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Child Behavior: Is your child being bullied?

Know the signs

Is your child being bullied

Bullying occurs throughout the Hudson Valley in school, on street corners, and in playgrounds. Dr. Paul Schwartz, child behavior
expert from Mount St. Mary College, cautions that "victims of bullying are ashamed, embarrassed or too frightened to tell that they have been victims of a bully, it is important for parents to be aware of the most frequent symptoms of a child being bullied." 

These are some clues that may indicate your child is being bullied:

School avoidance 
 school phobia, truancies or complaining of vague somatic complaints that need staying home as a cure. The “I’ve got a stomach ache” syndrome.

 Changes in sleeping, eating or social activity

Losing weight or being hungrier than usual after school 
 some children whose lunch or lunch money is extorted don’t eat and are too embarrassed to report the event to parents or school personnel.

"Lost items" – these may be items taken from the child or paid as a bribe to stop some form of punishment. 


Lack of communication the child might be quick to answer “nothing” when questioned about what’s wrong, when they come home seeming sad.


In addition to recognizing the symptoms of bullying it is important that parents take direct action to stop the bullying from occurring. Intervening as a parent of a bullied child can be a challenging task. While you want to convey empathy and support for your child you similarly want to let him know you have confidence in his ability to handle the situation.  A parent can’t just rush in and rescue the child, without considering peer reactions and how direct intervention from a parent can often make matters worse for a child or adolescent being bullied. 

READ MORE: What parents need to know about cyberbullying

Additionally, certain interpersonal behavior taught by parents might also need to be reevaluated.  We often tell our children not to “tattle." However, in this inequitable situation where the overwhelming one-sided balance of power is creating hardship, loss and often pain to one child, both children need external intervention to “work it out." This is especially true when one child is too frightened or embarrassed to let the situation be known as most of these occurrences happen without the parents or teachers knowledge. 

Parents also have to rethink telling a child to hit back or retaliate as an effective strategy as many schools have a zero-tolerance policy for any type of fighting and this may result in punishment or suspension for your child even though he had a reason to fight.  It’s important for a parent to help a child feel that he's in control of how the situation should be handled. 

Four things to do (or not do): 

  • Try not to negate the child’s contribution by dismissing his analysis of the situation or suggestions for resolution.
  • Try to help the child explore all possible solutions stressing the importance of involving the child’s teacher, other school personnel and possibly the bully’s parents. 
  • Help the child to evaluate the pros and cons of all approaches that ends the bullying. 
  • Above all help the child choose a solution, and if possible choose the one that maximizes the child’s role, for example, being assertive not aggressive, and a solution that minimizes your direct involvement.  This type of problem solving will have the advantage of increasing your child’s confidence – and will also decrease the chances that your child will become an increased or continuous target of bullying based upon the fact that he always runs home to have mommy fight his battles for him. 

Whatever specific strategy is selected, researchers on bullying behavior are clear that awareness and involvement of all parties involved must be incorporated.  "All parties" means the child being bullied, the bully, the parents of both children, and the school as that is the most frequent site of occurrence. 

Whatever strategy used, it is critical that something be done to interrupt the cycle of violence or abuse befalling some children who experience years of schooling in a state of fear and anxiety. As adults we are fully aware how dangerous and frightening a place the world can be, and children especially need to be made to feel they have power to control bullying and that school can continue to be a safe haven for them.

Other articles by Paul Schwartz