HomeHealth & BehaviorBullying

Nine ways to eliminate bullying

Teaching children to speak to an adult about bullying is one of many suggestions from our readers on how to deal with a bully.

By GreatSchools Staff

Teach children to speak up immediately:

A mother from Alabama writes: "Our daughter attends a local public school. We had a difficult time with bullies in first grade late last year. The majority of the problem was with two kids terrorizing or ganging up together (a brother and sister) against our 6-year-old on the bus. It started with one of them grabbing her lunch bag and literally helping themselves to whatever they felt like taking from our daughter, whether it was her lunch, snacks, drinks, milk money, etc. Our daughter would not speak up or tell me at all. It went on for a while until she became physically ill and a nurse called me from school. We went outside and talked and I immediately went back to her classroom and talked to her teacher, the boy's teacher, the nurses and then the principal. She handled it immediately by calling the parents while we were in the office. The children went to the time-out room, and I requested my daughter's bus seat be changed and moved closer to the driver. This worked, combined with telling my daughter over and over how wrong it was and that she needed to speak up and tell someone immediately.

"Some advice to other parents: A. Take the time and talk to your kids every day and ask how their day goes and really pay attention. I had no clue until my daughter complained of stomach aches and started requesting I drive her to school. It was very unlike her. B. Don't approach the bullies yourself or get on the bus. Let the school reach out to the parents and go from there. This is the first thing that I learned besides teaching myself to breathe properly again. Do talk to and inform your child's teacher, the nurses and the bullies' teacher. C. Do coach your kids how wrong it is to be picked on and that they aren't doing anything wrong by seeking out their teacher, a counselor, the principal and/or you. They need to understand they are the victim, they are not tattling or being the 'trouble maker' as our daughter thought. D. I bought some books on bullying and donated two copies to the school. I bought extras for us and we read them frequently at home. I also believe that kids have to be taught how to talk nice and be a friend.

"What our school is doing: We have a new principal this year. The school has mini-seminars about bullying, respect, etc. for the kids. But this year our school made up a contract between the school and the students, for each and every student to read and sign. The parents have to read and sign it as well and return it to the schools office. It has a lot of points and good information, but in general, the contract states good behavior will be expected and demanded at all times during the school day. It talks about respect towards the school, the teacher and classmates. The kids must keep their hands and feet to themselves at all times. It talks about misbehavior on a bus may lead to punishment, including suspension and expulsion from school. We have a list of the bus rules. The school's policy handbook was very thick this year and informative. Also, what goes hand-in-hand are the school's motto: "The three R's = respectful, responsible and resourceful." The motto and definitions are on a form and all of the kids had to sign this form and return it to school."

Don't be blind to signs that your child might be being bullied:

The Illinois mother of a seventh-grade boy writes, "I am currently involved in stopping bullying behaviors that are directed at my son. Last year, in his 6th grade year, he was being bullied and I did not know. He had constant headaches, wanted to stay home often, did not want to walk home from school (6 blocks away) and I did not put the scenario together. I took him to the doctor for headaches and thought he just did not want to walk home. When I discovered this year that he was being bullied last year, I was hurt. I felt like I was not a good parent and that my husband should have caught the signs. This year I am not the same mother. There is a bullying prevention program called Olweus that the school has adopted. But no matter how great the program, the child must be willing to tell. Children have a code of silence that is developed through fear and not wanting to tattle. My son is telling me what is going on this time and I have him report it to the teacher. I follow that conversation up because some teachers will drop the ball. I have the assistant principal involved and if it is not resolved immediately, I will involve the principal and then the legal system (press charges) if needed. Our children should not be victimized at school. Schools must have a safe, nurturing, educational environment. Sometimes I wonder at outbreaks of violence in schools around the country and what could have happened differently if the parents were more involved in their children's lives, not only at home, but in school also. How do you stop a bully? It has to be a joint collaboration between parents and the school."

Comments from readers

"My nine year old daughter and I read the above and she wanted me to comment here. She feels better and she feels not alone now. We are going through a very difficult time and some students in her school bully her and make her feel even more alone, different and helpless. She feels alone in school and she feels like she's bullying her friends too. Also a mean person in the school tells her rude things and that she is not a good drawer. My daughter tells me the girl walks around the class and looks at her work. Her friend always bullies her whenever they are not alone, but when just the two of them are together, they have a lot of fun. "
"Thank you for such a well written, informative article. With regard to the one-liners, it shows that kindness is always the best way, not an eye for an eye. Some children just want to be noticed and do not have any good social skills. And as stated in the article may be bullied themselves. "
"I have readed a lot of the sad article. It seem like the bully is the one gets away with being a bully. I have seen first hand in the school. They tell the bully you will not be play with class. And it would be for few weeks. Which is a lie, I saw this first hand it last for three days. Wow! To us the school has drop the ball. It like you just said to this bully it ok to Assault and Hassassment a other child. You have made the other child not feel safe at this school. And the child feels why tell the school or teacher. You do nothing!!! May this never happen to your child.. I hope you can look at yourself in the face. And I hope you can sleep good. Knowing you drop the ball!! "
"I am so glad I came across these stories. My 9yr old son is picked on at his school, and im getting fed up with his school. I have talk to the teachers and principle, my next step was the superintident. I will be visiting his school for observatation first, but I have had enough with conversations of just pacifing me. He is a child with some learning disabilities and does not retiliate because wants to just stay out of trouble. Another student is actually the one who spoke up. It breaks my heart and I think it is because he does not defend himself. No one has the right to pick on anyone and its disturbing to me. "
"i am a 8 grader i get bullied. People tell me to ignore and other people say stop bieng scared of her and say something back and dont let her punk you out in front of everybody.But then I say im tired of her mouth and im am going to say something back. Its like everyday I see her its like she has to say something to me. And im like is it that hard for you to walk pass me and dont say anything dont even look at me iI really think she has issues because she bully everybod, and the messed up thing about is she bully people thats youger than her. She always used to tell me I dont hit little girls because they are to little for me to fight. So im like you bully girl that is way youger than you but u dont fight them or hit them like whats the difference. This girl think im scared of her oh naw baby aint scared of you I just dont say nonthing back because you are not worth it or it is not worth it. But in a minute i am going to snap. I cant even walk to my classes without her sayi! ng something to me. And she is in my class and everytime she says somrething to me i just feel like popping her for real shawty. She say I do to much she do to much with that mouth of hers. And when somebody come in her face and start coming off she be ready to fight. This girl makes no type of sense like she need to tighren up for real man. I mean one day she will learn when she get bullied and somebody beat her up she will know how it feel. "
"I recently transferred my child from one school down the street to another school across town because of another child in her class who bullied her. From Kindergarden to first grade, this little girl has scratched, hit, and recently stabbed my daughter in the back with a pencil and I was tired of going to the teacher and principal after every incident with concerns for my child's safety. I can only assume that because this little "bully" is a child of one of the staff members at the same school, that this behavior was tolerated. My only choice was to remove her from the school. "
"I'm very worried about my 11 year old daughter because shes been so uhappy and sad and crying telling me at her school there is kids who are saying mean things to her at lunch time and when shes tried to tell the teacher shes the one who got yelled at by the teacher saying if she stood up and said something back that shed get in trouble for sticking up for herself. shes sicka nd doesent want to go to school anymore and ive let her stay out of school already a couple of times. I'm very upset and sadened by this.. "
"It is only the first week of school and my son is being teased by another little boy in his class. This child finds out someone's fear and just belittles them and taunts them until they cry. Someone who is supposed to be a friend. This article helped me catch the sypmtoms only 3 days into the school year so thank you. I have already sent an email to the principal and left her a message to call me. I plan to address my situation head on and told other parents who experienced something similar to do the same. It is a catholic school and hoping that they will address this situation quickly. The child was a menance in Prek4, rude in Kindergarten, now down right nasty and malicious. Do they ever throw these types of kids out of school? When does the school say enough is enough. The child also disrupts learning in the classroom. Last year he spent all year long with his desk next to the teacher's desk. "
"Great article! Because you can never be too informed, here's another one"
"you should just tell you daughter why is she ill and then ask the principal suspend the kids who are bullying you daughter."
"I am an 8th studdent and there was severaal students who were just bullying me and what i did every day is go home and cry and just say to myself why does it have to be me and i been bullied all my life since 4th grade I would always sit by myself and when i walk to class they tell me aww man why is he here all the time. I never told my mom what wss happening to me until it came to seventh grade i told my vice principal they are calling me gay quir bi sexual you talk like a girl and she said oh ok we are calling this student i was like no i dont want to see him because they are all going to hate me and say i am a total snitch. So when she was talking to the students they were crying and saying i didnt mean to say that and a student was like i didnt mean to put my problems over you and they are nice to me and telling students to leave me alone and that is not nice harassing and i feel much better telling an adult to help solve the problem instead of crying i also found a website that also helps me it's called ( year in my eigth grade i had only 1 problem well 2 because there was a student calling me gay and quir and i felt uncomfotable and the vice principal told him to stop i feel better thanks to her and another rumor started going around saying i like a guy and she also solved it. I want to thank those who are there to stop the bullying thanks to the vice principal the counseler a PE teacher and other people thanks you guys for all you did and let me tell you this dont b scraed of bullys tell an adult right away and i bet less than a minuete you wont hear a single word about you because it feels good when you say tell an adult thanks for reading my story."
"I am a 13 year old girl and I find that just ignoring bullies is the best thing to do. I myself am sometimes bullied by being told I have no friends. I laughed and said whatever. She left me alone!"
"it's painful to hear your child is being bully at school and then she gets written's doesnt make sense to me. "
"I`m from Bulgaria and I experienced bullying on me too.It started when I was 11 years old.In my case there wasn`t physical damage, but I was sad from wholle words they said to me. There was nobody who could stop this, even the principal, because nobody was worried about this problems.The principal and teachers punished only with words and they didn`t take serious actions against bullying. Me and students like me were alone against the situation. The whole school - system was weak to punish bullyies.Even this was accepted like normal thing from school life.Just make yourself strong and go ahead - that was the way.Now I`m 21 years old and still feel the efects from those years.Fortunately I alwаys have had my best friend and some other good people next to me, this things helps me a lot to be what I`m today."
"Being more interested in educational psychology, especially in clinical psychology, I came across your highly informative website and I am really groping for right words still now to express my happiness. It is really the fact, not an exaggeration. Being an Indian and having worked as a high schoolteacher for more than 15 years across states I should accept the fact that this is indeed one of the problems we face in most of our Indian schools, though not that much serious as in the rest of the countries in the world. Parents of the victim of bullying should first of all should avoid seeing the student to whom their child has become victim as an enemy and should understand the real fact that the child to whom their child has become is in reality longing for love and affection from others from your child too( Carl Rogers ). So in case your child becomes the victim of bullying, you should move toward the child to whom your child has become victim in a kind and considerate manner even if not directly at least through school. Willing to share a lot out of my 15 years experience in teaching to world through your website, ARULMANIM PRINCIPAL, MR MATRIC HIGHER SECONDARY SCHOOL, THATHANUR, ARIYALUR DSTRICT, TAMILNADU, INDIA. "
"I think this makes the commitment more serious--great idea! 'our school made up a contract between the school and the students, for each and every student to read and sign. The parents have to read and sign it as well and return it to the schools office'"
"Both my Daughters was bullied from Elementary to Middle. The Schools need to be more follow thru About punishment for the BULLIERS. 1ST time get caregiver up to school for conference 2ND Suspension for 3 or more days. 3RD file Assault charges with police.4th EXPULSION from School."
"Private School Bullying As an educator for 20 years and having won many national awards/grants, I would say that bullying is more prevalent and harder to address in private schools. My child attended a private school with impressive buildings/grounds in NC and for two years I have been trying to address bullying behaviors against my child: The teachers are reluctant to help because they align more closely with parents who they knew when their children were attendees, and the younger siblings of these children (although high expectations, low professionalism). The quantity of children that a family sends to a private school seems to be problematic in correcting the student's/teacher's behaviors (total amount of money per family). The administrator is accountable to no one and will say anything to discourage communication about bullying (no superintendent of schools to address the issues, no Department of Education available). Years ago, I was lucky to be in an area of the US that was one of the first to regularly put time aside in the schools to teach students about bullying so I know that meaningful programs can be implemented with a minimum of time or resources invested. The last time I went to the school to make the teacher aware of the many children who were practicing various abuses against my child I gave her a copy of Reviving Ophelia, considered the quintessential book on the topic of girl-on-girl bullying, which she returned to me later with a clear message that she did not even read it. We removed our child from this school and are happy that the new school, though it may not have the academics or pretty campus, is a more loving environment. By the way, my child is quite bright and was physically, verbally, and relationally abused regularly by the 'C' average child of a local truck driver who has siblings in the school. My husband and I have two degrees each; from large, regional universities."
"I was suprised how this information applies to us for school, family and safety. It is exactly on point of what we as parents go through, at home and at school. A well deserved punishment along with a verbal or non-verbal message takes away the abusers control of the situation. Noone deserves abuse. The abuser is a coward and seeks attention and thinks he'' win the respect of peers. Teach at home well deserved manners, don't let childen have control, (at home or school), treat people with respect, or else suffer the consequences. Bullying leads to criminal activty. These problems have good solutions. Get away from the torment, we don't need it in our lives. "
"We need to be very careful about what we say to our kids who are being bullied. I was bullied in 6th grade to the point where I had to leave the school. I was told 'stand up to them and they'll leave you alone'. The problem was that didn't work and only seemed to provoke them further. Would you say that to an adult man who was just mugged by 5 thugs in an alley? 'Oh, if you'd just stood up to them those bullies would have backed down'. No, we'd say call the police because these are violent criminals. Why do we expect a defenseless child to handle these types of situations on their own when we wouldn't ask it of an adult? Sadly, some of our children are just as vicious and dangerous. Low level bullies might be afraid of someone who stands up for themselves. But many just get worse, much worse, if you challenge them. Its a very complicated issue and we run the risk of making things even more difficult for our chldren if we don't put careful thought into what we say to them. ! Putting all the responsibility on their tiny shoulders is cruel. Bullying can have far reaching consequences and should be taken seriously."
"My 5yr old daughter was a victim of 'Mean girl bullying' in kindergaten. My 5yr old daughter has a very quiet,shy, or timid disposition. Therefore, from my point of view more aggresive children tend to take advantage of her. On top of her meek personality, she has a speech impediment. She became very tramatized by the bullying. It started with 2 children than evolved to about 5. My daughter never discussed the bullying with us, until it resulted in 5 children physically hitting her. She woke up in the middle of the night crying, telling us how afraid she was to go back to school, and how 5 kids teased and hit her. We went to the the school the next morning furious. To make a long story short,my view is that alot of the responsibilty is also on the school, young children should be monitored more closely,to prevent such behavior.Teachers and Staff should constantly demonstrate the importance of encoraging students to be respectful to one another. It was very hurtful for me and! my husband to watch my daughter suffer everyday before going to school. She claimed having stomach aches to keep from going to school. The bullying also distracted her from learning, she fell behind in kindergarden. The bullying subsided once we expressed how upset we were over the incident.The bullying was going on alot longer than we thought,my daughter just suddenly had a breaking point.It became too overwhelming for her when the hitting & teasing became involved. No child should have to endure such behavior."
"Wow, I really enjoyed that! I have watched my kids go through being bullied, my daughter more than them all. She is very quiet, and tends to keep to herself. She is a very good student and this has seemed to attract negative attention from small minded teachers and students. I agree wholeheartedly that parents should always be involved."
"I always tell my daughter to report any mean girl or boy that bullies her and I'll personally go to the school, so I can let the people working there and getting paid with our tax money know exactly what's going on, while they don't watch the students. A lawsuit will be the perfect solution, and the School Districts doesn't want to fight a Lawsuit. To let it continue is wrong and most teachers will do something about it by contacting the parents of the Bullies. If nothing is done then the plan is to sue the school or School District because the parents of the Bullies must not have ( too much ) money. You go after the source and I don't mean the Bully and your Attorney will agree with you. The money collected from the Lawsuit can pay for a Private Education at a Private School, where there is hardly any Bullying."
"Many years ago,as a very young girl, in an era when little girls had to wear skirts or dreses to school and wore white gloves to Sunday school, I was bullied in the first and second grades by a group of 5-6 boys who would taunt and threaten me and follow me when I was walking home each day after school. They would threaten to 'pull down my underpants' (a shocking terrifying threat in that era) and say other rude frightening things. I did everything I could to avoid them, walking home different ways every day even if it was far out of my way and it took an hour to walk the three blocks home. I would wait until I thought everyone had left for the day then peek outside to see if they were waiting for me. Finally I told my mother, she worked and couldn't walk me home so she arranged for me to walk home with a neighbor who escorted her own daughter home. One day, I was trailing behind them, lugging my heavy bookbag, very tired after a full day of school, and couldn't keep up. Out! of the bushes jumped the boys who made the usual circle around me and made the usual threats. This had been going on for about a year and I just couldn't take it any more, something snapped! To my surprise and theirs, holding tightly to the handle of my book bag, I spun quickly in a circle and working up some momentum, I mowed them down one after another with the bag full of heavy text books! At least two were knocked to the ground and the bag connected with the others, doubling them over or delivering a resounding thud. They were taken by complete surprise and were shocked. One of the ringleaders was knocked to the ground and was crying. I never said a word. I just stepped over the ones on the ground and walked straight home. They NEVER bothered me again. But even more importantly, I was never AFRAID again, never walked the long way around, and no longer sat in school all day distracted, unable to concentrate worrying about how I was going to manage to get home atthe end ! of the day without being terrorized. "
"I teach at a magnet, fine arts school. Bullying does not always mean taking something. It can be in many forms, including hiding someone's dance tights, homework, texting, and the list goes on. I started 'Chicks and Cliques' last year for our middle school girls. WE are seeing about 35 girls each month. We, as adults, must make sure that the adults are not bullies. The conversations from these young ladies have been eye-opening. We now make sure that teachers are posted at classroom doors throughout campus. Teaching young ladies that they cannot be bullied without their permission has helped our students."
"My 3rd grade grandaughter was being bullied, she told the teacher who blew her off, I went down to the school and talked to her she told me she wasn't being bullied that she had seen. So sympathy at home stopped,she stole some money and was punished by 'shunning'the I picked her up from school one day and heard someone calling my name- it was her teacher telling me it was true she was being bullied and had paid a bystander $10 for rescuing her.She got our attention and I felt horrible . "
"I was being picked on in the 7th grade by a girl in my gym class for no reason. One day after class, she followed me to my locker & cornered me in a threatening manner. I didn't know what to do. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw the leg of another girl kick open the locker door (one of those elongated ones). She got in between us & stood up to my bully. She stared her in the face & said,'LEAVE HER ALONE!' My bully never bothered me again! BTW, the girl who stuck up for me was shorter than me AND the bully! Sometimes in these situations, size really doesn't matter! Later, in high school, I was picked on again by 2 girls who were jealous of my grades. This time, I stood up to them myself & that was the end of that!"
"I agree that the bully problem in this country is a terrible problem. For the children who are a little differsnt such as my son who has ADHD and has a hard time maling friends, he gets bullied. He was bullied all the way through 5th grade, and did tell the teachers as we did also. When they did nothing the bullying excalated until one day when our son was followed home and pushed off of his bike by not one but 5 boys. Our soon came home crying. The bullied stood in the road flipping me off, well my husband and I got in to our car and chased them down to their apartments only to discover they were home alone. Guess what, we called the police. Do you think anything came out of it. Only the fact that we scared them. The principal did nothing because it was the end of the school year. Thank goodness, our son isn't at that school anymore. But as a teacher or principal, they should take the responsibilty and do something right away. Our son is getting bullied again this year. Lu! ckily, the school has a pretty stiff anti bullying policy. Schools should teach kids to be more tolerant of kids who are different and should have assemblies and speakers who come in to address the bullying issues. It has to start somewhere, or things will never change. Frustrated in Mn"
"How sad that the school counselor's solution was that the victim change his/her behavior. I remember teachers and a bus driver telling me that in the 3rd grade-- 42 years ago-- and it still stings. No, the advice from all the others-- particularly the behavior contract between each family and the school, is all correct because it gets to the heart of the problem-- the naughty child must not be allowed the freedom to act out, whatever his issues are. "
"When my daughter was in kindergarten she was bullied by a group of boys on the bus. It went on for quite a while before she got the nerve to tell us about it. We spoke with the school principal, the childrens teachers and the bus driver. The problem was taken care of. During the discussion of how to solve the problem one of the suggestions was to have my daughter sit closer to the bus driver. This was supposed to be so that the driver could keep an eye on her. I told them, 'Absolutely not!' My child did nothing wrong. If she had to change her seat she would be getting the message that she did something wrong and needed to be punished. Let the problem children be placed under supervision at the front of the bus. Maybe that way they won't be able to terrorize another child."
"That guidance counselor seems to be focussing on blaming the victim, instead of working on identifying bullies and working to reduce their behavior. I'm now appreciating how little if any bullying there was during my school days (mid-50's to late 60's in public school). My father attended public schools in a large city. His father had been a semi-pro boxer and taught him some steps to use if needed to defend himself. When a bully picked on my father at a new school for Dad, he answered the bully's threats with a few choice punches (this was in the late 1920's). The principal watched the scene and chose to allow it to run its course as this child had bullied many others. The bully's mother even came to the school later that day; the principal explained the situation; the bullying ended (and, as it happened, the bully's family moved away). Dad only recently (at age 87) shared this story with me. Why is there so much bullying now and why do so many adults accept it as a! 'way of life.' I managed quite well without it."
"This is excellent advice - stop the bullying before it escalates. But it also needs to be addressed more often in high schools. It comes in the same issues and a whole lot of new ones (racial, territorial, boyfriend/girlfriend, bumping into someone, family problems, just the hormones alone, etc.) It's sad that others have to be afraid to go to school because an individual has issues that can be dealt with, but chooses not to."
"My son was the victim of a bully from 2nd grade until 5th grade. I thought I had taken care of it in 2nd grade but when I heard one of his friends ask if he was gay I knew the 'situation' was still there. I went to his 5th grade teacher who immediately went to the counselor. Thank goodness my son went to a great elementary school that cared. They had the bully in the office with the principal, the bully's parents and the counselor that day. The counselor also gave me ways of making my son stand up for himself. Not to look down but to give direct eye contact."