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How to Avoid Bullying

Bullying is aggressive behavior that's repeated and on purpose. Surveys show that up to half of school children are bullied at some point, and at least 1 in 10 is bullied regularly. What's more, 21% of U.S. elementary schools cite bullying as a disciplinary problem they face.

Bullying behavior tends to vary by gender. Boys typically use physical intimidation or threats, regardless of the victim's gender. Girls are usually verbal bullies who target other girls.

Left unchecked, bullying can have serious, long-lasting effects. Bullying can delay children's social and emotional development and harm their school performance. In extreme cases, bullied children may try suicide.

Think your child is being bullied? Here are some common signs a child of any age is being bullied:

  • Feeling anxious, lonely or depressed
  • Low self-esteem
  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Changes in health, such as an increase in stomachaches, headaches, sleeplessness and nightmares

Bullies count on victims to suffer in silence. Clear, open lines of communication with your child will help prevent bullying. Encourage your children to talk with you about anything and everything.

When you talk with your children, use a positive, accepting manner. Explain that when a child acts mean by taking away a toy (or through other, more aggressive actions), it's never the victim's fault. Emphasize that your child did the right thing by telling you. Ask what he or she thinks should be done.

Other tactics can help children of all ages overcome bullies:

  • Most bullying occurs during free time when kids use playgrounds, lunchrooms or bathrooms. Ask school administrators about more adult supervision, as well as policies to fight bullying. Such steps can include peer mediation, conflict resolution and anger management.
  • Instead of fighting back, suggest your child walk away or seek help from a teacher or other adult.
  • Practice what your child will say to the bully. Guide your son or daughter not to use bullying tactics. Instead, your child should use a calm, strong voice.
  • Advise your child to stay in a group when possible. Bullies are less likely to bother kids who are part of a group.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics , Krames Staywell

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