Talking About Bullying

By Rob Baquera, Public Information Officer, Roseville Police Department

When does teasing become bullying?
Some would say teasing is a natural part of growing up. As we know, teasing or bullying can have a significant impact on the life of a child. When teasing becomes repetitive or when there’s a conscious intent to hurt another child, then it should be considered bullying. It can be verbal bullying (making threats, name-calling), psychological bullying (excluding children, spreading rumors), or physical bullying (hitting, pushing, taking a child’s possessions).

Bullying can have significantly negative outcomes for both the bully and the victim. When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows that this can stop bullying behavior over time. Research also shows that teachers and parents don’t typically witness bullying and so they are not aware of most bullying behavior.

For younger kids, the best way to solve a bullying problem is teach them to tell a trusted adult. For teens though, the tell-an-adult approach depends on the bullying situation. One situation in which it is vital to report bullying is if it has the potential to lead to physical danger and harm. When teens stay silent, it can give the bully free rein to become more and more violent.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, report it to school administration. If the bullying behavior has risen to the level of physical assaults, consider also reporting the incident(s) to your local law enforcement agency.

We know it’s not possible for every parent or teacher to view all bullying behavior. Here are a few tips from the website KidsHealth.org you can use to coach your child through a tough situation:

1. Ignore the bully and walk away. This shows that you just don’t care.
2. Hold the anger and use humor. Don’t give a bully control of your emotions.
3. Don’t get physical. Showing anger through being physical invites the bully to retaliate.
4. Practice confidence. Rehearse what you are going to say when confronted by a bully, and practice not reacting, even if you have to fake it.
5. Take charge of your life, stay true to yourself. Encourage your child to focus on actions that make them feel their best and strongest.
6. Talk about it with trusted adults. School Youth Services Officers, counselors, teachers, or friends are great resources to talk about fears and frustrations.

What if your child is bullying others?
There are a multitude of reasons why a child might be acting out through bullying. It’s important to keep in mind that kids don’t bully because they are “bad kids.” Kids are still figuring themselves out and can make mistakes. Also, a child may not fully grasp how their behavior is making the victim feel. This is particularly true of younger kids. Talk with your child and try to understand their point of view, and guide them through appropriate friendship behaviors. This can curb bullying and address the issues that might have caused it to happen in the first place.

What kids can do when they see bullying?
Kids may not know what to do when they see peers being bullied. In addition to informing a teacher, parent, or trusted adult, children can also do their part to help. Encourage them to be kind to others; and if they see someone being left out, include them in activities or sit next to them at lunch. Just hanging out together will let them know they aren’t alone.

Bullying occurs at all ages and among boys and girls. As a result, children will no doubt experience some type of bullying in their childhood. Since most incidents occur when adults are not present, it is important to teach your children skills on how to handle bullying when it arises. Take time to discuss what bullying looks like and what they should do when they see or experience it. It will be time well spent, and your children will feel comfortable coming to you when they have questions.

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