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The Informed Parent

Bullying: What Should A Parent Do?

by Lori A. Livingston, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Jun. 09, 2009

It may seem that bullies are just a fact of life. All parents can remember a mean kid or bully at school during their own childhood; perhaps you were the victim or maybe you were even the bully himself.

Many parents would argue “kids will be kids”, and these school experiences make us stronger and prepare us for the real world as adults.

However, bullying has serious consequences for both the culprits and the victims. There is increased risk of accidental and intentional injuries, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, or suicide. According to the Department of Education’s “Safe School Initiative” report, 71 percent of perpetrators of targeted school shootings felt bullied, threatened, attacked or injured by others before they engaged in their deadly acts.

Parents need to know that early intervention and getting involved is extremely important. Bullying can escalate over time, becoming more aggressive and persistent, from teasing in elementary school to cyber-bullying on the internet and cell phones in high school.

Studies show that early teacher involvement and intervention reduces bullying more effectively. Waiting until late middle or high school may be too late.

So what can a parent do?

  • Request a meeting with your child’s teachers and school administrators to talk about the details of the bullying and the most at-risk times of day for your child. Those times, usually during lunch, recess and after school, should be closely monitored by staff.
  • Be sure there is ongoing monitoring of the problem by the school, with regular updates from the victim.
  • Review the school’s anti-bullying policy to ensure there are rules of appropriate school behavior and consequences if they are not followed. Be sure this is made clear to all students.
  • An effort should be made to have the bully understand and apologize for the hurt caused by his or her actions.
  • Encourage your child to be assertive and confident around a bully, and act in a self-protective manner. Provide positive reinforcement if your child does stand up for him/herself.
  • If your child is a bystander, not the bully or the victim, encourage him/her to be helpful. Inform teachers if they see bullying, and remind them this is brave and honorable behavior, not being a “tattletale”.
  • Children who bully benefit from early intervention as well. They learn to be aggressive to control a situation and get their way. Counseling can teach positive uses of power and communication.
  • Talk to your pediatrician. Counseling or behavioral therapy for a child who is a victim of bullying can improve self-esteem and social skills, and prevent or treat depression.

Resource: Consultant for Pediatricians Jan 2009

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