Bullying in the Classroom & How To Parent Through It

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Bullying in the Classroom & How To Parent Through It

A blog provided by UnityPoint Health Clinical Specialist Jeremy Pieper

School is back in session and there is natural excitement in the air around returning to classes, seeing friends again and getting out of the house. Along with that excitement are many of the fears and concerns of homework, schedules and fitting in. Unfortunately for some, there is also the terror of returning to being bullied1. Bullying research is still in its infancy, but here are a few things we have learned.

  • Between 1/4 and 1/3 of youth experience bullying.
  • Between 1/10 and 5/10 of youth experience cyberbullying2
  • Between 5/10 and 9/10 of youth who identify as LGBTQQ experience some form of bullying.
  • Bullying happens in all school ages but peaks in middle school.
  • Anybody can engage in bullying. There is no "type" that bullies. 
  • Adults are generally not good at recognizing bullying or knowing how to respond.
  • Bullying does not cause suicide but many youths that complete a suicide have been bullied
  • Zero Tolerance policies and expulsion do not work at all

As it turns out, bullying is a very complex subject. Bullying is not just "that troubled kid" that picks on the weak. Any youth can engage in the act of bullying and many do not even know they've crossed the line until it is too late. In today's age of quick exchange of information via technology, our children are more prone than ever to respond first and think later. Many youths will also not report being bullied because it still carries the very real stigma of being a "snitch" and there is frequently little confidence that adults will offer help in an effective manner.

How do you know if your child is being bullied?

  • A change in their usual demeanor; more worried, anxious, sad or withdrawn
  • A drop in grades
  • School avoidance
  • Negative posts on social media
  • Increased nausea, tiredness, or headaches
  • Unexplained injuries

If you suspect your child is being bullied, the best response is open communication. Your natural urge may be to call the other child's caregivers or make waves at the school to protect your child, but these methods often backfire. Youths can be incredibly resilient when provided open communication and support. In addition, through that open communication, you and your child can come up with plans that suit both of your needs; maintaining social standing at school and protecting your child. As a culture, we can help youth identify bullying behavior and step in on others' behalf. One of the best bullying preventions is having peers join together and say it is not ok. This sends the message that bullying is not acceptable as a social norm and that the person being bullied is not alone. If your child is being bullied and you believe it is contributing to unmanageable anxiety, excessive school avoidance or thoughts of suicide seek professional help.





1Bullying: repeated aggressive behavior of a verbal or physical nature that creates a power imbalance. Bullying can include threats, physical harm, rumors, or exclusion

2Cyberbullying: spreading rumors, threatening, or disrupting social interactions that occurs over electronic media (e.g. text or social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.)