How to Help Your Child Deal with Bullies

Kathy Noll is our guest.
Millions of boys and girls are involved every year in fights on school grounds. Many are physically threatened and also robbed. How can your children protect themselves from bullies and from violence at school?

Kathy wrote the book "Taking the Bully by the Horns". She'll discuss what you, as a parent, can do to help your child deal with bullies and/or prevent them from becoming one.

David moderator.

The people in blue are audience members.

David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts, the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to Our topic tonight is "How to Help Your Child Deal With Bullies".

Some children, today, have been bullied to the point of feeling nothing, feeling numb. They are withdrawn and hopeless.

In a recent study, 77% of the students said they had been bullied. And 14% of those who were bullied said they experienced severe (bad) reactions to the abuse. Did you know that over 6 million boys and 4 million girls are involved in fights every year on school grounds? Many are physically threatened, while a large number of students are also robbed. And with school violence, seemingly, being an everyday occurrence now, what are you going to do when the bully comes calling?

Our guest is Kathy Noll, author of the book: "Taking The Bully By The Horns."

Good evening Kathy, and welcome to Thank you for joining us tonight. So everyone is on the same track, please define a bully for us.

Kathy: Thanks David, and hello everyone. A bully is a person who has low self-esteem and feels he or she needs to put another person down, in order to make him or herself feel bigger.

David: How does a bully become a bully?

Kathy: There are many different ways. He or she may have been bullied themselves, or it could be the negative influence of peers or the media. It also could be because he is angry either at his own self esteem, or from the bullying he/she received.

David: How does the bully choose his target? What characteristics make the other person "the victim"?

Kathy: Mostly, bullies pick on another child who is younger or smaller than him or herself, because they are easier to control. I should mention that victims are also chosen if they hang their heads low, walk with their shoulders slouched or seem like "loners".

David: In your book, you mention different levels of being a bully -- "mean", "meaner", "meanest". Can you explain the different levels to us?

Kathy: The different levels depend on whether the bullying is verbal, or physical. Physical is the worst case scenario. The "mean" bully may tease you verbally, while the "meanest" bully is the one who is physically violent. That's the one you need to stay away from at all costs.

David: As a parent, what should I do to help my child deal with these types of situations?

Kathy: First, if you feel your child is being bullied, you need to get him or her to admit it. That is the first step. There are also signs to look for, to know if your child is being bullied:

  • change in behavior
  • lack of concentration
  • torn clothing, bruises
  • loses money a lot
  • depression, fearful, mood swings
  • stomach aches, head aches

Don't question victims intently or ask anything that might make them feel they have done anything wrong. Broach the subject obliquely, giving them the option to talk about it or not. Let them know that you are willing to listen at any time. When they start to talk, listen carefully to what they have to say. Let them decide if they want to handle the situation themselves or if they want you to get involved.

Letting them handle it themselves will help with their self-esteem, but if they ask your advice, you could help them come up with acceptable responses to the bully, if say, the bullying is verbal and/or teasing.

David: You mentioned "getting your child to admit he/she is being bullied." Do kids usually keep that a secret? And, if so, why?

Kathy: They are afraid they will get in trouble somehow; that they somehow provoked or asked for this. They might be accused of being a bully themselves. They are also afraid of looking like a "loser" if they admit to being the "victim".

David: I remember, as a child, being bullied one day, and I came home with a black eye. My dad taught me how to defend myself and hit the other person, if necessary. I know that was a different era, but do you still recommend that to parents today?

Kathy: It does help to know some martial arts. But they should only be used as a last resort. There are many lawsuits today due to kids using their skills to "show off" what they've learned. Martial Arts were originally developed, to be used after a more peaceful means of settling the situation have failed. That is what my book is about.

David: Kathy, here are some audience questions:

karen_river: We have a bully who lives behind us and is in my daughter's class, again this year. They are both 9 years old. He's constantly putting her down, degrading her, acting like he knows everything and she is stupid. She does, at times, want to play with him. Sometimes, and at moments, he can be nice to her. What can she do or say to him when he acts like this? I feel she needs to stand up for herself (her beliefs), but his comments/remarks really bother her. Thanks.

Kathy: Make sure she knows she's OK. Explain to her how the bully is the one with the problem. He has low self-esteem and feels pretty bad about himself. Putting others down - he thinks - will make himself feel better. Don't mistake arrogance for high self-esteem. You could help her work on acceptable responses such as "why are you treating me this way? I never did anything to you."

David: What if the bully continues to taunt a child. What do you recommend for dealing with that?

Kathy: You should then, keep your child away from that child, or have a talk with the bully's parents.

David: And that brings the question, when do you think it's right for the parents to get involved in any bully situation?

Kathy: Most bullying takes place on school grounds. There, the kids are the teacher's responsibility, although many feel their only job is to teach. However, there are also many loving and caring teachers who want to get involved, and they need to be told and get involved to stop these incidences. If the teachers won't do anything to help, you can file a police report.

schmidt85: How do you "make sure" she knows she's OK? For junior high kids, that is almost an impossibility if they are on the receiving end of the bully stuff. The "bully" is the one with the self-confidence, and in my experience, the one whose parents allow and encourage that type of behavior.

Kathy: Generally, parents of bullies fall into two categories: They are either very permissive and allow their kids to get away with anything, or they are very abusive. Again, don't mistake arrogance for high self-esteem. Many studies have shown bullies have low self-esteem. If they appear the opposite, it is an act; a show they put on. Again, their main goal is to control.

David: That's an interesting point that Schmidt85 brings up. Is the bully kid receiving "approval" from his/her parents to be a bully, so he continues on with his bully behavior?

Kathy: That is quite possible. All cases are individual and as unique as people are. But yes, many bully kids also have bully parents. Most of the time you don't know, or you won't admit, that you are a bully.

sunnstar: My parents talked to the bully's parents, and the bullies even bullied me more. How do you deal with that kind of situation?

Kathy: Yeah, many times a bully will come back at you harder for "snitching" on them. Again, since most of the bullying takes place on school grounds, you must get the teachers/principal involved. They need to keep an eye on situations like that. Again, if they don't, people need to file police reports.

David: Here are a couple of audience comments, then we'll continue with the questions:

momof7: I would agree with the low self-esteem issue. They feel important when they can put down others.

sunnstar: I believe it is true because the parents of my bullies, abused me more, and then started treating my parents badly too.

Rich005: I was wondering if there were studies on adults who were bullied earlier in life. I was bullied in elementary school and high school. Quite an unhappy time. I'm wondering if there are any residual side-effects that we can have later in life, even after the bullying has ended?

Kathy: My book, "Taking the Bully by the Horns" is based on Dr. Carter's best-selling book "Nasty People". This book is about adult bullying or invalidation.

Most of those people started out as victims and remained victims throughout their adult life. Both of these books are available on Amazon.

David: What about the idea of "ignoring" the bully and, if the bully is engaging in verbal bullying, just not responding.

Kathy: Yes, that works. If the bullying is verbal, sometimes it's best to either ignore it, because if they aren't getting a rise out of you, it is not fun for them anymore. Or if you laugh along with them at what they are saying, again, it's not working for them, it's not fun for them, and they will probably move onto someone else.

David: What does the bully get out of bullying?

Kathy: There could be any number of things. Let's say a bully has a large nose. He may "bully" someone else who has glasses because he wants to distract from himself. Sometimes a bully bullies because he started out as a victim and feels if he/she becomes the "bully", he can no longer be hurt by anyone ever again. Or so he thinks.

David: So is that a common theme...going from victim to bully?

Kathy: Yes, in my book, I call this the "Bully Cycle". Bullies creating more bullies.

Bev_1: Why is it that children of one who was bullied, also get bullied?

Kathy: You mean, the parents were victims and so are their children? Perhaps because they never learned how to improve their own self-esteem or hold their own heads high and feel good about themselves, and so it's hard for them to teach those skills to their children.

David: Here's a related question on that exact point, Kathy:

sunnstar: I know this chat is about children being bullied. I was bullied so severely as a child that I developed social phobia as an adult. To this day, I still get picked on, no matter where I go. I notice that I send a vibe out that I am an easy target. Do you have any advice? Thanks.

Kathy: Have you tried getting professional help? Dr. Carter has helped many people with his "Center for Self-Esteem." And yes, you must be putting out that vibe. And since you are suggesting that here, you know you are. So you need to start feeling better about yourself. There is nobody out there that is any better than you, and if you could get into everyone's head, you'd find out that everyone has different levels of fear and are lacking in self-confidence to some degree.

David: We had a conference last week on self-esteem. You can read the transcript. It was a very good conference with lot's of information.

CATSnHARDROCK: Although we love each other immensely, my girlfriend and I have a tendency to bully one another on certain occasions and I just don't understand where this comes from.

Kathy: Again, fear and lacking in self-confidence. There needs to be open communication to identify the problem. And focusing on the problem not the person, and attacking the problem not the person. Listening with an open mind, and treating a person's feelings with respect, and taking responsibility for your own actions. Not walking away from a problem, but trying to openly discuss it and find a resolution.

David: Kathy, do kids grow out of being bullies, or do they grow up to be big bullies?

Kathy: That could go either way, depending on how many victims stood up to them, how many teachers or parents disciplined them, and if they finally realized how much they have been hurting people.

David: Back to children victims, is there a difference between being a girl victim and a boy victim? And are there different methods used to handle bullies?

Kathy: It's interesting, according to the US Justice Department, there are more girls who are BULLIES than boys! Girls bullying other girls is the big issue now. I know the school violence with guns and bombs is the most serious issue today, but the most common is girl clicks. Girls tend to talk about each other and hang out in groups where they will ostracize each other. They tend to rely heavily on using put downs and gossip, however, most physical fights are between boys, and many girls have gotten quite good at it as well!

David: Should girls use different methods to cope with bullies than boys?

Kathy: No, they should both learn to stand up to the bullies, girls or boys. That is the first step.

Bev_1: With so much bullying, my son doesn't want to go to school. He is 10. How do I get him to go without him getting so distressed about it?

Kathy: Ask your son if he has any ideas on how he can change his situation. Encourage him to resolve it on his own to help improve his self-esteem and listen with an open mind and offer solutions. If his fear is great because of a particular bully, notify the teacher. There are times when this can be done "anonymously," so that the bully doesn't come back harder. Instead of giving names of the victims, just say to either the teacher or the bully's parents, that this child has been causing a lot of grief to other students and needs to be talked to and stopped.

schmidt85: What if you notify the teacher, the teacher notifies the kid's parents, and the bully just gets worse?

David: What if things are so bad, your kid just won't go back to school. Then what?

Kathy: I know a lot of parents write me and have taken their kids out of school to either homeschool them or move them into another school. It's sad how your life is forced to change because of fear and the violence of another person. If the bullying is that bad, again, the police will get involved, and you need to file a report.

David: As a parent, that's a very difficult situation because you don't want to send your child back to be hurt, whether it's physical or emotional.

Kathy: Yes, and even though the physical is the most life-threatening, the verbal will carry the deeper scars throughout life.

dotwhat: Bullying and aggressive taunting is at epidemic proportions today. Do you think schools should start teaching kids not to bully, name-call, and fight?

Kathy: Yes, many schools have a "No tolerance" policy for those situations.

David: Kathy, I always like to give our audience concrete things they can carry home with them from each conference. So I want to go over a few things here:

First of all, if your child is the victim of a verbal bully, what would you suggest the child do and the parent do if the bullying continues to escalate?

Kathy: If the bullying is verbal, the first thing to do is ignore it. If this doesn't work, try laughing along. If this doesn't work, avoid the bully if you can. If you are becoming an emotional wreck because of it, you need to talk to the parents and teachers. Your grades will drop when you have to focus on fear instead of learning.

David: What about physical bullying and if it continues to escalate? And here, I'm talking about taunting, pushing and shoving, and fighting without a weapon?

Kathy: You need to first try to settle the conflict peacefully - talking it out. If the bully doesn't want to talk and continues to hurt you, avoid him at all costs. If he still goes after you, it's good to know martial arts, to walk to school in groups not alone, to avoid alleyways...and at this point, the school, parents, and police should be involved.

David: And finally, Kathy, at what point do you recommend that the parents become involved in intervening?

Kathy: The parents can become involved at any point. Even in the beginning, if the child comes to you for help. He may not feel he can handle the conflict on his own and may ask you for ideas and assistance. But, most definitely, when you are threatened with bodily injury.

David: Now, I know that some parents have the attitude: "well son or daughter, it's time you grow up and learn to handle this on your own". Is that a good thing?

Kathy: Yes, teach them responsibility. Teach them that their actions have consequences and to take responsibility for their own actions. Also to apologize when they know they are at fault.

David: Maybe I didn't make myself clear. I'm referring to telling your child (the victim) to figure out a way to deal with the bully on their own?

Kathy: Don't do that if they are asking you for help. Many bullies are created when parents lack in supervision.

David: Thank you, Kathy, for being our guest tonight. And I want to thank everyone in the audience for coming and participating. I hope you found it helpful. 

Kathy: Thanks David. And thank you everyone. I hope you found the information tonight to be both interesting and helpful.

David: Good night everyone.

Disclaimer: Please note that is NOT recommending or endorsing any of the suggestions of our guest. In fact, we strongly encourage you to talk over any therapies, remedies or suggestions with your doctor and/or therapist BEFORE you implement them or make any changes in your treatment or lifestyle.

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2007, July 23). How to Help Your Child Deal with Bullies, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 24 from

Last Updated: August 14, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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