With the controversial, and acclaimed, film “Bully” in theaters and constant coverage in the news media, it seems bullying is a widespread problem in communities across the country.

Teachers, school administrators, and parents nationwide are searching for solutions. According to the Bully Project “research shows that bullying can negatively impact a child’s access to education and lead to:

  • School avoidance and higher rates of absenteeism
  • Decrease in grades
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Loss of interest in academic achievement
  • Increase in dropout rates.”

Talking with your kids about bullying may not be easy, but it’s important. You can help them recognize the signs of bullying and teach them how to deal with bullies. It may be hard to know where to start, especially if you didn’t have to deal with bullies when you were growing up. But these tips and strategies can help.


image credit: Grant Cochrane

What exactly is bullying?

It is important to understand exactly what constitutes bullying in order to recognize it when it occurs. According to StopBullying.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”

It’s also important to remember that bullies can be other kids or even adults, as we saw recently in the alleged bullying incident at Horace Mann Elementary School in Cherry Hill, N.J. No matter who the culprit is, it is critical that parents and school personnel know how to spot bullying when it is happening and how to talk with children about bullying in order to properly address the problem.


One difference between past generations and today’s school-age children is that bullying doesn’t just take place at recess anymore. With the advent of social media and more and more students having access to cell phones and the internet bullying is happening both on and offline. Bullying is happening via electronic technology like cell phones, computers, tablets, social media sites, text messages, chat, and the web. The worst part about cyberbullying is that it happens 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even when children are alone. Cyberbullying can even be anonymous and is easily distributed to a very wide audience.

How To Start A Conversation About Bullying With Your Child In 5 Easy Steps

  1. It’s important to listen closely to your child, even if you don’t have the same opinion.
  2. Try using examples from TV or music to start a conversation. You can also do some role-playing with different ways to stop bullying.
  3. Let your kids know that if they’re being bullied — or see it happening to someone else — they should talk to an adult about it, either you, or a teacher, family member, or school counselor. Tell children to get an adult involved as soon as the bullying starts.
  4. Ask questions to find out if your kid is worried that talking about bullying makes him a tattletale? Is your child afraid to go to school because of bullying?
  5. Emphasize that it’s the bully who is behaving badly — not your child. Reassure your child that you will figure out what to do about it together. Ask your child what you can do to help.

Tips & Strategies

Talk with parents of your child’s friends as well as teachers, guidance counselors, and the principal.

If you are present when bullying occurs, talk with the kids who are being aggressive. Explain to them how their behavior is affecting the other children and why it’s wrong.

If your kids are staying isolated, or trying to avoid school and have chronic stomach aches and headaches it may be an excuse to stay away from school. Be on the lookout for red flags like this. It may be the signal that it’s time to talk to your child about bullying.

About the Author

Anthony SillsAnthony Sills writes for Criminal Justice Degree Schools, a career resource site providing comprehensive information on criminal justice careers and degrees.

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