Is Your Child Being Bullied? 9 Steps You Can Take as a Parent

by Janet Lehman, MSW
Is Your Child Being  Bullied? 9 Steps You Can Take as a Parent

As we all know too well, name–calling, cruel taunts, cyberbullying and physical bullying happen every day to kids across the country. When your child is being bullied, it’s hard to concentrate on anything else—all you want to do is make it stop immediately. Janet Lehman, MSW explains what you can do to help your child—and what could hurt them in the long run.

The lesson for our son was that while he couldn’t stop people from saying bad things, he had some control over how he responded to it.

At some point, your child will be picked on or will have his feelings hurt by others. We all have our trials and tribulations with our kids, no matter who we are. An unavoidable part of living is finding solutions to problems, even when they are not easy or comfortable.

In my opinion, bullying is a real problem that needs to be solved as a family. Our son was bullied in middle school and high school. We lived in a small rural community where he went to elementary school; the teachers were very aware of all the kids and very attentive. In some ways it was an ideal school. Unfortunately, they had no junior high or high school in our community, so we had to make the choice to send our son to a large urban school nearby.

Soon, he started to come home with some very disturbing stories about how other kids were teasing him, calling names and taunting him. These children didn’t have any clear reason why they were bullying our son other than he was the new kid; he was perceived as being different. Our son would come home each day with terrible stories about things that had happened. My husband, James, and I tried hard not to react too strongly when he talked to us. We did not want to seem too upset about it, because we really wanted to listen to what our child had to say without making it worse by over–reacting. We tried to remain as neutral as possible, but we were not always successful. Our son was upset and depressed, and it broke our hearts.

Related: How to parent effectively in difficult times.

Over time we were able to resolve these issues as a family, but I want to stress that it didn’t happen overnight, much as we wanted it to. It took a lot of work with both the school and our son to find a solution to the problem. Along the way, we learned some valuable lessons that I believe played a big part in resolving the issue for our son.

Here are 9 steps you can take when your child is being bullied.

1. Listen to what your child has to say: Being a good listener is an important piece of your role when your child is being bullied. One of the best questions you can ask your child is, “What can I do to be helpful?” When your child tells you what’s going on at school, as much as it hurts to listen, be open and able to hear what he has to say. Try to be supportive but neutral when he’s talking. When you react too strongly to what your child is saying, he might stop talking because he’s afraid he’s going to upset you.

The other side of listening is not blaming your child. Don’t put the responsibility for the bullying on him or try to find a reason for it; there is no good reason or excuse for what’s happening. If your child is being bullied, he is the victim, so trying to find a reason for why he’s “bringing it on himself” really isn’t helpful. Never blame your child because it makes him anxious and reduces what he’s going to tell you. Your goal is that he continues to communicate what’s going on.

Related: How to get through to your child: effective communication with difficult kids.

2. If you were bullied as a child, try not to personalize what is happening. If you were bullied when you were younger, the same situation with your child will most likely bring up painful memories. It’s okay to connect with your child about how it feels to be bullied, but don’t take the problem on as if it’s yours alone. I think the most important thing to do when your child is bullied is to remember the responses you received from others that were—or weren’t—helpful. Use what worked and avoid doing what was unsupportive or hurtful.

3. Don’t retaliate against the bully or his family. As tempting as it might be to take matters into your own hands and retaliate against the bully or his family, don’t do it. This is where you have to set some examples for your child on how to problem solve. It’s very difficult to hear that your child is being threatened; of course you want to immediately stop the hurt. But remember, retaliating won’t help your child solve the problem or feel better about himself. Instead, take a deep breath and think about what you can do to help your child handle what he’s facing.

4. Coach your child on how to react: Bullies tend to pick on people who they can get a reaction from; they choose kids who get upset and who take the teasing to heart. They also look for kids who won’t stand up for themselves, or who they can overpower. It’s important to teach your child how to react. We coached our son on how to avoid bullies at school and who to go to if he felt unsafe. We also did role plays together where we practiced not reacting to what the bullies said. Another part of what we did was set it up so that our son had some control over what was going on. He couldn’t stop the bullying right away, but he could get himself away from it and he could find someone to talk to about it.

Related: The three most effective roles you can play as a parent: teacher, coach and limit setter.

5. Find a teacher or administrator at your child’s school who will help: Remember, it is the school’s responsibility to stop bullying; I think most take that seriously. The saving grace for our son was the guidance counselor at his school. She provided a safe place for our son to go when he was being picked on. The guidance counselor wanted him to feel like he had some control over the situation, so our child was the one taking the initiative to talk with her. (While we didn’t openly discuss this with him, he knew at some level that we were also talking to the guidance counselor.) We felt it was important for our child to have some sense of taking this problem on and solving it by going to the guidance counselor on his own.

After he started talking with her, she let him know that he could just sit in her office, even if she wasn’t there; the school allowed him to basically take a time out or break to get away from the bullying situation. Again, that gave him some control over what was going on. It gave him a source of support and made him feel like he wasn’t powerless. By talking to the guidance counselor and using his pass to go to her office, it showed him that there were some solutions to the situation.

It’s also important to make sure your child keeps talking—whether it’s with you, a guidance counselor or a trusted teacher, it’s important that he keeps communicating about what’s going on.

6. Take your child’s side: When our son was being bullied, we constantly reaffirmed that there were things he could do to handle the situation, and that he was in fact doing them. We let him know that we were going to get him help and that we loved him and we were going to support him. We also said that there was no excuse for what was happening to him. Make sure to let your child know that you’re on his side; he needs to understand that you don’t blame him and that you will support him.

We also let our child know that if he retaliated against the group, by swearing back or even fighting, that we wouldn’t punish him at home. Our son was bullied physically and verbally, and we told him that he could do what he needed to do to protect himself. We told him that he would still have consequences at school for any misbehavior because that would be against the rules, but we didn’t add to them at home. 

Related: How to stay calm when your child is going through tough times.

7. Get support: Be sure to talk to your spouse or to supportive family or friends. Sometimes I would burst out crying after hearing about what had happened to our son. There were definitely times when James and I got angry. I think the bottom line is that this situation can really bring out emotions from parents.

We found that we needed to talk with each other about this as a couple because it was so hurtful, and because we wanted to be clear in how we communicated to our son. I recommend that single parents reach out to somebody—a family member, friend, or someone at the school—anyone who can help you help your child. We reached out to friends and colleagues as well, and asked how they handled it when it happened to their kids. If nothing else, it helped us feel like we weren’t alone and that there wasn’t anything wrong with our child.

8. Teach your child to name what’s happening: For younger kids, it’s important to be able to name what’s happening as “bullying.” For a child who’s feeling picked on, it’s empowering to be able to really name it. They’re teaching a lot about bullying prevention in school these days and “bully” is such a negative word that it’s good for your child to be able to attach it to the behavior. This is truly empowering for many children and can work with older kids, as well.

9. Find something your child is really good at doing: Help your child feel good about himself by finding something he can do well. Choose some activities he’s good at and reinforce it verbally. Our son got involved in swimming and it was very helpful for his self–esteem.

Fortunately, he got through that year and developed some great friendships. That summer we signed him up for a summer camp program. He went there still feeling a bit like a victim, and came out a completely different human being. Camp was a place where he really excelled and it just fed his self–esteem.

So try to find a positive experience for your child to help him feel good about himself. Remember, every time he succeeds, it helps him develop better self–esteem; that feeling is the opposite of how the bullies make him feel.

Bullying is not something your child is going to get over immediately—or simply because he wants it to be over. It can be long a process. The lesson for our son was that while he couldn’t stop people from saying bad things, he had some control over how he responded to it.

Look at it this way: a lot of people feel stuck in their jobs. But the minute they figure out that they have a choice—that they can either stay there or go somewhere else—they feel better. It’s that stuck place, that feeling of being completely powerless and trapped, that is the worst. I think what our son got out of this whole situation was finding those small pieces of control and exerting them, bit by bit.

Related: The most important skill to teach your child—how to problem solve.

Again, all of this took a lot of time. We didn’t come up with solutions quickly. It took time for our son to trust the guidance counselor and then for us to encourage him to go talk to her. After a while, we could see that everything we were doing was starting to work. Overcoming a bullying episode takes support, and it takes everyone working together as a family to make it happen.

Signs that your child is being bullied:

  • Not going to the bathroom at school. A lot of bullies attack in the bathroom, away from cameras and adults. Avoiding unsupervised activities and areas.
  • Getting upset after a phone call, text or email.
  • Losing friends they previously had.
  • Being more isolated and skipping activities that they used to enjoy. Spending more time alone in their rooms.
  • Making negative statements about themselves and engaging in negative self talk.

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Janet Lehman, MSW has worked with troubled children and teens for over 30 years and is the co-creator of The Total Transformation Program. She is a social worker who has held a variety of positions during her career, including juvenile probation officer, case manager, therapist and program director for 22 years in traditional residential care and in group homes for difficult children.


My grandson has been bullied to the point of physical aggression against him. We don't call this bullying anymore - it has been assault of several kinds. The police were involved in the school. Bullying is not what it 'used' to be. It must be addressed and stopped. I'm a teacher and know that children are not aware that bullying charges against them follow in their permanent record for the duration of their schooling. Bullying has been targeted against the special needs and different students. It is cruel, mean, and damaging. There are no excuses and penalties must be handed out to those who engage in this damaging practice. If it is allowed to continue, the bullying escalates - steadily. The only purpose of bullying is to hurt another. Enough. My daughter has given my grandson control by asking him, "How do you want this handled?" She is following his lead while being a leader. She has also sought counseling for my grandson both in the school and out. The teachers and leadership of the school have stepped up by acknowledging a wide spread problem and to get it stopped. Bullying has reached new highs, depths, and seriousness - nationwide. The school where I teach is making the effort to have activities before and after school where all students can be part of a positive group. As a staff, there is a plan to curb bullying, while being watchful for those who are engaging in the practice.

Comment By : Grandma Grace

Take all of this advice, my children were in the People Magazine article and one thing that holds true not stated above is that when your child says they have no friends that is a sure sign or nobody likes me. Please listen to Janet, I think the main reason we are having all of these teen suicides because of bullying is because "parents" are not paying attention to their children, they are either working or doing whatever and leaving the TV, video games and computer to be the babysitter, friend and parent -we are living in a sad society right now and with the economics it will be worse. BE A PARENT. the worst feeling is to see your child being bullied and afraid they may harm themselves. Please parents take control.

Comment By : twinsmom

Janet, this is timely and well put - thanks for the article - I think #4 is a particular key b/c our kids need to feel empowered on their own, and teaching them to reframe these situations is critical - i.e. not giving it too much power (I know this is tough but it sure helps), using boundaries, and continuing to bathe them with positive words and support helps them along the path of empowerment. Thanks for the article:)

Comment By : Kim Roman Corle

My child was bullied and wish we could have found someone to help. No one would stick their neck out to help. My child was beat up in the bathroom and the school told me they have no one to watch the bathrooms. They said it was a fight between the two kids and my child spent 1 day in ISS detention. My child would not fight back, he put his hand up to keep from being hit in the head again and his hand so happened hit the boys face, so his face had a red spot. This was a very bad year for my son, our prayers and faith in God helped more than anything. When he started a new school the next year, I had to tell him to defend himself no matter what. Since we could not depend on the school system to help in anyway. They said it was not bullying it was kids being kids. So how can you win? This year I had to get stitches put in my sons chin because he finally defended himself, but other kids saw what he did and we have not had any more problems. I hate he got hurt to have to prove he was not taking it anymore. Wish I had this website when we were having all the problems. Thanks for listening.

Comment By : sbf6038

My 3 1/2 year old son has been physically bullied by another 4 year old boy at his dayhome. He punches and kicks him and my provider tells me this. She gives him time outs but it continues to happen. He is only there for another 2 weeks so I'm happy about that. My son is very sensitive and just wants friends so he still plays with him. The one day my son sat on the front step while I spoke to the provider and when I cam out I sat beside him and was very upset and said that it was all his fault. It broke my heart. There was another incident at my neighbor's where the kids were playing in their backyard and the kids were throwing rocks at my son. I caught them doing it, raised my voice and said "Excuse me! You don't throw rocks at people that hurts!" then i had to coax my little guy to come home and all he wanted to do was play. He does not hang around those kids anymore but now there aren't any other kids nearby for him to play with. What is this world coming to??

Comment By : Sad Mom

I think a swift lawsuit against the parents of the bullie and the school....and follow through until you financially crush everyone at fault it will stop...the problem...also, pursue criminal charges against the child or children who are bullying is the prudent thing to do.....

Comment By : No tolerance

This has made me more aware of my kids feeling and has made me a better parent for it. Thanks, Jose C. Escobedo

Comment By : J.Escobedo76

So, what's the advice if the bullying is coming from a teacher?

Comment By : Mom in Houston

This article came at the perfect time for us. Our 12 year old is new to public school, having been homeschooled for 7 years. His main trouble comes at lunchtime when no one wants him to sit with them. And to my amazement, many of the taunters are GIRLS! I think the media has been an attributing factor to all this bullying and it is now "in." I am grateful for resources like this.

Comment By : MammaWolf

The role playing is very important. My son was bullied by a child in kindergarten (that child has since moved away). My child was reluctant to role play so we set up a school with some dolls and it not only helped him to practice what to do it helped him to show us what was happening. He has lots of friends now in gr. 4 and is doing well.

Comment By : murray

My daughter was being tormented at school and the school was zero help. Because the school never addressed bullying and other issues, some of the kids were starting to get pretty violent. In the last six months, two boys were taken out of school in ambulances because they were beaten by bullies. After a final meeting with the school counselor where I was told that "everyone has to go through this", I actually pulled my daughter out of the school and sent her to a local charter school. She loves it there. The principal is very on top of things and doesn't put up with bullying nonsense and thus it is not a common problem at the new school.

Comment By : HelicopterMom

Thank you for your article, it came at a very stressful period for my family as my boy who has transferred to a new school due to moving house, have been the constant target of the bullies (2 other boys in his class) from the beginning till now. And as parents, we are still our best to support him, empower him and told him that if he is being punched, he should punch back now instead of keep feeling sorry for the two boys who have no friends. And according to other kids in his class and schoolmates, these two boys have been causing lots of troubles, bullying a number of kids who they assumed will not fight back. Once they fought back, they would left them alone. And furthermore, school is not helping at all when we seek for help. So we have taught our boy when he sees trouble approaching, go straight to sit in front of any teacher on duty. And if they call him names, simply show no reaction and since it does not reflect him and it is not true, just don't waste time getting upset over it. The class teacher knows the problem as these two boys also caused problems in class and get scolding daily but they are not willingly to do anything to stop the bullying. I have spoken to the Deputy Principal who kept telling me to be understand the other two boys and be empathize with the bullies and their families. But who is going to empathize with the victim. Furthermore, I was told being over-friendly and talkative at Year 1, was the reason for being bullied. Most children at Year 1 are very friendly and talkative, so all the kids will be punched, verbal bullied?

Comment By : A victim's mum

thank you so much for this article. I am a therapist and work with many children who are being bullied in the schools. Unfortunately our schools do not want to give consequences for the bullies. I am clear with these children that it is their right to defend themselves when necessary and the schools do not agree with this philosophy. Until they are ready to implement something else I see no other choice for these kids.

Comment By : Helping kids in Michigan

Not that I am supportive of the culture of the country I left, but it is common for the parent to say: "He/she hit you? Hit him back!" Once again, I do not support this with full swing and have not told my child that yet, but I am certain that will work. It is better than being a victim.

Comment By : Sincerely yours,

I know this will sound cliche, and all this information is good for the victim, but what if it is your child that is the bully? I don't have a bully, but my neighbor does and realizes it and has tried to stop it several ways but I believe it still is going on. It tears her up inside as she feels helpless in the situation.

Comment By : My Neighbor's Helping Hand

My son has Aspergers and BiPolar relentlessly been bullied since Kindergarten and he is now in Junior High. He is afraid to fight back because he remembers getting in trouble all the times in Elementary and having to go sit in the principals office. He has been told if he hits a bullie back that charges will be filed agianst him. Last year he was sexually assaulted the restroom at school and the school or the cops never completed the investigation. He has the same kid bullying him this year. I can not even let my son go the the boys club after school because this kid and his gang member friends try to gang up on my son. This bullying crap starts at home. Wake up parents and start teaching your kids to respect other people and have empathy.

Comment By : swhrt72

As a victim as a child I would add that it IS important to sense what your child is feeling and reflect it. It won't make him or her feel worse...on the contrary....if you say, "That really hurt your feelings/You really feel sad/angry. alone/ afraid when that happens." it will NOT make their feelings stronger than they already are, but it may allow them to really show them to you, and it will certainly help them to feel like you're on their side....SOMEone who understands how hard it is. My mom "explained" the bullying (those kids are just jealous/bored/etc) and told me to ignore it but what I really needed from her was to for her to SHOW me that she hear her sympathy, not her problem solving. After that, role play can be really helpful because often children only imagine one possible way to react, and one way that the bullies will respond, and if it doesn't sound good to them, they get stuck. Role plays can help them explore and practice multiple approaches. (Start with you being the victim and them being the bully, and ask them what you (as the victim) should try this time. Then switch roles and ask them what you (as the bully) would say. Give them the power. But first....really hear and reflect their feelings. Reflect THEIR feelings and intensity, not your own "parenting" feelings. This will let them know they are really understood and loved. Emotions are communication, and until someone "hears" us, we can't let them go. (From Sandy Blackard's "Say What You See")

Comment By : Been There

* Dear Mom in Houston: Start by meeting with the teacher, without your child present, and sharing your child’s experience and concerns. Be as factual as you can with what your child has told you. Keep in mind that you want your child to follow the school’s rules and cooperate with all his teachers--even if they are tough to get along with. So it’s important not criticize the teacher to your child when you are gathering facts and information from him so you don’t undermine the teacher’s authority. If you are unable to get satisfactory results after meeting with the classroom teacher, then talk to the school’s principal or additional school administrators if necessary. Parents do have an obligation make sure their child is studying in a ‘bully-free’ environment. This is a very difficult challenge but it’s important to thoroughly look into this, to advocate for your child and if appropriate, require your school system to make changes.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

Bullying is rampant in schools today. My son has been bullied by students and teachers alike since 2nd grade. When he defends himself, he is the one who gets into trouble, not the bully. The school tries to blame it all on him, even though there have been witnesses to the bullying. The district was no help either. I could not afford to take legal action to protect my son, so I withdrew him and am now homeschooling. Homeschooling is much less stressful for both of us and safer for him. It also enables us to strengthen his weaknesses in academics, which were not being addressed by the school except to label him with a learning disability. Concentrating on not being attacked instead of focusing on assignments is not a learning disability.

Comment By : FedUp w/Public School

My son started public school this year after years of small private schools. In the very first week, he was bullied by someone that he had never met before. He accidentally bumped into this kid in P.E. and suddenly this boy started to call him names and say he was going to "beat him up". He was literally devastated. He did not want to return to school. Bullying is an epidemic at our middle school and from letters written to the editor of our local paper, some parents think it is just a normal part of growing up. If your child is bullied, you are heartbroken and feel helpless. My husband and I counseled him to avoid this kid, but to take up for himself if he needed to. He was frightened since this kid was physically larger than him. We did contact the school principal about the situation and they tell us they have addressed the issue with my particular child, although I volunteer at the school and there are complaints almost every day. Bullying is definitely an epidemic and something children learn at home.

Comment By : Rebecca

Really good advice, thank you. I miss James, a lot, but having a feminine voice humming gently through a thoroughly professional and compassionate article is lovely.

Comment By : Denise

* Dear ‘My Neighbor's Helping Hand’: Share this web site with your neighbor and refer her to this article written by James Lehman, author of the Total Transformation Program: The Secret Life of Bullies: Why They Do It—and How to Stop Them James’ bottom line is that a parent must hold their child who bullies accountable for their behavior. Have very clear and consistent rules and consequences for bullying. It’s important that the consequences are not ‘physical’ punishments and that the parent is not aggressive when dealing with a child who bullies.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

* Dear ‘A victim’s mum’: Thanks for your response to the discussion that has been taking place after this article. The discussion itself is important because the issue of school bullying needs to called to our attention so that ideas for solutions can be explored. The more ideas the better. And the more attention the better so that bullying is not ‘allowed’ to take place because it’s ‘ignored’. This week even the President spoke about this issue and directed the Department of Education to send out a letter to school systems reminding them of their obligation to provide an environment that is free of harassment. It’s important to talk about the kids who bully and the kids who are bullied and to be aware that not all kids are capable of ‘fighting back’ therefore should not be blamed for being bullied because they don’t fight back or blamed because they’re the type of kid who attracts this attention. All perspectives are important and need to be considered in order to find solutions to this problem.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

Wow this is really helpful but what do you do when school will not help you they decided to stand up for the bully and not really take any action when another student came forward too. The schools reaction was we need evidence and when given the same story given by my child and another student no action was taken. This bully would do it to my child in front of me and the teacher would not take that as evidence. It is really frustrating when school does nothing to help when it is happening their and on the bus. It was very hard not to retaliate but we just let it ride. After summer break and they moved into the bigger school and no recess it seems to be better. I don't want to put anything in my childs head so I feel if she doesn't come home upset or mention anything I really don't want to constantly be asking her about it. I hope I am right by taking this approach.

Comment By : mygodisgreat

This article is so close to what my son is going through, I got tears in my eyes reading it. He is only 7 and has to learn these realy tough life skills so much sooner than I as a parent would have liked. It is hard to try and figure out a solution at his age because he doesn't truly understand what is going on (he is still trying to learn what is right and wrong) and at his age gives "great" reactions to bullies. His personality became more aggressive and his attention in class was non existant, causing everyone to point the finger at him as the problem child. Even his regular little group of friends turned on him because he has become so sensative and aggresive at the same time. Their parents have told them not to play with him, instead of them contacting me and reaching out trying to find out what had caused this shift in his always friendly personality. In the end we pushed and pushed and eventually he opened up to us, telling us how his friends have turned on him, calling him names and telling other kids not to play with him. My little boy is angry, confused and all he wants is to be part of... Sometimes it is so hard. This article gave me some hope that things will eventually come right for him and I will be there by his side, all the time.

Comment By : Heart sore mum

Your article has touched a nerve for many parents who can relate to your pain of having your child bullied. The main point that is missing from your list of advice, however, is the importance of getting help from an adult at the school. The guidance counselor in your article did not sound like much help. Why didn't she confront the bully and bring your situation to the school administration. Every school has a bullying policy that requires staff to do just that. Giving your son a place to go to calm down may have been some help but the guidance counselor was remiss in not addressing the problem. Parents need to know that school are responsible to protect our children from bullying. Parents need to advocate for their children. This means going to the teacher, principal, school board member, or the newspaper until they get help. The bullies are not going to stop until they are confronted, and their parents are notified and they are given consequences.

Comment By : Marc

My 12-year-old is being relentlessly taunted and bullied at school, and the administration has done very little to help the situation. Last night, in tears, he looked at me and said, "I wish I had never been born." This was one of the hardest moments of my life, and I believe that this has been the most difficult year of my son's life. I will definitely take this article to heart - I've been at a loss as far as what to do. I've been supportive, but that only helps so much during a time in which a child believes that his peers are his whole world. It's breaking both of our hearts.

Comment By : Jen T.

* To Jen T.: Thank you for sharing your story with us. It truly is a heartbreaking one, as are all the other stories on here about kids being bullied and tormented. My heart goes out to each and every one. We recommend that you maintain persistence with the school administration and take your reports to the next level such as the superintendent or school board. You might also decide to seek some additional support for your son regarding how to respond when he is bullied and how to cope with the feelings of sadness he experiences because of it. This support could come from the school counselor or social worker, or a local therapist or counselor not affiliated with the school. I’d like to provide you with a website for kids and parents about bullying for more information and ideas. It is Stop Bullying Now. We wish you and your son luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

my son was bullied and suffered serious injuries, the school did nothing i called the law and the juv,officer the bully was found guilty of assault its been 5 years of fighting this in court.because someone needs to pay our medical bills, but with the federal laws put in place to protect the schools and faculty we have gotten no where and in the up coming months my son will under go back surgery to try a fix some of the damage.until they make the school and faculity be held accountable, this will never stop.who is there to protect our children? we have been let down by the court system....

Comment By : sandy

my daughter has been bullyed by the same girl for 2yrs. she has ignored her argued back with her,last yr i went to the school which only made it worse. now in middle school its really bad.The girl has problems @ home and i can tell she is takn her pain out on my daughter. What should I do seems like ive done everythn and nothing is working?

Comment By : very sad mother

* To ‘very sad mother’: It can be so heartbreaking for parents to see their children being treated badly in a place where they are supposed to feel safe. We recommend that you continue to report any incidents of bullying to the school. It’s helpful to put the facts in writing for the school and if the school hasn’t been able to resolve the issue, you can send your written complaints to a higher level, such as the school board or superintendent. It’s also a good idea to make sure your daughter has the skills she needs to respond to the bully in an effective way and to cope with the hurt. The article outlines some suggestions for you but you can also see if there is any way the school counselor can help with this. Here is a link to a website for more information on bullying: We wish you both luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My 5th grader was pushed into a desk chair and then shoved down then the kid bowed up in his face. Today was the first time I had heard of anything physical happening to him, but he has been putting up with verbal bullying regularly this year. He has not withdrawn or stopped liking school, so I have felt like he has been handling it. We addressed the verbal stuff with his teachers earlier in the year but it has not stopped these particular boys from saying this--though I do believe it is not quite as frequent. Once a child puts their hands on my child things change dramatically. I took him right back to the school today (we had just started driving away when he told me what happened) when he told me about the altercation. I met with his principles and he laid it all out there for them. What bothered me was the same thing I was met with the first time I met with his teachers. They listened and said some good things, but always made sure to ask questions that seemed to put some of the guilt on him, like, "Did you respond back?" or "You need to tell me right away." I was taken aback as he had told the classroom teacher immediately what happened and she should have taken it from there. He shouldn't have to run to the principal himself. Besides, I don't care WHAT my child said, no one should be permitted to put their hands on him period! Also, not one teacher (lead teacher or student teacher) was in the classroom. I will be documenting everything from this point on. I thought about counseling but my son feels like there's something wrong with him if he has to see a counselor. I have tried to explain that it is not because there's something wrong with him; that it would just be someone to help him learn how to handle the situations. It terrifies me to think that he is headed to middle school and we are seeing problems now.

Comment By : teachempathytoyourkids

I have been bullied all my life! In my home i was sexually abused and then had to go to school and being bullied there. As an adult im being bullied and im just trying to avoid trouble. My daughter is 9 yrs old and she is now being bullied by the students on her bus also have been scratched and slapped by 2 different girls in school. I tell her she must stand up for herself cause i cant go fight all of her battles to let the bullies know that they cant win. The other day she told me that one of the parents approsched her and started questioning her about the relationship with her neice. Her neice was one of the girls that scratched her in her face. I told my daughter to avoid her but she wont leave my daughter alone. the little girl is chanting on the bus we hate Ashli now all the kids are mean tp my daughter and the bus driver is not doing anything but instead is letting them do this to my daughter and also tattle on my daughter to school saying shes causinig trouble. Im gonna call the transportation and also the school to speak to someone about the situation cause its beginning to wear me down and i want to keep my daughter home and keep her away from all this drama!

Comment By : Recycling

Bullying, is a serious problem in schools. As a parent and guardian, however, I would posit that the most important thing parents can do is help build a strong sense of self. The idea of my children being harmed or lost is not something anyone wants to consider. I found an article by anationofmoms about a service that can protect your family via your cell phone. And, at the bottom, there is an opportunity to enter a drawing for 6 months of that service just by liking them on Facebook. You might find it interesting:

Comment By : EllenaSmith

My 3rd grader is being teased by a single boy at school. I've only heard about it recently so we are currently trying to empower my daughter to manage it herself. Could you go into some detail on how you "set it up so your son had some control" that you mention in #4? As an aside - my daughter is sensitive and emotional and one of the things we have stressed with her is that if it comes down to crying in front of this boy or swinging at him, she has our permission to swing with the caveat that she also must loudly yell "leave me alone!"

Comment By : Worse comes to worst

* To 'Worse comes to worst': It is heartbreaking when you find out that your child is being bullied by someone at school. We certainly encourage your efforts to empower your daughter to handle this for herself. This is a large part of what Janet means when she talks about setting it up so your child has some control. It is about recognizing that while she can’t control what the bully does, she can control her response to it. For example, she can choose to walk away from the bully, find some other kids that she can go play with if he approaches her, or find a teacher if he doesn’t leave her alone. Helping kids with a plan beforehand can help them feel more empowered in the moment. For more ideas and information about bullying, check out Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone posting. My son had a major problem with a bully and the schools principal said they have to basically fight it out. I could tell it was affecting his self-esteem. Not sure how all states are but in Iowa each district (school) is required to have a JCO (juvenile correctional officer). I told the principal I would be contacting the JCO and he was not too happy with me. However, the bullying did stop with much persistence on my part and talking with the other parent. I don't think the school would like the JCO to show up at the school or the bullie parents. Our children need protected and many of our children are not taught about what it means to be a real man or woman. Unfortunately they get a lot of upbringing values from school, it's just how it is. So our schools need to step up and start being more strict with bullying. People don't usually just make up stories or lies when faced with the possibility of retaliation by the bully. SO LISTEN AND BELIEVE THEM SCHOOLS!!! Bullies are even bullying the teachers and principals, they are good at manipulation, that's why they get away with it for so long. Not addressing the issue doesn't help the bullies either. A lot of these young boys or girls grow up to have major problems in society. There should be a mandate in every state for every school, because it's such a pervasive problem in our society.

Comment By : Allinittogether

hi everyone, reading this post makes me wonder about so many things that are happening to my son. He is 7 y/o and we moved to this neighbourhood recently. For sometime kids around this place were all playing, but suddenly my kids says that they treat him like a dumb person and they tell him be is not good in anything. Its bascially because my son is a little slower in running and catching up with them. My son doesn't want to play with them when they are around and also feels he doesn't have any friends. Is this also a type of bullying and how do i get this sorted out with my kid. He is such a fun loving person and nowadays i donot see him having all the fun after all. Can any of you help me with this situation. Thanks.

Comment By : lakky

* To 'lakky': Watching your child be excluded from playing with other kids in the neighborhood can be heartbreaking to any parent. We recommend starting with a conversation. Ask your son what is going on from his perspective. From there, you can talk with him about what are some things he can do to help himself feel better, and come up with a plan for putting that into action. Be supportive and calm throughout this conversation. I’m including a link to another article about bullying you might find helpful: My Child is Being Bullied—What Should I Do? Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

My son is getting bullied in school. I informed his teachers and they said they have plans, the plan was to change the schedule. but i got upset to hear that they change my son's schedule instead of the bully. i don't know what to say to the teachers now. I don't want my son's s schedule to be change because he was happy with the schedule besides the bully.

Comment By : fat22

My oldest son who is now 12 has been picked on for years we have moved schools quit a bit but for nearly 3 years now we have been going to the same school district and up untill 6 grade it was just mainly verbal picking and some verbal threat than in november of 2011 being in middle school and in 6 grade a former friend started picking on my son the kid put his hands around my sons throat and started choking him my son pulled a pair of school size scissors out of his book bag and held them by his side the kid saw the scissors and let him go when my son got to school he reported the incident and got expelled for threating a student with a deadly weapon the other student got suspended for 3 days this was also the second time the other student got suspended for fighting. He also tried to beat my son up a few months earlier during school my son ran away from him and the student kept chasing him during the chase my son's glasses got broke the teacher was notified handled the situation so they said and never reported it to me nor did they do anything about my son's broken glasses we live near pittsburgh pa and our school district sucks. My child has an iep and when they expelled him they put him in cyber school i have a learning disability myself and am battling stage 4 cancer the school is aware of our situation and told me that cyber school would not require any help from me that he would have all the support he needed through the cyber school my son was strugling to do his work or even understand it for that matter and started not doing the work at all i notified the cyber school that he would do the work that he knew how to do by himself and the rest would not get done unless he had help. They would then hound him every day as to why he wasnt completing his work and if he got aggitated they would threaten to call me. He also was getting very depressed and angry all the time he is now on prozac for depression and angry issues. The public school made my child who was already having issues with my illness and a father who adbadoned his brother and sister back in 07 feel like a social outcast they acted like he was a bad kid when i spoke to the superident and told him that it was the schools fault for my son doing so poorly in school he said he was more than willing to help but it was not their fault my son was in this mess they said it was my son't fault for pulling out a weapon they did not care what the other child did to my son. He is now back in the school due to threats i had made telling them i would contact an attorny or the school adovacte but he does cyber school in school he is in a special class for disruptive kids and has only been there for a couple of weeks is being picked on by another bulley and the other day the kid threw a pencil at my son my son threw a pencil back at the other student the other student then picked my son up out of his seat and body slammed him to the floor so my son choked the other kid the teacher was not in the room no adult was so the teacher listing to the other students who were friends with the bully said my son went after him and she said my son went after the other student first and never told me about my son being body slammed or my son choking the other student she did tell me my son was sent to the superitedents office by the school officer by the superitendt did not punish my child this time thank god and suspended the other child. These schools protect the bullie and punsih the victim. Most of the time the teachers are not around when the incidents occur and all they do is question the other students who most of the time stick up for the bully most likely for fear they will be attacked or picked on next if they tell the truth something needs to be done all around the world or there are going to be more inciednts like the columbin shooting how are we to protect our kids they leave our homes every day we assume that they are being protected and they are safe and the schools are not doing their jobs to keep our children safe or having them feel safe i am copying this information down and putting fliers up or giving copies to the school something has to be done to protect our children and the bullies need to learn how to respect and care about other peoples feelings it should be considerd child abuse if a school finds out that there is a child bullying other students it is our job as parents to teach our children how to respect other people and not to say anything that we wouldn't want said to us

Comment By : sweetie029

Hi Everyone - It is so heartbreaking to read all of these post. My daughter is 12 1/2 yrs old and is being bullied in school. She is in 6th grade and she hates school, wants us to move, or even have us put her in another school. In september she lost her grandmother She has a learning disability, and she tries really hard to fit in. It just seems that everything just crumbled around her. I keep trying to give her encouregment.. that these girls are just mean, and that they are lacking self confidence. I do tell her that she needs to stand up for her self but I do realize that it is NOT EASY to do. I have writen all of the things down and I have records of all of the teasing.. (everytime my daughter comes home and reports to me. I keep a journel) I have reported to her special ED teacher that things are tough, and Just recently reported to the school that I HAVE HAD ENOUGH!!!!! this is killing me seeing my daughter self esteam ripped apart buy a bunch of brats!!! (can't say what I want here). I have a meeting with the school next week 3/13/2012 with all of her teachers and the counselor. We as parents and the community need to stop this and ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!


My 11 year old daughter doesn't seem to have any friends at school. Everytime she's stood up for herself, she's got told off and the perpetrator got away with it. The teachers, in this way, seem to actually support the inappropriate behaviour. It makes me so mad. I've tried to pursuade my daughter to change schools but she's too worried it'll be a mistake, I think she feels it's better the devil you know. In a few months she goes to secondary and I was so happy when she chose herslf to go to our local one, where I went as a kid, because I know how supportive and friendly it is there. But lately she's been changing her mind and wanting to go to the one her current school transfers to, even though she has no friends there. She says the people are familiar. I find this really hard because I don't want to force her but I really think she'll be better off in our local one. I worked in a primary for four years and I saw how the teachers and other staff turn a blind eye, out of fear of retaliation from the parents. I always jumped on bullying when I saw it because it makes me so angry, and I got complained about alot.

Comment By : Acai

My son is being bullied and I documented everything and have taken pictures. He is only in kindergarten. He has been verbally abused and physically abused by his classmates. I have talked to his teacher on many occasions and she is no help. She gets defensive about it and often tries to avoid the subject every time I call or at confrence. She dismisses it and says she doesn't see it but I think she chooses to ignore it.. My son is very verbal at communicating and is not shy to tell you how he feels. Every time he is being bullied he will get the teacher's attention and she is aware of it. I got tired talking to her so I talked to the principal and the bullying got a little better but there is this girl in his class that likes not only to assalt my son but other classmates also she likes to scratch on the face and anywhere when she doesn't get her way. She even assalted the teacher. The teacher and principal are aware of it and they say they are working with her and her family, it is the same answer I get when I address an incident about bullying. I don't understand why this girl continues to bully if the school says they are on top of it. I see it differently with this school. They are not consistent with consequences and they choose to ignore it because my son has been scratched up by her six times already. I am frustrated and have told my son to defend himself if necessary because the school is not protecting him so he has to protect himself. After the incident with my son I found out my daughter was indecently assalted by a classmate and she immediately told a teacher and they did nothing. I didn't even get a phone call. She came home crying telling me what happened. I called her teacher and she wasn't even aware of the situation. I was furious so I called the police and reported it. So the school can't ignore it and know that I'm serious. All they did was try to keep the boy away from my daughter that's it. It just seems like it's better to be the bully then being the one who gets bullied because the bully gets away with it and the victim gets punished even if it was defending themselves. That is sad. IT IS THE PARENTS WHO ARE NOT STEPPING UP AND BEING ACCOUNTABLE FOR NOT TEACHING THEIR KIDS WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR AND BEING A DECENT HUMAN BEING. ESPECIALLY THE PARENTS WHO NEGLECT AND ABUSE THEIR KIDS AND THEIR KIDS BECOME ABUSERS THEMSELVES. YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW. THE PARENTS OF BULLIES SHOULD BE ASHAME OF THEMSELVES. SOMEWHERE, SOMEHOW THEY DROPPED THE BALL AND FAILED THEIR CHILDREN AND SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

Comment By : frustrated and exhausted



I never realy had a problem with my son being picked on at school, it's the neighborhood kids. My poor 10 year old was just held hostage in a backyard with 5 kids chanting "Isaac is a p****": over and over. Then when he had enough he punched the ring leader in the face and then got chased with a stick, which I saw. So I of course went straight to the parent that was home and the guy acted like Isaac was in the wrong. I couldn't believe this guy, and when I confronted him I didn't know he had been held hostage. It is because of things like this that kids are shooting up schools!!! The only time I said anything to the school was when a kid was bullying on the bus, the assistant principal acted like that was normal, so I drive him to school now. What do you do with the parents though? I just left because I was ready to freak out on the guy.

Comment By : romo

My son just finished fourth grade and this year he had to deal with some bullying from a few students in his class. I teach at his school and so was able to deal with it when it happened. I talked to the teacher and she talked to the student in question and it stopped. Later in the year some girls in his class, (I call them the 'mean girls') decided to make him their target. I talked with him about it and told him to ignore them and not let them see that what they said bothered him, but they continued and it escalated. When he came to me and told me they were talking about 'Connor germs' and wiping their hands with hand sanitizer when he accidently bumped them, I saw red and went straight to the principal because he had talked to the teacher and she wasn't taking care of it. The girls in question were called to the office and dealt with and they stopped. My son is labeled 'highly gifted' in academics and his mind just works on a different level from a lot of kids. His vocabulary is extensive and he's known as the 'smartest kid' in class. I think that some bullies key on that type of child. He also isn't very athletic so that becomes a focus for their bullying. He's also a minority in a predominantly hispanic school which makes him different as well. As a parent, I turn into momma bear when I see it and I do NOT tolerate it. Because I teach at his school I have connections so that it isn't let slide, but I encourage all parents to make noise! If your child is being bullied go to your school and do NOT take 'they're just being kids' as an answer. Bullying is in the news and a hot topic right now. Don't let your school get away with tolerating it. My fear is more for what will happen in middle school because I know that bullying escalates and I won't be there to protect my son.

Comment By : Terri

last Friday my 5 year old daughter came home from catholic school with a bruise on her chest, when I saw it she tried to hid it, I Immediately ask her what happened? & she told me that 2 boys grab her hands one on each hand & another lil boy hit her on her chest & she fell, I ask her why did she not tell her teacher she said that she was too busy telling the boys to stop, I immediatly e-mail the teacher & she said she did not know of the incident, I let her know that my daughter is being bullied & she said thta " I need to understand that, that is not being bullied, that there kids just playing", I got really upset, so I told her im going today to school & talk to her, however now my parents are telling me thta If I do that my daughter will be labeled as the snitch & no one will want to play with her, I told my parents that I was bullied at school when I was in 1st grade by the teacher & they never believe me & that is why I have a little of self esteem however I dont want the same thing happening to my child, I rather her not have any friends then her to come with a different bruise evry day, am I wrong???

Comment By : Jen

* To Jen: It is frightening when your young child comes home from school with bruises and tells you that they were given to her by a classmate. Parents never want to see their child hurt in any way, especially at a place where she is supposed to be safe such as school. We do recommend working with the school to address bullying, especially when your child is being physically harmed. It might be helpful to talk through your concerns with the teacher, and emphasize that you want to work with her to deal with this. We also recommend talking with your daughter about what she can do to help herself in these situations. Can she avoid these boys? Can she find some other kids to play with? Can she talk with a teacher? Brainstorm some possible solutions and role play them with her so she feels comfortable. For more information, check out My Child is Being Bullied—What Should I Do?
No child deserves to be hurt or bullied-we hope this information helps you and your family.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

Wish I had seen this earlier . Or that I had the mind to search for some help. My child was being bullied in the school van . I talked to the parents for once.Frankly I didn know what I should do . And my anger took better of me. Went to talk with the bulley's parents which didn turn out well. Actually I wanted to tell them your child also needs help but I couldn find the correct words without offending them . Instead I ended up offending them even more. Anyway the damage done is done . What can I do now ( now that I am calm ) ? I decided to change the van as finding out a resolve will take time and I did not want to let my son go through the suffering every day . My son was diagnosed with dyslexia an it had taken us great effort to bring out the best in him. A line in the article got my attention "It’s that stuck place, that feeling of being completely powerless and trapped, that is the worst." I decided to change the van as there is no way to avoid the bulley when he is in the van . I have noticed he is very upset when someone verbally teases him. How can/should I help him.

Comment By : I want to help my child

* To “I want to help my child”: Thank you for sharing your story with us. Bullying is one of the more challenging issues parents face. It must be very painful to watch your child being hurt by this type of behavior. I am sorry to hear addressing the situation with the other child’s parents didn’t work out as you had hoped. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, even if we have the best intentions. As for where you can go from here, we would suggest focusing on helping your son learn skills to effectively address situations such as this in the future. Changing the van was probably a good choice, especially if there was a chance the bullying would continue. Even though this situation was dealt with on that level, it’s still going to be helpful to talk with your son about ways he can respond when people are bullying him or treating him unfairly. Debbie Pincus gives some great tips on having this type of conversation with your child in her article Child and Teen Bullying: How to Help When Your Kid is Bullied. You might also consider making the school aware of the issue and seeing how they may be able to help you and your son as well. There is also a great website available that can give you more tools and techniques to help you and your son through this situation. The Stop Bullying website has material for both children who are faced with bullying and their parents. You can reach the website here: Stopbullying. We wish you and your family the best as you continue to work through this troubling issue. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

My 11yr old daughter got involved in a silly girls fall out which now has grown out of control, the child involved has previous issues and has been in lots of trouble at school every day for 2weeks weve had shes said this and done that, and tryed to let our child deal with it, last night the other childs mum verbally attacked my daughter after following her home from school whilst she was alone accussing her of bullying her child and hitting her resulting in my daughter bursting into tears to be told to stop being a baby buy this woman,i arrived home some 1/2 later to be meet by this woman who basically told me she made mine cry and how her bullying would have to stop accusing her of all sorts of things to which my response was u need to contact school to report as we would also do too RESULT the victim (my daughter) is now being told by school, 'who do we beleive as someone isnt telling the truth'my daughter refuses to go school wont join clubs avoid said child at every possible moment but is left to feel shes the one in trouble my daughter has a good school record and has never been in trouble where is the justice and how do we prevent adults screaming abuse at our children ????

Comment By : milletbang

* To “milletbang”: Thank you for sharing your story. It can be distressing to watch your child struggle with peer relationships at school. I am sorry to hear the situation has been worsening over time. As a parent, it can be difficult to know what the best response is in a situation like this. Contacting the school and making them aware of the situation is a great first step. We would suggest continuing to let the school know, in writing, whenever a situation arises involving your daughter and the other child. It’s difficult for us to coach around how best to address the situation involving your daughter and the other child’s parent. You can’t control how other people chose to behave. It might be helpful to problem solve with your daughter how she can best respond to a situation like this in the future. Unfortunately, your daughter will probably have to deal with difficult people again at some point in her life. By problem solving and helping her develop skills to deal with similar situations effectively, you are giving your daughter tools she will be able to use throughout her life. You might also consider visiting the StopBullying website for other ideas and suggestions around addressing this situation. We wish you and your family much luck as you work through this challenging situation. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

My daughter has been in Private School and I as well as my daughter wanted her to attend Public school this year. She was so excited and she appears very happy daily. Soon after school started my sweet, sensitive, very kind 10 year old daughter started coming home crying and upset. She was raising her voice and wanting to go back to her old school. I ask my daughter, what's going on at school and if someone was bothering her. She told me there were a couple of girls and a boy picking on her and she said that if she say anything back to main bully of the group the other kids with get her. She said she wasn't afraid of the gang but she grew troubled at why she was the choosen person to be picked on. Again, she is sensitive and she is easily to get upset and I have told her not to let these kids see that side of her. They will continue to pick on her. Last Friday my daughter had trouble with one of the girls verbal tatics against her and come Monday she decided that her stomach hurt and didn't want to go to school, she wanted to go back to her old school. When my daughter shared with me her feelings that morning, I cried all day at work and was troubled at the behaviors of these kids. I have always been respected even when I was in school and my daughter is nothing like me, she is the most sweetest person in the world but she has no back bone on how to deal with the kids in her class. I contacted the school that morning, e-mailed the Principal, and both her teachers and they looked into the matter that morning. They all shared with me that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and she will not be unhappy anymore. I know my daughter and I know that even if this is possible, just having the kids not talking to her, will send her to left field and she will be even more unhappy. What is a parent to do?

Comment By : Mommie is sad

* To Mommie is sad: One of the toughest things to experience as a parent is to watch your child being bullied by her peers and to feel powerless to stop it. It is difficult to answer why this is happening to your daughter; in reality, the reason behind the bullying does not really matter. It will be more effective for you to talk with your daughter about what would make her feel better in this situation, and to come up with a plan for how she will respond (for example, walking away from the bully or coming up with a verbal response beforehand). It is important that your daughter feels like she is in control of this situation because unfortunately, this may not be the only time in her life that she has to interact with people who are not nice to her. We are encouraged to hear that you have let the principal and her teachers know what is going on, and that their response is supportive of your daughter. We recommend keeping in contact with them if your daughter tells you about more incidents. This is because many times when parents stop telling the teachers about the bullying, teachers assume that it has stopped. I am including links to some other articles about bullying that you might find helpful. Take care and we wish you the best.
Girl Fighting and Your Child
My Child is Being Bullied—What Should I Do?

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

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