Is your child being bullied or is your child the bully?

  • Published
  • By Laura McGowan
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, one out of every four students report being bullied during the school year, and 64 percent of bullied children did not report it. There are a few ways a parent can tell if their child is being bullied or if their child is the one bullying.

Dr. (Capt.) Matthew Baker, psychiatrist, 88 Medical Operations Squadron, discussed the importance of parents and caregivers having good communication and regular dialogue with their children, because when those channels are open, a parent can readily see certain changes in their child.

Another interesting concept Dr. Baker brought up was that there can be differences in the way a girl bullies as opposed to the way a boy bullies.

"Boy bullies may be more likely to use physical bullying," he said. "Girl bullies may be more likely to utilize social exclusion."

However, either way, the bullied child displays similar signs when they are the target of a bully.

"Fear or anger about having to go to school or ride the bus, and increased physical complaints like headaches or stomachaches are some signs that a child could be being bullied," he said. "There may be changes in their mood or behavior."

Baker said, "The child may also have unexplained bruises and lost or damaged items."

"It is important that a parent intervene early and not to dismiss a child's concerns as 'normal teasing'," he said. 'Brushing it off can make the problem worse and make them less likely to approach you with other important things in the future."

There are ways a concerned parent can approach the subject of bullying with their child, Dr. Baker explained.

"A parent can ask general questions about school, how the child is getting along with other kids or if there's anyone they don't get along with at school. They can encourage their child's involvement in a solution, because that empowers the child to handle future conflicts," Baker said.

Baker added, "Parents should communicate their concerns directly with the school to be sure teachers and administration are aware and have a planned response, but to also encourage their child's involvement in that process."

So what if one family's little angel is actual a bully? There are ways to find that out.

Dr. Baker provides some of the signs that a child may be a bully:

1. They may bully siblings or younger children
2. Repeated teasing or making fun of certain people
3. Excluding or ignoring certain people
4. Frequent trips to the principal's office
5. Having friends who bully others
6. Positive views toward violence and may be aggressive w/parents, teachers and other adults
7. Need to control or dominate others and situations
8. Hot-tempered, impulsive and easily frustrated
9. Tests limits, boundaries and breaks rules regularly
10. Shows little or no sympathy, empathy or compassion for others
11. Gets into fights, steals, vandalizes, poor grades
12. Doesn't take responsibility for their actions, but prefers to blame others

"Parental modeling of appropriate behavior is important," said Baker. "Setting clear rules and consequences is important so the child can know what the expectations are."

"The goal is not to give the bully the reaction they want," he said. "It is important not to advocate violence or reciprocal bullying behaviors."

Because cyberbullying is becoming more prominent in today's culture, it's very important that parents know what their children are doing online. What kinds of things are they posting and commenting on? What sites are they visiting?

While more privacy is afforded to teens and tweens, Dr. Baker stresses that parents should have ready access and passwords to their child's computer, phones and other electronic devices.

When there's an instance of a child committing suicide because of bullying or a video in the news about bullying and fights, that's a perfect opportunity for a parent to discuss the behavior and how they expect their child to act, respond or intervene.

"It's important to promptly address and label behaviors by setting clear rules, praising them for appropriate behaviors and utilizing negative consequences for negative behavior, helping them repair wrongs through apologizing, fixing or redoing something," said Dr. Baker.

"Bullying in childhood can increase risk of suicidal ideation and/or attempts associated with bullying and cyberbullying," he said. "They may show a marked change in personality or mood and make statements to family or friends about not wanting to be around, wanting to die or kill themselves."

If this type of behavior is happening, Baker said to, "Seek immediate assistance from a mental health professional, and go to the nearest ER or behavioral center."

The bottom line is to communicate regularly with your children, Baker said. "Talk to them on a daily basis about their activities, friends and associates. Don't dismiss changes in behavior. If need be, contact their teachers and friends when necessary."

Get KnowBullying, a free app that can help prevent bullying, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at