What is bullying?
Bullying among children is aggressive behavior
that is intentional and that involves an imbalance of
power or strength. Typically, it is repeated over time.
Bullying can take many forms, such as hitting and/or
punching (physical bullying); teasing or name-calling
(verbal bullying); intimidation using gestures or social
exclusion (nonverbal bullying or emotional bullying);
and sending insulting messages by phone or
computer e-mail (cyberbullying).* Many children,
particularly boys and older children, do not tell their
parents or adults at school about being bullied. It is
important that adults are vigilant to possible signs
Warning signsPossible warning signs that a child is being bullied:
• Comes home with torn, damaged, or missing
pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings;
• Has unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches;
• Has few, if any friends, with whom he or she
• Seems afraid of going to school, walking to and
from school, riding the school bus, or taking part
in organized activities with peers (such as clubs);
• Takes a long, “illogical” route when walking to or
• Has lost interest in school work or suddenly
begins to do poorly in school;
• Appears sad, moody, teary, or depressed when he
or she comes home;
• Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches,
or other physical ailments;
• Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams;
• Experiences a loss of appetite; or
• Appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem.What to do if you suspect that your child
is being bullied?If your child shows any of these signs, this does not
necessarily mean that he or she is being bullied,
but it is a possibility worth exploring. What should
you do? Talk with your child and talk with staff at
school to learn more.
1. Talk with your child. Tell your child that you are
concerned and that you’d like to help. Here are
some questions that can get the discussion going:
Some direct questions:
• “I’m worried about you. Are there any kids
at school who may be picking on you or
• “Are there any kids at school who tease you in a
• “Are there any kids at school who leave you out or
exclude you on purpose?”
Some subtle questions:
• “Do you have any special friends at school this
year? Who are they? Who do you hang out with?”
• “Who do you sit with at lunch and on the bus?”
• “Are there any kids at school who you really don’t
like? Why don’t you like them? Do they ever pick
on you or leave you out of things?”
*Children with disabilities may be at a higher risk of being bullied than other children.
These and other materials are available online at: www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov
2. Talk with staff at your child’s school. Call or set up
an appointment to talk with your child’s teacher. He
or she will probably be in the best position to
understand the relationships between your child
and other peers at school. Share your concerns
about your child and ask the teacher such
• “How does my child get along with other
students in his or her class?”
• “With whom does he or she spend free time?”
• “Have you noticed or have you ever suspected that
my child is bullied by other students?” Give
examples of some ways that children can be bullied
to be sure that the teacher is not focusing only on
one kind of bullying (such as physical bullying).
Ask the teacher to talk with other adults who
interact with your child at school (such as the music
teacher, physical education teacher, or bus driver)
to see whether they have observed students
bullying your child.
If you are not comfortable talking with your child’s
teacher, or if you are not satisfied with the
conversation, make an appointment to meet with
your child’s guidance counselor or principal to
discuss your concerns.
If you obtain information from your child or from
staff at your child’s school that leads you to believe
that he or she is being bullied, take quick action.
Bullying can have serious effects on children.
If, after talking with your child and staff at his or her
school, you don’t suspect that your child is being
bullied, stay vigilant to other possible problems
that your child may be having. Some of the warning
signs above (e.g., depression, social isolation, and
loss of interest in school) may be signs of other
serious problems. Share your concerns with a counselor at your child’s school.
Olweus, D.(1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. NY: Blackwell.
Olweus, D., Limber, S., & Mihalic, S.(1999). The Bullying Prevention Program: Blueprints for violence prevention. Boulder, CO: Center for the Study
and Prevention of Violence.