Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Bullying: How to Help the Victim
As many as 20% of all children attending school are afraid
through much of the school day. Some of these children
avoid lunch, recess, and the bathrooms out of fear that they
will be humiliated or picked on by bullies. These are not
children who are teased occasionally or who sometimes get
into fights with their peers. These are children who are
targeted over and over again. They cannot defend themselves
against stronger, more powerful peers. This power imbalance
is the essence of bullying.
The consequences of growing up as a victim or a bully can be
very severe. Victims may suffer from anxiety, low
self-esteem, and depression. Their academic progress may be
slowed. As they grow older, girl victims may become
involved in relationships in which they are abused. Some
victims attempt suicide out of desperation, believing that
no one will help them.
Research shows that a bully suffers also. Many bullies fail
to keep jobs or maintain interpersonal relationships when
they reach early adulthood. A high percentage are convicted
of crimes by age 24.
How to Find Out If Your Child Is Being Bullied
To find out if your child is being bullied, look for these
- excuses for not wanting to go to school
- unexplained bruises
- torn clothing
- need for extra school supplies or money
- continually losing belongings
- problems sleeping
- sudden loss of appetite
- sudden academic problems
- secretive or sullen behavior or temper outbursts
- big appetite after school (ASK WHY: someone may be
taking lunch or money)
- excessive trips to the school nurse, especially during
unstructured time (such as lunch or recess)
- rushing to the bathroom after school (ASK WHY: your
child may be frightened to use the bathroom at school due
How to Help: Steps to Bully Proof Your Child
- Teach your child self-respect.
Confident children are less likely to become victims.
Teach your child how to use "self talk," which is a
silent pep talk one can use when feeling picked on. The
child should select something good about him- or herself
and think about that during difficult moments.
- Encourage friendships.
There is strength in numbers. Encourage your child to
walk down the hall, into the lunchroom, or out to recess
with others. Bullies will quickly target a child who is
alone. Your child should stay near others even if they
are not close friends. Better yet, your child should
make close friends and the children should protect one
- Teach your child effective skills for making friends.
Skills for making friends include how to share,
compromise, change the topic to avoid conflict,
apologize when appropriate, and use a diplomatic
- Build social skills.
Problem-solve difficult social situations and diplomatic
responses during the dinner hour. Something that has
been practiced is easier to use when a difficult moment
arises. Social skill groups are available in many
schools today and books for both parents and children
can be found in local libraries and bookstores.
- Stress the importance of body language.
A submissive or victim stance may attract bullies. Your
child should not have an intimidated, slouched
appearance. Encourage your child to stand up straight
and hold his or her head high. If a bully approaches,
your child shouldn't freeze. It is best to walk away
and join a group of children.
- Do not encourage physically attacking the bully.
Bullies are usually stronger or have better
social-networking skills than their victims. More often
than not, attacking bullies will provoke them to take
- Let the school know your safety worries.
Talk to the principal and teachers about your concerns.
- Teach your child protective strategies.
The following six strategies can help your child with
bullies: Help, Assert yourself, Humor, Avoid, Self
talk, Own it. These six strategies are easily
remembered by children with the phrase "HA HA SO."
Children are encouraged to imagine an invisible shield
that drops over them with the letters HA HA SO on the
shield. They can use these protective strategies and
one or more can be chosen during a bullying situation.
H Help. Get help. Find a friend or adult you can
A Assert yourself. Use an "I" statement to protect
yourself. Say something like, "I like being
different" or "I am sorry you don't want to get to
know me better before you call me that."
H Humor. Use humor. Do or say something funny or
even something just plain outrageous to throw the
bully off balance. For example, if called a
"chicken," start walking like a chicken and flapping
A Avoid. Stay away from bullies. If you notice a
bully and can take another path across the
playground, do that.
S Self talk. Give yourself a silent pep talk,
reminding yourself of positive things. For example,
you might think of something like, "I may not be
good at track, but I'm proud of how I play the
O Own it. If the put-down is about clothing or
something you can change, just agree with the bully.
Say something like, "Yeah, I don't like this sweater
either. It sure is ugly, but I wore it because my
aunt made it and she is visiting this week."
(Caution your child not to use this technique for
something inherent to the child, such as skin color
or ethnic group.) If the put-down is about
something you can't or don't want to change, hold
your head high, own who you are with pride, and tell
the other child you like being who you are.
Bully Proofing Your School
There is a comprehensive program for schools that addresses
bully/victim problems. "Bully Proofing Your School" is
available from Sopris West at:
4093 Specialty Place
Longmont, Colorado 80504