Frequently Asked Questions
Why do kids bully?
Typically kids bully because they feel bad about something and this is their “upside down” way of dealing with it. They think they will feel better and more powerful if they can push someone else around or hurt them. There are other instances where kids may have seen someone else—in the neighborhood or at home or on TV—being a bully and they are copying them.
What should I do if my child is being a bully?
There are two important things that we can do when our child is being a bully. First, we need to let them know that it is just not okay to act as a bully. Period. Second, we need to understand why they are acting this way. We may—understandably—feel frustrated and angry. But, this kind of response is not helpful. Sometimes talking with your child helps both you and him or her to understand what is driving this behavior. There are other instances when it is really helpful to confer with your child’s teacher, school counselor or principal or someone you trust from your neighborhood.
Should I keep a record of instances when my child is being bullied?
Yes, keep a log of the bullying events: when, where, who (including witnesses), what happened. Present this log to the teacher and other school personnel—but not during school hours when other students can see you there. Presenting such a log is an example of how parents and guardians can be upstanders.
If my child is being bullied should I talk to a lawyer?
Perhaps. We suggest that initially it is important to first talk with the teacher, the principal and other school leaders (e.g. from your school board) in your community. Parents, school board leaders and educators need to work together to promote effective bully prevention and pro-upstander efforts. Working in partnership is the best way to effectively prevent bullying and promote upstander behavior.
However, there are instances when school leaders may be unresponsive to your concerns. In fact, more and more states do have bully prevention laws. What is clear is that we must protect our children from bullying and this may sometimes necessitate our conferring with lawyers.
If my child is being bullied, might it be their fault in some way?
Being a victim or target of bullying is never simply the child’s fault. Your first job as a parent or guardian is to protect your child. And, blaming never helps! As we learn about what happened, we certainly want to understand—with the child—about what (if anything) they may be doing—by mistake—to contribute to being picked on. There are rare instances when children do – provocatively and almost intentionally—seek to be picked on or bullied. This is rare and when it seems to be the case, it is always helpful to confer with a school counselor or another mental health professional.
If my child is being bullied, should I allow him or her to stay home from school?
There may be very rare instances when it is safest for our child to stay home from school for a day or so, but this will never resolve the problem. What is most important is to understand what has happened and whether there’s any pattern. As a parent, we can rarely solve these problems alone; we need to confer with our child’s teachers or school counselors. Optimally, this needs to be a real team effort with teachers and other authority figures from the school.
If I have concerns about bullying, should I go into the school?
Yes. If you have any concerns and certainly concerns about safety (social-emotional and/or physical) it is always a good idea to confer with educators at your child’s school.
Cyberbulling is a growing concern. How do I keep track of my student’s activities online without invading their privacy?
Good question. On the one hand this depends, in part on how old and mature your child is. For younger children we need to educate them about what is and is not safe on the internet. When our child begins to use the internet, it is a good idea to track and monitor their activities, just as we track and monitor how they are—gradually—more and more able to walk home from school alone or be independently responsible in any number of ways. Children need to show us that they have been acting responsibly and developing a track record in these areas.
This question is most complicated for teenagers who are responsible in many ways but do act irresponsibly sometimes. In some ways, this is normal. It is often best to be open about why we are nervous and to discuss our concerns with our kids. This is something that is also always helpful to talk about with other parents and educators from our child’s school. You are not alone in being concerned about this and sometimes, feeling unsure about what to do.
To learn more about cyberbullying from experts in the field, visit the Resources section.
I’m embarrassed to say that I was a bully at times when I was little. Would this be helpful to talk about with my child?
What a great question! In fact, in our conversations with parents and guardians across America we have learned that many of us were (or still are!) bullies sometimes. We all make mistakes! In fact, being human means that we make mistakes sometimes. What varies on the other hand is (1) to what extent we recognize and (2) can learn from our mistakes. Talking about moments when we may have been a bully and why this was and what we think about it now can be a very, very powerful way to be a helpful social, emotional and civic teacher.