HomeHealth & BehaviorBullying

If your child is being bullied

Advice from two mothers who decided to fight back

By Jacqui DiMarco , Marie Newman

For Marie Newman's son, the bullying began in fifth grade, and involved almost constant taunting and humiliation. Jacqui DiMarco's son was only in first grade when he became the target of a bully who, by fourth grade, was harassing him at school and over the internet. Newman and DiMarco each tried a variety of different approaches, from ignoring the bullying and hoping it would pass, to working together to launch an antibullying program at their children's school. Since then, they've provided advice and support to victims' families, and joined antibullying efforts at the local, state, and regional levels. Today, both their sons are well beyond bullying and thriving, and DiMarco and Newman have written a book: When Your Child is Being Bullied: Real Solutions for Parents, Educators and Other Professionals. Find out what they've learned in the excerpt below — and check their website for additional tools and resources.

Bullying is tough to manage due to the wide variety of ways the bully implements the offenses. Bullying can be infrequent and light in nature, or vicious and constant. Every case is unique. What is not unique is the clear need to stop the torment for your child. Children bully for ridiculous and cruel reasons, and some bully for no reason at all. The important message: Stop it early. Do not let it go on. Stop it comprehensively. Make sure you confront every single bully. If you let bullying persist, it will only get worse and will spread to other bullies.

There are many solutions to bullying, and every solution will be different based on a child’s unique circumstances. Once a parent identifies the bullying incidence, there are steps that can effectively manage the situation to achieve a positive solution.

1. First, stay calm. This is the hardest thing to do, but is the most important. When you talk to the school, or another parent, you want to appear as the engaged, caring parent, not the crazy parent.

2. Document everything. Every time your child comes home with a story, write down who, what, when, where and how.

3. Encourage your child to talk freely, and remind him there is no judgment at home. Ask specifically about how it makes him feel and if there is anything that can make it better. Let him know right away that the bullying situation will be addressed, and he will be protected.

4. Do not ignore it. Do not tell your child to ignore it. Occasionally, with the bully who is an experimenter, ignoring it may work, but with advanced bullies, ignoring it is useless. Most advanced bullies feel powerful when their victims ignore it. [Editor's note: According to this book, there are four types of bullies: the experimenter, the old-fashioned bully, the elite bully, and the former victim turned bully.]

5. If the bullying includes social media, shut down all social media accounts immediately. Get a new cell phone number and private email account for your child. Before you shut down the account, consider sending a message to all of your child’s tormenters indicating that if they do not stop now, and stop talking about your child in any way, you will go to all of the parents and the school to address it directly. Very important: Keep a close eye on your child’s phone history. Review all texts, emails, social media exchanges, everything. This is critical. Minimize whom your child interacts with electronically, and ensure there is no online or electronic bullying.

6. Do not let anyone tell you it is just kids being kids. Let your child know that bullying is not acceptable, and he should not accept it. Bullying is abnormal behavior.

7. Do not allow your school to perform peer-to-peer conflict resolution where the victim and the bully meet in the same room to discuss the situation and problem-solve. This re-victimizes the victim. The bully learns nothing and simply says what the adult wants to hear so he can get back to being a bully as quickly as possible. The bully will be laughing about the meeting within minutes. The consensus is that conflict resolution does not work, and it actually makes the situation worse.

8. Do not blame your child for the bullying. Bullying is abnormal behavior, and a victim never deserves it or provokes it.

9. Make certain you work with your child and ask him how he wants to respond to the bullying and how he would like to handle the situation. Retaliation from the bully is a possibility, and you need to include that variable into your plan. Discuss a few options with your child to help address this issue.

10. In serious, ongoing cases (three or more instances), call the school to map out a specifically tailored strategy for your child. Equally important, do not let the school implement action until you have reviewed the plan with your child, and discussed the option with the specific school staff members who will be involved.

11. Key requirements for the plan should include:

  • You, as the parent of the victim, must take an active role in the solution.
  • The bully’s parents must be called and notified.
  • The bully must have a consequence or punishment.
  • The bully and his family must sign an agreement to cease and desist all bullying, and to stop any further discussion regarding your child in any manner, to anybody, at any time.
  • The bully must be notified that many acts of bullying are considered crimes after a second offense. Let the bully know how your state’s antibullying law will affect him should the bullying continue.
  • The plan must have a specific timeline that the school is accountable for while correcting the problem.
  • Your child needs to have go-to adults at school to help him. 

12. Do not take, “I’m sorry there is nothing we can do,” as an answer from either the bully’s parent or the school.

13. If your child is bullied with any regularity, the bully’s parents must be told. Let the school handle it first. If they do not call the parents, or if the bullying has not stopped, you need to call the parents.

14. Make certain your child has protection at school to the best of your ability. Work with the school to have adults supervising open areas such as hallways, locker rooms, gym class, the bus and other open, vulnerable situations.

 15. Help your child find new friends through clubs, groups, and throughout the community. These can be community centers, YMCA-based groups, park district classes or sports, library programs, collecting clubs, drama clubs, club sports, church groups, volunteer groups, and others.

16. Be a pleasant nuisance. Stay in touch initially with your child’s teachers, school counselor, psychologist, and principal daily and weekly. Then retreat as needed as the problem subsides.

17. Importantly, if you are not getting the support you need at school, or in the community, visit your police department. Make it clear that initial steps have not worked, and you would like an officer to have a conversation with the bully and his parents.

Stay determined and focused. Be your child’s advocate. Do not give up.

Comments from readers

"Being Bullied in no JOKE!! We hear all the time about kids being bullied at school. But how about our kids that are being bullied by teachers. YES!! That`s right TEACHERS!! The Webster schools has the worste teachers.If your child gets a teacher, and that teacher doesnt care for the student. They can make your childs year a miserable place to be. My daughter who is in the Webster Middle School hates going to school each day. She cryes every day. She does not want to go to school. Because a couple of her teachers are horrible to her. They put her in a star program because they dont want to take the time to help her with her difficulties. Our kids have a lot to deal with at school, especially peer preasure, Now they have to be bullied by teachers as well. We must help our children. By coeming together to fix this problem. BEING BULLIED BY TEACHERS!!!!!!!!!!! "
"very good! my grandson continues to be bullied, he just started junior high, it is affecting him in grades, self esteem and he has started hurting himself, and doesn't want to go to school. I am so mad! it makes me want to pray down vengeance upon that child, he is messing with my grandchild's very soul! "
""13. If your child is bullied with any regularity, the bully’s parents must be told. Let the school handle it first. If they do not call the parents, or if the bullying has not stopped, you need to call the parents." I suggest that many many parents of bullys are also bullys, and direftly contacting them "out of the blue" can be dangerous. If the school refuses to contact them, then maybe it's time to contact law enforcement IS criminal behavior in most cases! "
"These women are not idiots when they say that you should shut down your account. They are only trying to help!!! "
"We were told by the school counselor that the only way to protect our child was to take him out of the school. They said they could not protect him. They could not be with him every moment of every day. Much of the bullying occurs in the classrooms and the lunchroom. The teachers see nothing and the lunchroom monitor blames my child for everything that happens to him. "What did you do to them to make them do that to you?", she asked him one day. The principle, of course, said she must be misunderstanding what's going on. It is rarely just one bully, so even if you get rid of one, the rest come back with a vengence. As one bully told a girl recently, "You may have gotten rid of one of us, but you can't get rid of us all." 4 children (in the area, not the same school) have ended their lives in the past 11 months due to bullying. 1 was a relative so don't tell me it can get better. We will never recover from this. "
"My son was bullied at River Oaks Middle School in District 2, in South Carolina. The kid had his sister video tape him beating up my son, then he posted it on you-tube. He took his phone to school the next day and showed it to all of his friends. My son was tormented the entire day about it. The kid got on my son's bus after school with a friend of his with the intention of beating my son up again when they got off. He had a BB-gun in his back-pack and was arrested by the SRO before the bus left the school because he had bragged to the wrong kid during the day and the annonymous kid told on him. I withdrew my son so he would not have to deal with the taunting anymore, but the kid with the You-Tube video and the BB-gun is now back at the same school only 2 weeks later with no consequences. Wow, was I shocked. That kid rode his bike all the way over to my house to let my son know that he did not get into any trouble for any of it. I contacted the district office, but ne! ver received any responce. I worked at a middle school in Kansas and those kids would not be in another school for at least 6 months, if at all. They would have been expelled. "
"What about coaches who bully? We have experienced numerous occasions where the behavior exhibited by coaches toward students/children and young adults would never be tolerated in a classromm setting. What are parents doing about this? "
"My son was bullied for two years from middle school through high school. One day, 11 boys decided to drive down our block searching for our house to beat him up. Thank goodness I was home. I called the police and they didn't show up and we stayed on the line with them. After 1/2 hour of them calling my son on the cell phone taunting him to come out of the house, my son told them the police were on there way. Well, the police didn't show up till they left our block. It was pretty obvious that the police were helping them then us. I called to press charges and the police didn't want to file a report till I threaten him that if they won't doing somehing about this I will have to protect my family myself whatever it takes. After that he filed the charges. Good thing I did. The kids have immediately stopped after I filed the complaint. Without puting something in record, those boys would've continued. We also contacted the school which was more helpful then the police. Good luck. "
"What does the fact that the bully was small have to do with it? Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, and all socioeconomic backgrounds. I was a small kid who was bullied - physically and verbally - by bigger kids. My experience is that it's usually the bigger kids who bully the smaller ones and that the majority of teachers favor the bigger kids. There was a small kid last year who was bullied, and the "big" principal did nothing about it. There's this misconception that "bigger is better". Ever hear the expression that parents tell their small girls: "Be thankful you're not a boy!" Well, I hated hearing that when I was a kid but sadly, it's so so true. As bad as it is being a small girl, it's worse for a boy. Those poor boys, my heart goes out to them. No matter how hard they work, no matter how successful they become, they'll always be the butt of jokes. It's time for the teachers and administrators to get busy and stop bullying. I'm so sick of hearing "well, ! you know, Johnny comes from a broken home" or whatever. No excuses for bullying! Unfortunately the public schools are "legally obligated" to educate these bullies. They can't kick 'em out. The teacher calls the parents and the parents say "Not my little darling! Johnny is a nice boy, he'd never do that." so the bullying continues. Meanwhile, these poor kids who are the victims go through a living hell every day. No child or adolescent should go through that. It goes on in the private schools too. "
"I just dealt with this situation on behalf of my 15 year old. Two, formerly, dear friends of hers decided to target her - through facebook, email, texts, and classroom chatter, they used vulgarity and demaning comments to try and destroy her self-esteem and friendships. The caused a lot of hurt, distrust, and fear...What happened next? A very angry mom emerged. I am not afraid to stand my ground and fight for what is right. My daughter and I read up on our state's and local school districts "bully & harassment policies" - we followed the steps - we have a wonderful high school staff and faculty that took our concerns seriously and immediately began working on the issue. Before they had a chance to do much, word got around that my daughter had filed a formal "harassment" complaint. The next day, "the instigator" announced she was transferring schools as a result of the "drama". The other girl, "the supporter" is still there, but I have a feeling she won't be much of a prob! lem now...she really doesn't have the personal cleverness or the intimidation to pull it off. She's a follower...a bully's cheerleader. I am confident that this will begin to disipate, however, if it doesn't...we know what steps to take next. HINT: if texting is the tool for verbal harassment...remember, most phone companies allow you to forward your texts to a personal email address - this allows you to print out every destructive word that your child's tormentor uses - and gives you all the proof you need to take action. "
"When my son was in 5th grade another child tried to choke him. He came home with 5 finger sized bruises on his neck. I called and complained. The bully's mom worked in the office so they did not do anything. The next day he was shoved down and bloodies his knee by the same child. I also found out that this boy had choked another child. The next day i went into the school and told his teacher that the next time that child started something that my son was going to finish it. My son was a temperary black belt. He was told to never use his karate at school by the instructer and us, but i was not going to wait for something else to happen. Well, the bully tried again. Imagine his suprise when he was laid out on the playground a few times. The bullying stopped. Unforturetly not every child is able to defend themselves. At his new school when he was in 9th grade and a senior threatened to beat him up the senior was suspended for 3 months. Some schools are good at stopping bullying! and others need to learn. "
"Every time I go to an open house at school, I am reminded of parents who are incredibly overprotective and obsessive about teachers giving their children more attention than anyone else in the class. Have you every stood there for five minutes at an open house while someone stands there for impromptu parent-teacher meeting? I am afraid these parents who are constantly directing teachers on how their children need to be managed and taught in the classroom will be using the bully victim syndrome to call more attention to their special offspring. Common sense needs to prevail somewhere in the equation. Some of the notes mentioned in this book story sound like a recipe to escalate problems rather than solving them. "
"Tolerance, indeed tacit approval for bullying starts at the top. Our schools are nothing more than microcosoms of the communities that they serve and whole communities can be bullying communities, as we disovered. Children learn what they live. Every Day. When adults finally model strong, reasonable, grown-up behavior, maybe then our society can move on. For the person who called these women "idiots," please, try to get a number at the head of the line. Grow up. The world in NOT like when me and my husband were kids (baby-boomers brought up by the 'great generation' where aches & pains were rarely heeded and kids were directed to "fight your own battles"). Whining is one thing. Living in fear and not being able to focus on school work/issues is quite another. What we are addresing is much more than fretting. There are many, many angry and hurt people walking around looking to take their angst out on someone or something. And like the lady said about not giving birth to her c! hildren for someone to hurt them; likewise--we took two beautiful kids out of the "state" system intending to love and nurture them, to help and watch them grow--they both ended up as "special needs" with chronic, long term, at times life- threatening illnesses. We didn't adopt these kids for them to become dysfunctional kids' verbal or phsycial punching bags. The bullies? Circled in droves. The teachers? Turned their heads. The school administrators? Blamed the victims. The school psychogists? Got paid lots of $$ to tell my kids to ignore the bullies because "Tomorrow's another day." Too often, the vulnerability of kind, sweet, good kids become prey. The authors are right. Parents--confront the bullies head on. Involve schools, demand that the bully's parents be addressed. If YOU have to be inconvenienced, then the BULLY'S parents should be likewise inconvenienced and they can be expected to take time from work or home activities to attend a sit-down session about little J! anie or Johnnie's latest conquest. Involve the police if the s! chool does not or will not support your child. We actually ended up in juvenile court after the second girl bully assaulted my daughter (with a port in her chest, no less) and my daughter retaliated. Print out all online threats, harrassments, etc. and bring them to the police. In fact document EVERYTHING. It doesn't matter that it's only your or your child's point of view. It's highly unlikely that the bully will have documentation to refute it. Only when the police and juvenile courts get tired of doing the parents' and the school administrator's jobs and make noise about it will bullying be really, finally dealt with. My kids? One graduated from the "hell hole" and now attends community college. The other has a rare liver disease and can no longer attend local schools due to the toxic environment (chemical cleaners AND noxious peers, administration). The attorney that we hired helped her achieve placement in a safe school. The bullying has NEVER been fully addressed in either of our kids' cases. The taste left by the school system and the community at large is not a good one. "
"You know what makes me sad about this article? It just perpetuates the idea that if you're not a bully, you're a "victim." There is already such a victim mentality in this country. I didn't count how many times I saw the word, but it's a lot. And nowhere does it talk about a kid standing up for himself or herself. Not all the information here is bad, but it's a tough world out there and to some degree, our kids need to toughen up just a bit. Not every stupid cruel thing a kid says is bullying, and there's always going to be ugly people in the world. When you're in fear for your physical safety or it follows you home, then yeah, parents and adults have to step in. But I wouldn't expect the school, a politically correct government agency, to give one whit about my kid. I know there are real cases of bullying out there, but we're all just so quick to be victims. "
"This is a very good article. Now if school administrators would just read. We finally left our school after our daughter was tortured for 2 years by one of the smallest little girls in class. The conflict resolution is a TOTAL waste of time and thank you for pointing that out as this is most school's first line of defense (and second and third). Not even sure the community "anti bullying" campaigns are effective on self focused self centered kids who are socio-pathic in nature...they do not have the same sentiments as others. I will try to find your book. Am bound to never let this happen again. "
"We are all grownups teaching about how to behave to one another and in the class room the real bullie are the Teachers... When is that going to change! "
"Let me add that kids need to demand that their teachers be responsible for repressing obvious disrespect from classmates. Teachers must often bring uncooperative or "not on task" behavior to students attention, but are then sometimes distracted by others who find it necessary to comment or laugh at the student's reprimand by that teacher. I then find it necessary to demand that the others mind their own business, and keep their comments to themselves. Teachers need to be aware of this and repress those who must "jump in" on a teachers' comments to students not on task. "
"This advice is nonsense. Sit back and record the incidences of bullying?! Shut down YOUR account?! Terrible advice! No! You contact Facebook-- get the bully's account shut down! Immediately inform the school! These women are idiots! "
"We had an instance last May where my petite 1st grader came home to tell me that two girls, also in her grade (one that has at least 50 lbs on her over my child) trapped my daughter between two tree's, forced her to "show her privates" and then proceeded to force her to "kiss another girl". I was at first in the mentality that kids will be kids, and then within' hours my thoughts turned to "this is not acceptable behavior, I have to act". I immediately wrote an email to the school principal and her teacher. I also volunteered at the school 2+ days a week and was very familiar with these girls that did the bullying. On a Sunday a day after my email, I received a message from the principal, basically saying this would be dealt with. My daughter (6) then was scared to go to school, Said the bullies made her "feel gross" I literally had to go with her each and every day to get her to finish first grade. The school counselor got involved, the police got involved, the juvenile district attorney got involved, the school district psychologist was involve. I had teachers come to me and tell me how well I was handling the situation and how "pissed" they would be if it were there child. I replied with "I am pissed, but being pissed and angry won't help my child, I have to stay grounded and strong for her". We worked very hard all summer and after school started to get my daughter to learn to stand up for herself, to advocate for herself. We have a very open communication home, we talk through everything as a family. She still attends the same school, but the principal has introduced my daughter to many "safe" adults, given her permission to come to her or any other safe people at any given time. They have seper! ated the bullies away from my child, into two differnt class rooms. I feel like they have worked hard to make a safe, healthy learning envirnment for my child, but I know that they are short staffed and that many instances are overlooked. I realize that bullying for older children can be horrific. I want nothing more than bullying to stop! I wonder how some parents can be oblivious to it. I monitor my, now 20 year old daughters facebook to this day, I will not tolerate anyone being hurt, picked on, bullied, offended. WE have taught our kids to have compassion, accept differences in others, appreciate others differences, as they are individuals. Find positives in everyone. I just wish others did the same. I would homeschool in a heartbeat, or move my children to another school if the harrassing actions/bullying didn't stop. I did not give birth to my kids to see them hurt by anyone! My job as a parent is to guide them, help them to be Happy, Healthy, Brilliant, Sucessful people, and will do everything in my power to help them achieve that. I also believe that keeping them involved in healthy activies, my girls take dance classes, craft, take school very seriously, helps to provide balance, keeps them around healthier, goal setting positive individuals. At least I hope and pray that is the case :) I blame the homes that these bullies in our case, come from. I think at six and seven years old that this is learned behavior and it's sad. I hope for them that they get the care they need in the process as well, maybe it will shed light on their home lives. I pray that this doesn't happen to any other children. Ever! "