Fall 2011
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Sticks and Stones... Identifying and Responding to Bullying Behaviors


Almost everyone remembers a kid in school who teased and picked on other people. But when does that type of behavior cross the line into bullying?

According to Stop Bullying Now, when teasing becomes hurtful, unkind and constant, it needs to stop.

What Is Bullying?

Bullying is intentional tormenting in physical, verbal or psychological ways. It can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats and mocking, to taking money and treasured possessions. Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumors about them. Others use email, social networking and texts to taunt.

According to Barri Rosenbluth, LSCW, who directs the Expect Respect Program at SafePlace in Austin, without intervention, bullying can lead to other forms of aggressive conduct including sexual harassment and dating abuse as children move into adolescence.

"It's important to encourage children to speak up and be ‘Upstanders' rather than to be silent bystanders when they witness any form of bullying," she said. "Young people have the power to make bullying un-cool, unpopular and unacceptable. Please visit www.StartStrongAustin.org to see how youth are taking the lead in promoting safe and healthy relationships."

The Proactive Behavioral-Management website reports that 60 percent of U.S. middle schoolers say they have been bullied, and 160,000 students across the country stay home from school every day due to bullying. This issue has become so widespread that more than 15 antibullying bills were filed during the 2011 Texas Legislative Session.

If Your Child Is Being Bullied

Children frequently do not tell their parents that they are being bullied because they are embarrassed, ashamed, frightened of the children who are bullying them or afraid of being seen as a "tattler." Stop Bullying Now says that if your child tells you about being bullied, it has taken a lot of courage to do so. He or she needs your help to stop the bullying. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Focus on your child. Be supportive and gather information about the bullying.
  • Don't assume that your child did something to provoke the bullying.
  • Listen carefully to what your child tells you about the bullying.
  • Empathize and tell your child that bullying is wrong, not their fault and that you are glad he or she had the courage to tell you about it.
  • Do not encourage physical retaliation ("just hit them back") as a solution.
  • Contact your child's teacher or principal.
  • Emphasize that you want to work with the staff at school to find a solution.
  • Do not contact the parents of the student(s) who bullied your child. School officials should contact the parents of the child or children who did the bullying.
  • Talk regularly with your child and with school staff to see whether the bullying has stopped. If the bullying persists, contact school authorities again.
  • Help your child become more resilient to bullying.
  • Encourage your child to make contact with friendly students in his or her class.
  • Help your child meet new friends outside of the school environment.
  • Teach your child safety strategies such as seeking help from an adult when feeling threatened by a bully. Assure your child that reporting bullying is not the same as tattling.

If Your Child Is Bullying Others

There is no one single cause of bullying among children. Rather, individual, family, peer, school and community factors can place a child or youth at risk for bullying his or her peers. If you suspect your child is bullying others, here are some tips to help you deal with the situation:

  • Make it clear that you will not tolerate the behavior.
  • Be sure your child knows that bullying is harmful.
  • Develop clear and consistent rules within your family for your children's behavior. Praise and reinforce your children for following rules and use non-physical, non-hostile consequences for rule violations.
  • Spend more time with your child and carefully supervise and monitor his or her activities.
  • Share your concerns with your child's teacher, counselor or principal. Work together to send clear messages to your child that his or her bullying must stop.
  • If you or your child needs additional help, talk with a school counselor or mental health professional.
  • Be realistic. Your child's behavior will not change overnight.

"Often, children who bully have learned this behavior at home," Rosenbluth said. "When children are mistreated or exposed to domestic violence, they are more likely to repeat these behaviors in their peer and future dating relationships."

How can this cycle be stopped? Here are some resources for individuals and families affected by sexual and domestic violence:

  • www.safeplace.org: provides safety for victims and help in healing so they can move beyond being defined by the crimes committed against them, and become survivors. Promotes safe and healthy relationships for the prevention of sexual and domestic violence. Works with others to create change in attitudes, behaviors and policies that perpetuate the acceptance of and impact understanding and responses to sexual and domestic violence.
  • www.safeplace.org/expectrespect: engages youth and adults in building healthy teen relationships and preventing dating and sexual violence. Serving Austin schools since 1988, Expect Respect provides school-based support groups and counseling, youth leadership activities and educational programs in schools and community settings.
  • www.startstrongaustin.org: works to promote safe and healthy teen relationships and prevent teen dating abuse through a collaboration of school and community partners. Austin is one of 11 sites in the United States participating in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships Initiative.

Bullying Statistics

  • 20 percent of all children say they have been bullied.
  • 25 percent of students say that teachers intervened in bullying incidents while 71 percent of teachers say they intervened.
  • In schools where there are bullying programs, bullying is reduced by 50 percent.



Good Health for Kids is produced by Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.