My Child is a Bully
Dennis Friedman, D.O., is a psychiatrist at Banner Health. For more information, talk to your doctor or counselor or call the free Banner Appointment Line at (602) 254-HELP.
Question: My son's school called to tell me that he has been bullying a classmate.
Answer: Many parents are surprised to learn how common bullying is in our schools. One study showed that about 30 percent of students reported being involved in moderate to frequent bullying. Thirteen percent of these kids were bullies, about 11 percent were victims and six percent were bullies who were also periodically victimized. It is estimated that well over 100,000 children miss school every day because the fear attack or intimidation by other students.
In the past, the fact that some kids are bullies and some kids got picked on was thought of as just part of growing up. We now realize ignoring or turning a blind eye to bullying has harmful consequences for the victims of bullying, for the bullies themselves and it can sour the school environment.
Children who are bullied are more likely to experience insecurity, anxiety, depression, loneliness, unhappiness, physical symptoms, low self-esteem, social fears, nightmares, sleeplessness and even, at times, suicidal thoughts.
Children who bully are more likely to get into frequent fights, be injured in a fight, vandalize property, steal property, drop out of school, carry a weapon, drink alcohol, use illicit substances and smoke. One study indicated that young bullies carry a one in four chance of having a criminal record by the age of 30; whereas a normal child has a one in 20 chance.
A common reaction as a parent is to be in denial, or to believe that the school is making a bigger deal than they need to. I would encourage you not to be in denial. Bullying is against the law in Arizona. The important question for you to ask as a parent is, “Why is this happening now?” Some psychologist believe that children bully at school because they feel out of control with some part of their life. Is your child being picked on by a sibling or another family member at home? Are conflicts at home usually resolved by yelling, intimidation or hitting? Can conflicts at home be resolved in a more constructive manner?
Fortunately there are resources for parents, teachers, administrators and students wanting to build or enhance anti-bullying programs at your schools. An excellent resource has been developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA). They can supply you with a free resource kit. You can preview material in this kit at: http://www.stopbullying.gov/.
Reviewed June 2010