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Signs of Bullying (and How To Prevent It)

July 6th, 2020

Is your child suddenly reluctant to attend school? Taking sick days, showing up tardy, or skipping all together? According to, avoiding school, slipping grades, and losing friendships could all be signs that your child is experiencing bullying.

Do you suspect your child is being bullied? Read on to learn what to watch for and how to help prevent the long term effects it can have on your child’s well-being.

What Exactly Is Bullying?

“Bullying” involves any type of social or physical aggression that is designed to intimidate, distress, or exclude the target of bullying. It differs from conflict between friends or harassment in that it is on-going and has an element of power imbalance. It can be physical or emotional, direct or indirect. It can involve harassment based on appearance, sexuality, race, or other differences. Either gender can employ any bullying tactic and they are all effectively damaging. Children who are bullied are often excluded from activities and social situations, even among friends. The erosion of social connections and lack of support can leave the target defenseless, which then results in even more bullying.

Bullying can look like shoving, pushing, or name-calling…but it can also be more difficult to detect in gossip, passive-aggressive jokes in front of peers, or purposeful exclusion from the group.

In this day and age, children can often feel as though there is no escape from their tormentors. “Cyberbullying” occurs when the behavior continues online via direct messages, social media, and other forms of digital communication. Cyberbullying can be especially dangerous because it feels relentless. Bullying can now follow children home and continue after school and through the weekend leaving no reprieve or space to recover. Continuous bullying robs children of time and attention which should be focused on homework, socializing, and hobbies that help them develop into healthy, well-rounded individuals. Bullying steals the target’s time by forcing them to focus their attention on an on-going conflict. Being unable to focus on what is important can have a severe impact on a child’s mental health and leaves them without effective mechanisms to cope.

What Can I Do to Protect My Child From Bullying?

Bullying can be difficult to address as a parent. You might feel as though it is a normal expression of social aggression. You may have experienced it yourself as a child, or even as an adult. You may feel like dealing with bullies is just a part of growing up, and that addressing the problem yourself could undermine your child’s ability to deal with adversity. Although it may be common behavior, it has many negative lasting effects that could impact your child’s mental health and follow them into adulthood. These effects can lead to a low sense of self-worth and susceptibility to learning bullying behavior. Your help will demonstrate the skills needed to deal with adversity. Modeling assertiveness and self-respect by helping your child call out unacceptable behavior will do a world of good for your child’s self-confidence. Most importantly it will signal that they are loved and supported.

How Do I Know if My Child is Being Bullied?

Bullying can be difficult to detect because students who are being bullied are often ashamed to speak up. The target of bullying may deal with the aggression by retreating inward or by acting out.

Some warning signs of bullying are:

  • Losing friends
  • Plummeting grades
  • Hating school
  • Frequently ill
  • Skipping class or school
  • Feeling isolated
  • Feeling depressed or anxious
  • Feeling angry or easily annoyed

Another complication of bullying is that children who are bullied can sometimes imitate the behavior as a way to cope or regain control. It’s not uncommon for parents to discover their child was a target of bullying when they get in trouble for bullying another student. Studies have shown that children who bully and are bullied are at an increased risk for anti-social behavior, drug abuse, and suicide.

Long Term Effects of Bullying on Children

Bullying creates a toxic culture within the school environment which negatively impacts the target of bullying, the school staff, and the student body. On an individual level, bullying has a negative impact on academic success and mental health.

Long term effects of bullying can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of resiliency
  • Inability to trust others
  • Unable to form relationships
  • Lack of confidence
  • Substance Abuse

Bullying Prevention

I Say NO to Bullying!

According to, the best way to address bullying is to create a safe learning environment with a strong social support network and anti-bullying culture. Enlist the help of teaching staff and other parents to encourage a positive environment by modeling appropriate behaviors. Encourage empathy. Students who stand up for other students being bullied demonstrate that bullying is not only wrong, but ineffective. The irony in bullying is that no one likes a bully. The truth is that bullies need as much psychological and social help as their targets. Addressing the underlying reasons behind the bullying can often help to diminish the behavior. While it might not be possible to truly prevent all instances of bullying, by teaching children empathy and creating a positive environment, we can reduce the impact bullying has on everyone involved.