. Get to know the child’s friends, and talk about what it means to be a friend. Speak to the child honestly and openly about what is happening and reassure him or her of your support. Adults involved in the child’s life such as the parents, teachers, caregivers, and school counselors should work together to develop a plan for being safe, such as staying near friends or a trusted adult. Try role playing to help him or her plan solutions for confronting bullying behavior and asking for help.
If you observe a child using bullying behaviors, you can help him or her learn to change their behavior. Talk to the child about your expectations for how he or she treats others. Try to discover what is driving the child to those behaviors and work on correcting them. Consult with other adults involved with the child to create a plan for monitoring their behavior and develop reasonable consequences. Check in with the child daily by asking specific questions such as, “What was the best thing about today? What was the worst?” Guide the child in understanding that they are responsible for their own behavior and that they are capable of changing it.
You can download our brochure, “Bullying: Identifying and Preventing Bullying Behaviors,” as well as other helpful resources on the Children’s Home Society of California’s website at www.chs-ca.org.