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What is Bullying?

Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional, persistent and involves an imbalance of power or strength.  Children are not always able to recognize bullying when it happens, so it is important to help them become aware about what it is and what they can do to stop it.Bullying can take many forms, common behaviors may include: teasing, making jokes at another’s expense, gossiping in person, through notes or over the Internet, excluding, ostracizing, name-calling, picking on, threats to persons or property, destruction of property, inappropriate touching, neglect, sexual harassment, physical and sexual abuse.

More about Bullying  

  • Bullying is any behavior aimed at hurting or humiliating another person.
  • Bullying can be physical, verbal or emotional in nature.
  • Bullies often back down when confronted or stood up to in a non-threatening manner.
  • Bullies pick on others they perceive as weaker or physically smaller (especially true for boys).
  • Popular kids can become targets for bullies.
  • Popular kids are also known to engage in bullying behavior.
  • Bullying is not something that only kids do.   

What Can Parents Do? 

  • Talk to your children.
  • Share your values with your children.
  • Make your expectations of your child and his or her behavior clear.
  • Tell your children why bullying is wrong.
  • Be aware that bullying on the internet is rampant.
  • Monitor your child’s computer use and learn about available monitoring programs.
  • Remove computers from your child’s bedroom.
  • Know the warning signs that your child is a victim of bullying.
  • Be aware that some children may be reluctant to talk about being bullied.
  • Help your child problem-solve, let your child know that they can learn to handle problems with their peers.
  • Help your child develop social skills.  
  • Recognize the difference between teasing and bullying.
  • Teach your children about confident behaviors such as eye contact, speech and posture.
  • Do not dismiss or minimize your child’s experiences.
  • Communicate your concerns with your child’s teacher, guidance counselor or administrator. 

Warning Signs of Bullying

  • Hates school 
  • Frequent absences or school avoidance
  • Complains of illness (headache, stomachache) when they appear to be well
  • Changes in personality, seems angry, depressed or withdrawn
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Frequent sleeplessness and nightmares
  • Disinterested in sports or other activities
  • Drop in grades
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Changes in social behavior, prefers to spend time alone
  • Gotten in trouble for fighting
  • Substance abuse (in older children)
  • Suicidal thoughts

Victims of bullying need support from teachers, parents and peers. It can be a traumatizing experience for many and one that carries life-long effects.   Reporting bullying can be done in a safe way but many children are reluctant reporters.  They may believe that others will accuse them of tattling. They may feel shame or think that others will say that they brought this on themselves or that they are simply attention seekers.   In older children, being bullied might suggest they have no control over their lives.  Children also might be fearful of repercussions from their peers or fear that the problem might get worse.  Children need to know that it is better to speak out than it is to keep a problem to themselves.  Talking with your child often helps.   However, if the behavior continues or you see some of the warning signs mentioned, you should seek help from teachers, school counselor or administrative staff.  

Are there gender differences between girls and boys and how they bully? 

Yes.  In general, boys bully more often than girls.   Boys spend more time with other boys in physical activities such as sports and games so they are involved in more physical altercations.  In contrast,   girls spend more of their time socializing with other girls in friendship based activities.   Rather than target a girl directly, girls tend to bully other girls through their peer group.  Also, girls frequently share hurtful information with other girls (and boys) about the targeted child.  For example, a girl may tell other girls in the group an embarrassing story about another girl.  They may name-call, spread rumors or say mean things about her using social networking sites such as Face book or MySpace. They may use her email address to send hurtful messages to everyone on her list. These behaviors are relational in nature because they attack relationships and friendships, often destroying a girl’s enthusiasm and self esteem.   

What Can Kids Do?

Students everywhere can make a difference.  They are stepping up to say, “That’s not cool!” when other kids bully in school.  Reaching out to others being teased and including them in a game or at your lunch table can make someone’s day.

If you are the one being picked on you can say “Please stop.” or “That hurts my feelings”.    Instead of fighting or teasing back try using humor to deflect bullying comments such as “Knock it off” or “Cut It Out”.   Choose words or phrases that you feel comfortable using and practice with your parents or in front of a mirror!    Standing up for yourself in a positive way is empowering and helps you feel in control.   

Why is it important to stand up to a bully?  If bullies didn’t have support from the people around them they wouldn’t bully in the first place. Bullies are not very courageous, they seek power but they’ll back off once they sense disapproval from their peers. They are encouraged when no one speaks up or when they see their victims suffer alone.   Kids need to know that by laughing at a bully’s actions or playing along with them they become a participant in bullying.  

For more information, please visit these helpful resources and the websites linked below.

Help Stop Cyberbullying Before It Starts

October is National Bullying Prevention Month - the perfect time to help teens learn how to resolve conflicts before they escalate. We all know that what starts out as something small - a snide comment, a misunderstanding - can quickly turn into a much larger problem, especially when it happens online.
Share these tips with teens to help them learn how to manage their emotions, make responsible decisions, and avoid digital drama. 
    Pick an activity that makes you feel better like taking a walk, reading a book, or listening to music.
    Call, text, or get online with someone you trust. Choose a friend who will be supportive and calm you down.
It can be hard to tell what people mean online. A comment you see as an insult may have been meant as a joke.
    Some teens have gotten detention, been suspended, and in a few cases even been arrested for things they said online.
    They may be able to give you good advice about how to deal with your feelings and help you talk calmly with the other person.
Visit NetSmartz for more resources at


Novels and Short Chapter Books

Blubber by Judy Blume

Bluish by Virginia Hamilton

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Crash by Jerry Spinelli

Holly’s Secret by Nancy Garden

The Misfits by James Howe

Stick Up for Yourself: Every Kid’s Guide to Personal Power and Positive Self-Esteem by Gershen Kaufman

A Good Friend, How to Make One, How to Keep One by Ron Herron 

Picture Books

Mr. Lincoln’s Way by Patricia Polacco

My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig

Say Something by Peggy Moss

Name Calling by Itah Sadu

Nobody Knew What to Do by Becky Ray Mc Cain

King of the Playground by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

How to Handle Bullies, Teasers and Other Meanies by Kate Cohen-Possey

Bullies are a Pain in the Brain by Trevor Romain