How many more young people have to suffer in silence at the hands of bullies? The alarming rise in the number of teens taking their own lives is leaving parents desperate for answers. Could you be missing cues that your child is in trouble? Do you know what is happening at your child’s school?
Dr. Phil says, “We’re talking about a call to action for students, parents, teachers, coaches, school administrators, anyone who comes in contact with children that are subject to being bullied. We’ve got to keep our children safe at school and that includes keeping them safe from each other. Bullying is more serious than ever. Kids are taking their own lives as a result and even when they don’t, the emotional scars, the damage to their self-esteem can be devastating.
“If you stand by passively and watch a child be tormented, terrorized and bullied, you are as guilty as the person who’s doing it. You have got to find the courage, you’ve got to find the wherewithal to step up and say, ‘This is not OK.’ And kids, if you’re being bullied, telling is not tattling! You have to go to somebody and ask for help.”
What Is Bullying?
Bullying involves the harassment/terrorism of an individual. Forms may include physical, emotional, verbal, sexual or racial teasing or torment. The bullying may also involve exclusion or isolation and can occur face to face, in writing or via the Internet.
Warning Signs of Someone Being Bullied:
- Pattern of withdrawal, shame, fearfulness
- Onset of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem
- Persistent, vague, unexplained physical complaints
- Damaged or missing belongings
- Unexplained bruises or injuries
- Diminished social contacts
- Excuses to avoid school; decline in grades
- Trouble sleeping or eating
If Your Child is Being Bullied:
- Take the situation seriously and actively intervene early
- Calmly encourage your child to talk about it and get the facts: who, when, where, what
- Prepare your child to respond internally and behaviorally
- Partner with your child to cope and boost their self-confidence
- Call the bully’s parents and make sure they know what’s happening
“Don’t call them with your hair on fire, making accusations,” Dr. Phil says. “Partner with them, so the two of you as parents can resolve the situation.”
- Partner with and involve school officials and/or police
- Follow up
- Know when to seek professional help
If You Are Being Bullied:
- Know who you are
“If you incorporate what the bully is saying about you into your own mindset, then you take over for them,” Dr. Phil says. “You’ve got to know who you are, you’ve got to say, ‘No way, no how is that who I am.'”
- Recognize you are not the problem, the bully is the problem
“There is something wrong with kids who get pleasure in inflicting pain on other people,” Dr. Phil says.
- Use body language and eye contact — think and walk with pride and confidence
- Prepare your responses in advance
“If someone is picking on you, think ahead what you want to say. You don’t want to get into verbal jousting, but you might want to say something to the person that calls it into focus,” Dr. Phil says. “You might ask them, ‘Why does it entertain you to try to inflict pain on me?’ Whatever it is you decide to say, decide ahead of time so you’re not getting lockjaw under pressure.”
- Minimize contact with the bully but don’t hide
- Try calmly talking to the bully one on one
- Create alliances for strength in numbers
- Report the bullying — telling is not tattling
- Are you interested in making your school safer? Do your part to get anti-bullying legislation passed in your state. Click here for a list of state senators and here for a sample letter to send.
- Watch Dr. Phil testify before Congress against bullying.
For more on bullying and suicide, read: