During October, which is National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, media stories about bullying may bring to mind a bigger, stronger kid picking on someone weaker and more vulnerable. Reality isn’t as clear cut since children may be victims of bullying one day and bullies the next
“On questionnaires, many of our patients said they both have been bullied and have bullied others,” says Elizabeth Newlin, MD, director of The Menninger Clinic’s Adolescent Treatment Program
Dr. Newlin and her colleagues surveyed teen patients about bullying for their Compassionate Community Project, launched in March. Compassionate communities, Dr. Newlin says, value compassion toward oneself and others. The project draws on previous Menninger research, which emphasized creating compassionate, safe communities to discourage bullying. Patients and families in the project learn strategies to handle bullying.
Parents must look closely for signs of bullying, Dr. Newlin says, because many children are too ashamed to admit they are being bullied, or bullying others.
Signs of bullying
Your child may be bullied if he or she:
Comes home with unexplained injuries.
Is showing signs of stress, but doesn’t want to talk about it.
Is not being invited anywhere by friends.
Avoids social situations.
Your child may be bullying others if he or she:
Frequently blames others for problems.
Doesn’t take responsibility when in trouble.
Is very competitive.
Is very aggressive, or hangs out with friends who are aggressive.
How to help
If your child is being bullied, ask teachers to partner him or her with a classmate who is a natural leader, to help deflect the bullying. Also, make sure your child is not alone with a bullying child. And while our first impulse is to punish the bullying child, punishment won’t stop bullying, especially if the child is indifferent to consequences such as expulsion from school, Dr. Newlin says.
“A better approach involves the whole community—of parents, teachers and students—working together to figure out what is causing the bullying behavior and fix it, and to promote healthier power dynamics.”