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Knowing the Warning Signs of Bullying

Children may be quick to pick up what others are saying, but they're not always quick to understand it. So how do you teach them the difference between bullying and banter? It helps if we can learn how to identify bullying and stand up to it safely.

Bullying involves the use of power over others. It's about making someone feel bad about themselves by controlling their behavior or their environment.

Bullying can be physical (hitting, kicking), verbal (calling names, using put-downs) or emotional (making someone feel ashamed).

Signs a Child Is Being Bullied

Look for changes in the child. However, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs.

Learning the warning signs of bullying and talking to our youth about how to manage the situation can help prevent bullying.

Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are:

  • Unexplainable injuries

  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry

  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking an illness

  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.

  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares

  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school

  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations

  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem

  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

Signs a Child is Bullying Others

Kids may be bullying others if they:

  • Get into physical or verbal fights

  • Have friends who bully others

  • Are increasingly aggressive

  • Get sent to the principal's office or to detention frequently

  • Have unexplained extra money or new belongings

  • Blame others for their problems

  • Don't accept responsibility for their actions

  • Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity

When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior, they send the message that it is not acceptable. There are simple steps adults can take to stop bullying on the spot and keep kids safe including:

  • Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.

  • Separate the kids involved.

  • Make sure everyone is safe.

  • Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.

  • Stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders.

  • Model respectful behavior when you intervene.

To expand on ways to spot the warning signs of bullying, click here. >

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