Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


November 1st, 2013

In the last blog we discussed what to do if you think your child is a bully.  Now, let’s discuss what to do if you think your child is being bullied.

  1. First, help him or her to talk about it – establish an atmosphere conducive to talking about the feelings of shame and humiliation he/she may feel. Don’t leap in with suggestions or quick judgments; such attempts to help are often experienced by the child as a kind of psychic bullying. Encourage your child to speak directly with the authority figure responsible for harmony and safety (teacher, principal, swimming pool director, etc.) to give your child an active, assertive role in resolving the problem.
  2. For many parents, the first thing to do seems to be to call the parents of the other child, but rushing into fix it for your child (i.e. contacting the bullying child’s parents and demanding an apology) may ultimately worsen the situation; at the very least, you and your child should work together to deal with the bully. 
  3. If your child is being bullied you also should notify the organization or place where the bullying is taking place, such as the school, camp, or venue for an after-school activity.
  4. Your child will need some experience of “fighting back” so that he or she does not simply feel further victimized. It helps to have your child understand the psychology of the bully, that he or she is “egged” on by overly passive or insecure behaviors and that some amount of confident and even humorous self-assertion can often help your child to get through the next ominous encounter.
  5. Never encourage your child to fight physically because it can just escalate the violence (possibly with significant danger to your child) and reinforce fighting as a solution.
  6. If your child cannot overcome his or her fear and anxiety about a bully, it is wise to seek outside help, especially if fear, anxiety, and depression are interfering with day-to-day life.
  7. Support your child’s friendships and social network throughout the ordeal of dealing with a bully; this is the time when your child most needs to feel he or she is not ostracized because of being the bully’s victim.

The key issue in bullying is that intimidation occurs repeatedly and becomes a form of harassment and abuse of other children. It is important for parents to become active in their community in order to avoid bullying issues. For instance: there are effective intervention programs across the country that parents should get involved with in their children’s schools. Schools should be encouraged to create and enforce anti-bullying policies and to have class discussions about bullies. Conflict resolution classes can also be very helpful.

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.

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