Bullying in the Middle Years

Is your child being bullied?

Bullying is abusive behavior. Although it can happen at any stage of life, it seems to be particularly prevalent
during the elementary and middle school years. Bullying can take many forms, but it typically includes:

  • Physical harm: hitting, shoving or tripping
  • Emotional harm: making fun of the way a kid acts, looks or talks
  • Taunting, teasing
  • Writing mean things or sending hurtful pictures of someone online (cyberbullying)
  • Girls who bully usually do so in emotional ways
  • Boys who bully often do so in both physical and emotional ways

We’re here to help

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we want you to know that we care about what your child is going through,
as well as about his/her health. Please come in with your child to talk with us if he/she is being bullied, or if
you suspect that he/she is. Together, we will find solutions for how to stop the bullying so that your child can
be healthy, happy and safe.

Why do kids bully?

Bullies seek power at someone else’s expense, and they want to harm that person over and over
— emotionally and/or physically — to get it. It’s a form of aggression where one or more kids
repeatedly intimidate, harass or abuse another kid who can’t defend himself/herself. Bullies are
typically influenced by:

1) Uncontrolled anger. The #1 cause of bullying behavior is anger, particularly in kids who
have no way to manage it.

2) No consequences. If adults don’t stop bullying behavior, it often gets worse. Bullies get the
message that this behavior is ok because adults don’t care and/or aren’t stopping it.

3) Home life. Domestic violence, emotional and/or physical abuse, anger and hostility at home
can easily turn someone into a bully.

4) Media and video games. Seeing bullying behavior in the media and in video games can be a
powerful influence, particularly if this behavior is seen as being rewarded.

5) Other factors: low impulse control, low tolerance of frustration, a need to control or
dominate, trouble with authority, and extreme aggressiveness.

How you can help your child deal with bullying

You can help your child stand up to bullying by urging him/her to talk to a teacher, school counselor or you. Many children are too embarrassed or afraid to tell an adult about bullying. They may think that involving a grownup will only make the problem worse, but actually, silence only favors the bully. Telling someone about what’s going on is the first step to stopping it.

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, here is some advice that over the years, our parents have told us has been very helpful regarding bullying:

1) Be familiar with signs that your child may be being bullied, such as frequent headaches, stomachaches or not wanting to go to school. Also, ask your child whom he or she has lunch with or plays with at recess, and the names of his/her friends. If you sense something is wrong, contact the proper administrator at school.

2) Talk about the situation. Many children who are being bullied will open up when in the right environment. A good place for these discussions is in the car or a similar place where you have little eye-to-eye contact. The most important thing is to listen. Don’t promise that you won’t tell anyone, because you may need to become involved. Assure your child that you will do your very best not to make problems worse.

3) Practice role-playing at home. Encourage your child to react calmly and confidently to taunting. Help him/her understand that responding with physical aggression or insults usually will make the problem worse. For example, have your child practice saying “Leave me alone” and then walking away.

4) Teach your child behaviors that show confidence rather than shyness and vulnerability.
Assure your child that confident behavior can be learned. Help build his/her self-esteem by encouraging new activities or clubs as a way of meeting new friends (and avoiding the bully). Plus, having friends and interests can boost a child’s confidence and make him/her less likely to be bullied.

5) Encourage your child to think about and try to exhibit the qualities that make a good
friend, such as sharing, empathy, compassion, humor and loyalty.

6) Suggest that your child join activities that are supervised by a responsible adult. Bullying is less likely to occur near adults.