Answers to Your Top 5 Questions About Bullying

Insights into the biggest questions parents have about bullying

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If you are like most parents, it is hard to imagine that your child will ever be bullied. But when it happens, it is not uncommon for you to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation. You also might feel angry, hurt and confused. And you likely will have a million questions running through your head but you may not know where to start.

For instance, you probably want to know why your kid is being targeted and what you can do about it.

Then, you start to fret about how it will impact your child's self-esteem and what you can do to help him heal. You may even wonder how to address the situation with the school. Just how involved should you be and what do you say to the teacher and the principal?

Rest assured that you are not alone when it comes to feeling like you have more questions than answers about bullying. Every parent feels overwhelmed and wonders just where he should start. In fact, it can be challenging to keep the bullying situation in perspective when you are in the midst of a crisis. If you find yourself dealing with similar emotions, stop and take a deep breath. You've got this. Next, take a look at the top five questions parents have about bullying.

Why Do Kids Bully?

The first step to getting inside the mind of a bully is to put aside all the stereotypes and assumptions. Not every kid that bullies another kid is a loner or has issues at home.

In fact, some of the most popular kids in school may be bullying your child. The simple fact is that bullies came in all shapes and sizes and there is no one "type" of kid that bullies.

But what is similar are their motivations to bully. Bullying involves having power over someone. As a result, a lot of kids bully in order to gain popularity, social acceptance, climb the social ladder or to have control in a situation.

Meanwhile, other kids bully because they struggle with envy or they enjoy hurting other people. Bullying, especially cyberbullying, becomes entertainment for them. They get a kick out of the reactions they get from their targets and enjoy the attention the get from bystanders and onlookers.

Keep in mind, though, that while it helps to understand why a bully may be targeting your child, your focus should always remain on what you can do to make your child feel safe at school and online. Do not spend a lot of time trying to understand how to change a bully. Instead, focus on the things you can control like keeping your child safe and changing his perspective of the situation.  

Who Are the Victims?

One of the first question parents often ask themselves is "Why my child?" But the answer is not an easy one. In fact, there are any number of reasons why a child might be bullied. For instance, some kids are bullied because they are good at what they do, such as sports or in school. Or, they might be bullied because they have only a few friends. Others are bullied because they are popular and kids are jealous of them. Still, others are bullied because they are different in some way.

The fact is, anyone can become a victim of bullying.

Too often people indulge in victim-blaming and falsely believe that a victim of bullying brought the bullying on themselves somehow. But that could not be further from the truth. The fault for bullying does not rest on the victim's shoulders but on the bully's. He made a choice to bully. There is nothing wrong with the victim. There is nothing he should do differently. And he is not "too sensitive." Bullying is more about the bully than the victim.

What Can I Do ​About It?

Most parents think that the best thing to do when their child is bullied is to call the principal right away. While this is an important step in addressing a bullying situation, take some time first to hear what your child has to say.

Listening to him and validating his emotions are crucial to his healing. So do not skip over this step. Remind him that it took courage to tell you about the bullying and that you are proud of him. And be willing to listen for as long as he wants to talk. 

Once both you and your child are calm, then you can consider your other options. Empower your child in this situation by allowing him to offer suggestions on how to deal with the bullying at school. Perhaps he wants to try standing up to the bully or defending himself before he goes to the principal to report it.

In more severe cases where there is violence, threats of violence, sexual bullying or other more significant actions, contacting the school and reporting the bullying is a necessity. The key is that your child helps make the decision. By allowing him some ownership in dealing with the bullying situation, he will gain back some of the power he lost and feel better about himself overall.

If you do end up contacting the school, be sure you are calm when you reach out. Not only is it unwise to rush in and call the principal before you have all the facts, but you also want to be sure you can speak clearly and coherently. If you are really upset when you call, the person on the receiving end will likely focus on your emotions rather than your message.

Try to set a meeting with the teacher or principal to discuss the situation in person. But if schedules do not permit, a telephone conversation is fine. Once you have discussed the situation, ask what the next steps will be. You also should find out what the school officials plan to do to keep your child safe. And finally set a date to follow up. Both you and the school should continue to follow on the situation. Bullying situations often take several interventions before they are resolved.

How Will Bullying Affect My Child?

There is no doubt about it, bullying is scary, especially if your child is the victim. You probably have all types of worries and concerns. For instance, you want your child to feel safe and secure at school but you also are worried about his mental state. Is he internalizing the messages the bully has communicated? Does he feel alone, afraid or isolated at school?

The fact is bullying is not to be taken lightly. It has a significant impact and should always be addressed. Letting bullying continue only results in more negative consequences for victims. And in extreme cases, bullying can lead to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and even depression. In very extreme cases, some kids may even have thoughts of suicide. Be sure you are doing everything you can to help end the bullying in your child's life.  

How Can I Help My Child Heal?

When it comes to overcoming bullying, focus on your child's health and wellbeing. As tempting as it may be to focus on the bully, what he did to your child and the consequences you feel he should experience for his actions, these things are secondary to making sure your child is safe and healing from the trauma. Keep your focus on what you can do to keep your child safe at school or online. You also should talk regularly with your child and watch for signs that he is becoming depressed.

If the bullying was severe or ongoing, it is always a good idea to get outside help for your child. Talk to your child's pediatrician for referrals for counselors specializing in recovery from bullying. Additionally, your pediatrician can screen your child for depression and other issues related to bullying. The key is that you keep working with your child and getting him help until the negative impact of bullying has been greatly reduced and your child feels healthy and whole again. 

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