Help Stomp Out Bullying this October

Stop Bullying

Bullying is an age-old problem; however after the shootings at Columbine experts and educators began to recognize that bullying is a much large problem with deadly consequences if not addressed. The month of October is designated as National Bullying Prevention Month. October 21st is a day to raise awareness by wearing orange show your support.

As focus on bullying as increased, the traditional view that “children will do mean things to each other as part of growing up” is no longer accepted. Psychologists as such Dan Olweus, PhD define bullying as “repeated negative, ill-intentioned behavior by one or more students directed against a student who has difficulty defending him or herself. Most bullying occurs without any apparent provocation on the part of the student who is exposed.”

The tricky part of bullying is that bullies are not unpopular and ostracized children themselves. A 2000 study by psychologist Philip Rodkin, PhD, involving elementary school age boys found that bullying boys are well liked by peers and teachers alike and they are not the insecure and anxious children who pick on others due to their own low self-esteem. This is an element of some bullies, but many others bully because they can and it allows them to feel a sense of a power; a feeling many boys this age yearn for.

Parents want answers as to how to stop their children from being bullied. While anti-bullying laws as well as school-wide anti-bullying initiatives help, we all know children who continue to experience bullying today.

Here are some suggestions for what parents and adults can do to stop the bullying cycle:

  • Role model. Parents and adults are the ultimate role models for children. Adults need to commit to lead with kindness and showcase positive behavior to all children, who copy what adults do. Limit reality TV that emphasizes bullying behaviors and instead focus on acts of kindness and tolerance of others.
  • Stop Sibling Bullying. A study, published in 2014 in the journal Pediatrics, found that adults who reported being physically assaulted, having their toys stolen or broken, or endured emotional abuse by a sibling as a child, had an increase in mental health symptoms as adults. Recognize the difference between rivalry and bullying. Bullying occurs when there is a clear power differential between two siblings and when the two siblings almost never share any kindness.
  • Empower bullying bystanders. Ask your well-adjusted, typical children, who are neither bullies or victims of bullies, if they witness bullying and ask them what they do to stop it. Explain that even though bullying is not happening to them, they are key in the cycle of change. If they can stand up to bullies and not be silent, the bully will lose their audience and experience less power and control when bullying others. Praise and reward children who do take an active stand against bullies.
  • Teach ways to cope. Don’t give up on helping your child to feel embowered against the bullies. Teach him to look the bully in the eye and ignore him; teach him to actively tune out name calling by thinking of something positive when it’s happening. Generate a mantra that the victim can use during bullying and in the morning and at bedtime. Mantras are personal and positive like “I am kind person with a loving family and friends and this bully is not.” Teach him to walk in groups and practice having him stand up to the bullying. Teach him to speak in from of a mirror with comebacks such as ‘Yeah, whatever or I know you’re talented at being mean, we can all agree, ok”, while he keeps walking away.
  • Younger child have a voice. Children younger than middle school may have an easier time standing up because the teachers have more control and children tend to be on a more equal playing field at younger ages. Teach him to speak up by saying “STOP!” or “KNOCK IT OFF!” This demonstrates that he is able to defend himself against bullying without being a direct tattletale.
  • Name-calling. Name-calling is not something that needs to devastate him or make him afraid. Name-calling is just a way for the bully to intimidate and show power. It’s nothing to be afraid of, and it shouldn’t shake his confidence. He can keep his headphones in and smile and keep walking.
  • Always inform the school of the bullying. Talk to the school staff about your child’s fears and his desire to display a more assertive and confident posture in response to the bully and ask the staff for ways they can support him. For example, ask if he can be with a friend at all times during the start of the school year, so that his new responses can be delivered with a supportive friend nearby.
  • Watch for cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying is on the rise with teens’ increasing use of technology via social media sites and apps. Have victims of cyber bullying block bullies immediately and report cyber bullying to school and local authorities. If he is a victim limit his use of social media as chances are it will happen again and the less he uses social media the less it will happen. Cyber bullying only works if victims know of it.

Parents if your child is bullied don’t give up. Bullies are everywhere and it’s as important to teach your child strategies for responding to bullies. Together, we can help stop bullying by raising awareness this October and every day!

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Dr. Kate Roberts is a psychologist and parent coach on the North Shore. Questions can be directed to,