Pediatricians Discuss How You Can Help Your Child Prevent And Address Bullying

Whether we were the one being bullied, the one who was the bully, or the one who stood by and didn’t do anything when someone else was being bullied – almost all of us have some story of bullying we can look back on and remember from our childhood. It’s common for the victim being bullied to be a child who is physically smaller or weaker, shy, and generally feels helpless against the situation. But there are things we can do as parents to help our children prevent and address bullying. 


Facts About Bullying 

Before we can address bullying, we need to know the facts: 

  • More than 1 in 4 children in America says they have experienced being bullied. 
  • Of those who have experienced being bullied, only about 20-30% have reported it to an adult. 
  • Both girls and boys can be the victim of bullying and can be bullies.
  • Bullying can take the form of physical violence, verbal threatening or teasing, and social isolation or exclusion. 


Talk To Your Child About Bullying 

The first step in helping your child prevent and address bullying is to talk about it with them. Even if you don’t think your child is involved with bullying as a victim, bully, or bystander, talking about bullying with them can help prepare them to recognize and address situations that occur later on. Here are a few questions you can ask your child that can alert you to signs of bullying: 

  • “Who did you sit with at lunch today?” 
  • “Who did you play with on the playground?” 
  • “What do you think of the other kids at school?” 
  • “Are there any kids who get picked on or bullied?” 


Teach Your Child How To Respond To Bullies 

Your child’s first defense to preventing and addressing bullying is knowing how to respond to the bully. If the bully doesn’t get the response they desire from their actions, they will be less likely to continue the behavior. Teach your child to first remain calm and walk away. When ignoring the bully doesn’t work, teach your child how to stand tall, hold their head high, remain calm, look the bully directly in the eye, and firmly respond to the bully by saying something like “I don’t like what you are doing” or “Do NOT treat me like that.” It is important to let your child practice these responses frequently so if they are faced with a bullying situation, they are able to respond naturally. 


Teach Your Child When To Tell An Adult About Bullies 

Sometimes standing up to a bully isn’t enough to stop the behavior. You need to teach your child that bullying is never ok, and they should always feel comfortable bringing it to the attention of a trusted adult. Let your child know they can always come to you if there is a problem with a bully and encourage them to speak up if they are a witness to bullying. They should also have at least one adult identified at school that they feel comfortable going to such as a teacher, counselor, or administrator. Any time your child notifies you of a situation involving bullying, address it with the school in writing.


Your Child’s Pediatrician Can Help You Combat Bullying 

Pediatricians are responsible for protecting your child’s whole health. Pediatricians are trained to screen for and recognize signs of bullying in children. Your child’s pediatrician can help ensure your child doesn’t need additional mental health support such as a therapist and can give you a referral if they do. Pediatricians are also sometimes able to identify bullying that parents miss. Contact Children’s Medical Center to schedule your child’s annual wellness visit with one of our board-certified pediatricians today!