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What is Bullying?

The word bullying is a general term that commonly refers to any actual or threatened acts of physical violence. However, the term bullying can also include:

  • The use of name calling or racial slurs
  • Discriminatory attacks directed at one’s culture or heritage
  • Perpetuating lies or false rumors
  • Intentional exclusion from sports, games and gatherings
  • Digital forms of the above, known as cyber bullying
  • Violent or abusive physical contact

It is important to help your child differentiate between the playful teasing that is common in young children and the above forms of severe bullying and ridicule. Some children pick up on social cues like sarcasm slower than others, creating a confusing communication gap. Always make sure your child understands that he or she is not at fault for being a victim.

Signs Your Child is Being Bullied

Bullying can be a difficult problem for your child to solve all on their own. Sometimes even the most observant parents can miss the signs that their child is being bullied. Other times, the immediate signs that your child is being bullied at school or away from home are not that obvious. Consider these common indicators if you suspect your child is being bullied:

  • Your child has visible cuts, bruises, or other physical injuries
  • Your child develops a sudden aversion to school or playgroup
  • Your child suddenly takes a different route to school
  • Your child suddenly changes their normal school routine
  • Your child’s personal items begin to go missing

As a parent, engage your son or daughter in a dialogue about bullying and the importance of getting the help of another adult if necessary.

Helping Your Child Deal with a Bully

Always instruct your child to deal with their bully in a way that encourages a nonviolent response to the situation. As a parent, avoid letting your own emotions take charge of your decision making. Sometimes it can be difficult to think clearly when your child’s safety is potentially in danger. Keep these tips in mind for instructing your child to deal with a bully appropriately:

  • Never encourage your child that physical violence is an appropriate response or solution
  • Never encourage your child to respond by learning martial arts or how to fight
  • Never encourage your child to carry a weapon

Walk your child through the process of reaching a verbal agreement with their bully through the use of role playing exercises. Teach them that using words instead of violent actions will help mitigate the risk of violence and injury for both parties involved.

Also engage your son or daughter in a dialogue about the importance of getting the help of another adult. Get in touch with your child’s teacher or another authority figure at school or playgroup that can bring the bully aside and intervene if necessary. Do not be afraid to contact the parents of your child’s bully if you feel your child has been placed in unwarranted physical danger.

Matthew Gibson, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency Pediatrics

Dr. Gibson is a pediatrician in the Omaha area who answers your question about child development and parenting. He chose to specialize in pediatrics, because, "Kids are fun. You get to see them grow, and 'oh my gosh' here's their personality." In working with kids, he gets to be a lifelong learner as he's watching the children grow throughout their lives. He enjoys hearing his patient's stories and learning how he can be the strongest advocate possible for them and to make ...

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