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Is Your Child a Victim of Bullying...or a Bully?

Updated on March 4, 2011
Exclusion is a form of bullying, not a certain "preference" for friends.
Exclusion is a form of bullying, not a certain "preference" for friends.

How Well Do you Know Your Child

I know that the minute you read the above sentence your said "Pretty well" or "Oh, I know my child". A great many parents think the very same thing, but they are wrong and you may be as well. Every week these days I pick up a newspaper and see an article about some young girl who has committed suicide due to bullying. Some one's children are bullying these girls. Why not yours?

Perhaps your child is not a bully, perhaps your child is the victim of bullying and you may not yet have been made aware of this. It is a bit hard to tell. The children who are the victims of this crime are very good at hiding it. A few reasons for this are embarrassment, they don't want their parents to think that they are unliked, unpopular and/or cowardly; they are afraid to tell anyone for fear it will only make the bullies angrier; they think if enough time passes the bully or bullies will forget about them and just stop; they think they can "fix it".

Just because your child may be a victim of bullying does not necessarily mean that they are unliked in general, just by a few who think they are more powerful.

Children who bully do so for reasons such as insecurity, a need for power, to have control, to maintain the status quo, to impress their peers, not enough attention at home, or worse, it is what they witness within their own homes.

Of course, some children are just cruel and mean spirited for fun or actually are emotionally unstable.

Cliques or Groups

Children tend to cluster together. Perhaps they were all raised on the same block, or in the same part of town. Perhaps their moms all know each other and have had their children gather regularly for "play dates" over the years. Whatever the circumstances, it is as if these children have known each other "forever" and have now formed a clique or group. To most parents, this is a wonderful thing. Their child has a support group and those around them to travel through the experience of adolescence and teen years with. But is it really?

It is not generally a positive thing if your child tends to run with the same crowd until graduation. This is merely setting them up for a hard time "outside" the circle when they go off to college. They have never really had to learn how to make friendships outside their little circle of friends.

Additionally, their is a downside to being in a clique or group. The biggest one being: pressure.

Once your child is in a clique they are under constant stress and pressure to sustain the personality traits that the clique deems acceptable. If you have a daughter and she is in a clique chances are she is also under a tremendous amount of stress to dress like her friends, act like her friends, be cool, keep up the appearances, is not allowed to hang out with anyone outside the clique for retaliation is ruthless, and does not date anyone who does not meet with the approval of the clique. Sadly, most teenage girls are not even aware that this behavior is wrong.

Boys have it differently of course. They have to sustain either a tough rough guy facade at all times and this means they cannot back down from anyone, especially the weaker types. This also tends to put them in direct conflict with the "jock" clique that already is so arrogant and believes THEY are the force to be reckoned with in school. The Jocks are into their sports and their pressure is to be the best at what they do which makes them top dog, followed by the ones that are good but not good enough as their lackeys. They usually make fair grades, but some are very intelligent. They are also cunning, manipulative and do not date unpopular girls.

In my neck of the woods I have also found that jocks love to drink.  This means there is pressure from the "group" to drink with them.  This is of course also true for drugs.  Pressure from a group or clique is far greater and harder to resist when they are the most popular kids in school.  The child knows that declining could get them ostracized from the group and, to them, that is a fate worse than death. 

Not all cliques or groups are formed in their toddler years. Some being in elementary school and as young as 4, it is sadly true. But some start later in middle school. And your child who may have had a friend or two that used to be with them often can suddenly find themselves left out in the cold if their friends have joined with others who do not accept your child. This is extremely painful and there is little that can be done to help them.

Most Cliques are groups of friends, that leave some kids out on purpose. Usually one or two popular kids control who gets to be in the clique and who gets left out. Kids may act much differently than they did before they were part of the clique. The kids in a clique can be mean, ruthless, cruel and malicious. And don't think your child cannot be one or all of these things.

I point this out because all parents are shaking their heads and going "oh my son/daughter would never be so cruel". Well someones sons and daughters are being horrifically cruel, who's children are they? Perhaps not your child, perhaps it is the neighbor's children, or your sisters kids, or your friends child.

Talking with our children about how to properly behave toward others should be taught prior to entering school.
Talking with our children about how to properly behave toward others should be taught prior to entering school.

What are the Signs of Bullying?

As I stated earlier, bullying can start as early as pre-school. One mother was shocked when she watched her 4 year old child playing with a friend the same age when another child walked over and pulled the other girl away. She brought her to another child and all three stood there whispering and giggling about her child. These are four year old children. Can you imagine what they will be like in middle school?

Alas, the mother did nothing. I would have brought my child over to the other children children and we would have all discussed why it is not nice to exclude people from play, as well as the rudeness of whispering in front of others and taking people away in the middle of conversations. But that's the kind of mommy I am. I get involved, I don't care if it will do any good or not, I can not stand on the sidelines and pretend that bad behavior is okay.

In the pre-school year, bullies often rely on direct verbal bullying and physical power to control material objects, territory and sometimes other children. They may lack the skills to interact in more socially appropriate ways.

Once in elementary school, bullies are more likely to use threats and physical force, combined with direct verbal bullying, to make victims do things against their will. At this age, some children begin to use indirect bullying to exclude peers from their social circle.

By the time they are in middle and high school years, bullies rely on direct verbal bullying such as name-calling and making threatening remarks, as well as physical bullying such as pushing and hitting. Although both boys and girls engage in physical bullying, girls are more likely to participate in indirect, relational bullying, such as rumor-spreading and social exclusion.

Now due to our high tech world, female bullies can now use the Internet or cell phones to send their hurtful messages. While boys tend to rely on bullying to enhance their physical dominance, girls tend to use it to enhance their social status.


What Happens to these Children?

People must realize that this isn't outside their world. If you have a child from nursery school to a senior in High School, they know the cliques, may be in one, may be the victim or have been the victim of bullying, and know people who bullied or are bullies.

Bullying is not as simple and random as it used to be. "Kids are cruel" is an understatement. The average tween or teenager that is the member of a clique or group falls into a category that is unattractive. The leaders of these groups are plentiful in hubris but lacking sorely in sensitivity. They are control freaks in need of power and love playing games with other people's lives.They lack empathy. And while I would like to say that they grow up and become better people, that is not always the case. Many go on to form cliques in college and at the workplace. It is a lifetime of power games and control.

Children who were victims of these bullies do not fare well in society. As we can see from the latest headlines, some of these victims don't even finish high school, they commit suicide. And while you may be saying "well, that's not usually the case"...

What would be enough to make parents and schools learn that cliques, groups and bullying is detremental to our children and society as a whole? How many teen suicides are actually necessary to make this an important issue that needs to be addressed and resolved once and for all?

And it is not the overtly obvious kids that are the ones that teachers and parents need to watch. Bullies tend to be far more cunning and less obvious. They employ their clique friends to carry out various cruel tasks as well as committing many of them themselves. They are usually the children one would never suspect. The nice group of girls who dress so nicely and are so polite, or the lovely group of girls that study together, same 6 girls, never anyone new.

Perhaps it's those boys who hang out together all the time, you think, because they have so much in common. Well, they are all on the football/baseball/hockey/basketball team together. Pick one, it doesn't matter which. Groups of children who are not all inclusive, are exclusive and that spells trouble for both those in the groups and those who are considered outcasts.

Beautiful 15 year old Pheobe Prince was a student in Massachusetts. But due to bullying for months, Pheobe hung herself in her parents home. Various children have been brought up on charges. There are those who say this is taking it too far, after all bullying has been around forever. We should not have these children locked up.

I would be sadly disappointed to not see these children suffer some sort of serious punishment. After all Pheobe is dead. What would be harsh enough for them to learn a lesson for having pushed a 15 year old to suicide? Wanna bet they are saying "Gee, I didn't think it was that big a deal" ? Of Course they didn't, because it wasn't them. And since odds are these kids have little empathy to begin with...

Schools have to be involved and so do parents. Parents have to stop thinking that everything is okay because their kids don't tell them otherwise. Communication is key and children who are bullied need acceptance and compassion at home. Children who are bullies need therapy and need to be forcibly extricated from their "clique". The rest of the group needs to learn how to survive as a party of one and how to make friends with others. If you are allowing your child to hang out with only their group, you are not doing them any favors.

If you think your child is being bullied talk to their school and do not relent until you are certain the issue is resolved.

Most importantly, talk to your child(ren) about school violence as well as how we treat others the way we want to be treated.  These are basic lessons that children must be taught while they are young.  They are never too young to learn.  And if you don't teach them how to treat others, I promise you, someone else will. 


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    • profile image

      Helen 5 years ago

      Just observed a girl that is very shy on her own but when in a group decides to exclude one girl. I feel nothing but pity for this child(the bully) as she must be very sad and insecure in herself. I think the child that walks away and makes new friends is the strongest child.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

      I am sorry. I didn't realize this was about your own son. That does make it different than discussing abstractions.

      The homeschooling experience will probably be wonderful for both of you in the end.

      Thank you for the gracious response. Happy Holidays!

    • Moonchild60 profile image

      Moonchild60 6 years ago

      Hi James - I am not on HUBPAGES much these days as I am home-scooling my son. I have decided after having him attend public school, where he was a victim of bullying, and private school, where he learned very little, I had no choice but to educate him myself with the help of an online private school. And WOW, have I been learning!! Still, I do miss you and was thinking of you just yesterday.

      I agree. The girl who could not cope with insensitive remarks about her hair was ridiculous. I would not even consider that bullying. My son was emotionally tortured every day because his peers didn't "understand" him. This is what the teachers told me. He spoke about things that were "alien to them" like WWII and what was happening in other countries. Current events and music and video games they had no knowledge of because he hung out with teenagers (brother and cousins). Since he responded in what they considered extreme ways, they focused only on him. They actually said to me "He re-acts too severely". I said he should not have anything to be re-acting to. On the last day of school he was banished from every single table and went to the office to have lunch with his friend, the assistant principal. He was a wonderful man who said "The truth is he doesn't fit in, he is far too intelligent and sophisticated". I apprecited that, but honestly, I was heart broken for him.

      I ran my husbands company for 6 years from 1996 to 2002. Then I had my own business for 3 years. In that amount of time I managed to teach my children manners, respect, proper eating habits (that they may or may not observe), how to be good to others, and of course how to be good to animals. Both my children are polite, well mannered and kind. Why can't parents teach their children and work full time jobs? I promise you I worked a lot more than 40 hour weeks. I still made time to converse with my children and be abreast of their activities and friends. If parents want their children to pray, why not get up 5 minutes earlier and pray together before the day begins and we all go off to work and school? Why not pray together and discuss the bible, Torah, Quoran or what have you, over the weekend? Why does it have to be in school?

      Parents are responsible for teaching their children and being aware of what is going on with them in their lives. If they are good, kind, thoughtful, caring or mean, cruel, insensitive and disrespectful, that is a direct result of what goes on IN THE HOME. Not at school. Results of a proper parental education would be evident in a scool environment. Teachers however, are not responsible for it. They have 30 kids to contend with. Not just a few.

      Additionally, society is to blame. When it is okay for a 6 year old to walk around looking like a hooker and for kids to listen to music about "gonna give my b***h my *** tonight" what do we expect them to behave like? This is music??? Violent, pure sex...? I don't get it. Why hasn't someone stopped that? Because Parents allow their children to listen, to purchase and if you tell them they are listening to this, they said "oh my god, I had no idea". Really? Why? Too busy? I made it my budsiness to know. Because they are MY responsibility.

      I love you to pieces James, but the truth is, lazy parenting does all this damage. Pure and simple. Lazy Parenting. One more thing, my 23 year old was 2 and my mother-in-law watched him while I worked full time. She had a thick Indian accent. After several months I couldn't understand my own child. I quit my much needed job to stay home so he would stop speaking with an accent and I could communicate with him. There ARE things more important than money. I could not afford anything more than paying my bills due to that decision and even that was difficult, but I will never regret it.

      : D

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you for a fine article. You always write wonderfully and you explicated the bullying problem eloquently.

      The only thing I might note is that you wrote "Children who were victims of these bullies do not fare well in society" and actually I know of many very successful people who credit being mistreated in high school as what motivated them. The best revenge is to live well. :D

      Anyway . . .

      I read a few weeks ago that a young girl killed herself because some boys at school said her new haircut made her look like a boy. I don't want to sound insensitive but please! Even children need a spine, for gosh sakes. What kid wasn't called four-eyes or fat or bucktoothed or retarded or a sissy or ugly or a shrimp et al. when we were in school? If you can't take that, wait til you see what real life has in store for you—far more pain than verbal insults.

      Now, we kicked God out of the schools, took away teacher-provided discipline, put both parents to working so kids have nobody to come home to, feed them junk, allow them to watch violence and sex on television for hours on end, teach them in science class that they are nothing more than accidental apes, and after telling them that all they are is animals we tell them not to act like animals. Yea.

      A friend who has been teaching 30 years told me recently that the kids today are far meaner and ruder than ever before—but not just to other kids; to teachers, janitors, visitors, strangers on field trips, and even to their own parents. Now let's see . . . it couldn't have anything to do with the godless, hedonistic, moral anarchic, moral relativist world in which they live could it? NAH! Just coincidence I'm sure.

    • Moonchild60 profile image

      Moonchild60 7 years ago

      LOL...I must say GM that would absolutely be Karma. Getting a bit of what they gave, to say the least. I like to believe (though I have no way of really knowing) that a bully can be reformed and learn the error of their ways. I hate to give up on kids who are that young. My issue would be that since we know this can start as early as 4 years old, why are we not catching them at that age and teaching them that this behavior will be severely punished and is absolutely not tolerated? Probably because parents tend to be ignorant of what toddlers are truly capable of and blow it off as not a big deal. Then these children become bullying teenagers and it becomes a big deal. They are doing their child a disservice by not demanding they behave properly and treat others as they wish to be treated. This child may someday have to live with the fact that someone they bullied or help a group bully is dead because of them. And I would make sure the child who took part in bullying with such a horrific outcome understoond, this was YOUR Fault. You are responsible for this death. They should live with THAT forever.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To Moonchild60: Great hub! Bullying is a crime and should be considered so. Many precious and wonderful children are psychologically and emotionally stunted because of the incessant bullying in schools. I believe that bullies should be severely punished. I do not believe that a bully should be counselled at all.

      Children who are bullies( the word child is so incorrect here) should be expelled from school permanently and placed in a juvenile reformatory. However, if the child is fourteen years old and over, he/she should be imprisoned in a regular facility. The bully should be made to work. Yes, work! I believe that if a child is an incessant bully, he/she is a criminal in my book and has forfeited the right to an education. All bets are off regarding the further education of this "child." When that "child" is either placed in a juvenile facility or in prison, he/she will be bullied by more seasoned inmates. Now that is karma for you!

    • Moonchild60 profile image

      Moonchild60 7 years ago

      Sheena - That is fantastic!! Excellent tip. Thank you so much for coming by!!

    • profile image

      Sheena Smith 7 years ago

      Kids are generally a reflection of their parents and parents really should be responsible for what their kids do. Being a single father I always make sure that I’ve done my part as a parent to my daughter. I usually have a conversation with my daughter everyday to ask her what is happening in school so that she could also share to me if she is being bullied or not. As part of my daughter’s protection I registered her to “SafeKidZone”. It has a panic button that enables my daughter to summon help from trusted friends, family and with direct access to the nearest 911 in times of danger. For child security check out

    • Moonchild60 profile image

      Moonchild60 7 years ago

      Robin - I am absolutely appauled at the unprofessional behavior of your Principal. His response was inappropriate and unacceptable. I would contact an attorney and have them contact the school. This is NOT a police matter, it is the schools business and yours. If they do not take the appropriate steps you have no choice but to force their hand. If you have read my previous comments, you will see I stated earlier that this is a direct interference with your daughters constitutional right to an education as well as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Make it a puplic cause. Newspapers, etc... they hate the negative attention. I just put my son into a private school on the directive of his psychiatrist he saw over the summer who told me to "remove him from the hostile environment". We are extremely fortunate we could afford a private school as that was the only choice we had. Please do not allow bullies to get away with their behavior. Teach your daughter that through the legal system and other clever and intelligent means we fight back and do what is RIGHT. The psychiatrist also told me that psychological ramifications from bullying are long lasting. I was not having it. Additionally, the more those ill-raised children get away with their behavior the more they will do it. They then grow up to be nothing but miserable adults who bully their own children and spouses, sometimes even co-workers. You have no idea how doing something today could make a world of difference in many lives tomorrow. Good luck and all the best. Please keep in touch...

    • profile image

      Robin Luich 7 years ago

      My daughter was being bullied at school,at first I couldn't figure out why her whole demeaner changed.She was always a very sweet nonagressive girl,and all of the sudden she was snapping at me when I was one minute late picking her up from marching band.She gets out at four twenty and she got into my car at four twenty one and asked me why I picked her up so late.I wondered why my daughter was always hiding at the side of the building waiting for me.Once I noticed her and her friend (also a victim)running as fast as they could around the side of the school to the side door instead of crowding into the bandroom door with thee other kids,I realized they were trying to get in first and out before the bullies made it to the lockers.The girls were raming into her and her friend with their shoulder(they call it "shoulder checking").One day she was running with her friend in the gym,she had taken her shoes off to race,a group of them were over by her shoes,she said she knew they were up to something...when she went to get her shoes one was missing...she had asked one kid who she thought was her friend where her shoe was and he said "what shoe"?she found it ..outside in the rain filled with grass.I know I shouldn't have but I calmly told the main bully to keep her mouth and hands off of my daughter or she will answer to me . I got disorderly conduct,the bully got nothing at all not even a talking to. She told the officer they had come to the school that I physically threatend her.When I told thee officer what they had been doing to my daughter he said "your daughter told me the girl didn't do anything to her.Needless to say I didn't Believe him...When I asked my daughter why she told him the bully didn't do anything she said"I did tell him everything .so after she had told me she didn't even talk to her principle and had even asked the officer why she wasn't talking to mr. Randolph (the principle ).The officer told her it was a police matter. He didn't take a statement from her at all.I had to practically beg for Mr. Randolphs time to allow her the time to tell him what was going on in his school,so he told her to write everything down.No talk with the girls ever took place..All he said was" we have people watching now".Am I really suppose to believe that after he tried to dismiss my begging him to give us the time for her to explain. When I asked him if I could bring my daughter in to tell her side of the story he said" you know I've got things to do"I said"please ,let her come and tell you what's been going on"reluctantly he said "ok bring her in. It's that kind attitude that brought my to confront the girl myself.My daughter didn't want me to do anything, she said they will all be whispering ,you had to go to your Mommy.I will not tolerate my child being bullied the way I was.Though the girls never hit me ..they made my life a living hell ,I was close to suicide myself ,I cut school to avoid them,They're the reason I didn't finish school,they did affect so much in my life,That's why I confronted this girl myself, because my daughter will not go through what I went through.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Unfortunately bullying happen far too often. I work in a middle school and we see this problem everyday. Sometimes parents enable the bully by making excuses or refusing to see what is right in front of their face. And sometimes a parent really has no idea what their child is up to. It is extremely hard for the child being bullied to tell, they are afraid, and rightly so in some cases, of retaliation. You did a wonderful job with this hub. is' very well written and has come at a good time, when bullying has reached an all time high. Thanks

    • Moonchild60 profile image

      Moonchild60 7 years ago

      Currently there is a girl in middle school suing the administration of her Elementary school for never having done anything regarding the bullying she went through since 2nd grade. She also has managed to get a possible law passed that holds the administration of a school responsible and fines them for not taking action against bullying. Your sister should tell the school that if they do not take action immediately she is going to sue them. Then she should contact a lawyer regarding the situation and tell them that by not complying the school and the bully (which is of course also in the suit) are denying her her constitutional right to an education. I am assuming this is public school. Do not relent. Make it quite public. They hate that kind of attention. It is not easy but it is right. Good luck my friend.

    • profile image

      Lorenz316 7 years ago

      My niece is 12yrs old and is being bullied. And the worst thing about it is that is the vice principals daughter. She has told teachers and school council and won't do nothing. My sister has gone to talk to the vice principal to solve this situation. And the only thing they tell her is that their kids and all kids go through bullying. And that my niece is lie. What can we do to solve this situation?

    • Moonchild60 profile image

      Moonchild60 7 years ago

      Hi Paradise7 - I agree, Parents cannot take the laid back approach to this, on either side. Whether they have a child who is a bully or a bullied child, they need to get involved and rectify the situation. Leaving children to work things out themselves is just stupid. They are children and this would be an opportune moment to TEACH them something!! : )

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Good hub and an important public service. Kids hide so much. You really do have to spend the time with them, and ask the right questions in the right way, to get them to confide in you. Then, as an adult, the best approach with the child is to try to get them, early on, to develope empathy with other human beings and all living creatures, to be able to feel another's pain, so they won't want to be the cause.

      If the child is a victim of bullying, the parent must intervene. It isn't right or fair to just say, "Oh well, it's a stage they're going through, they'll work it out by themselves." This attitude puts the parents on the opposite side of the fence from the bullying victim child.

    • Moonchild60 profile image

      Moonchild60 7 years ago

      Thank you Billyaustin and Green Lotus for coming by and commenting. It saddens me that these children suffer at the hands of power hungry children. But it also saddens me that we are raising a generation of power hungry children. I realize bullying has been around since schools basically, but it seems to me that it has become a matter of life or death and that is incomprehensible to me. How did this happen? Thank you so much for the up rating!!

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      This is such an important article Moonchild, and as billyaustin said, so timely. I believe the schools need to take more responsibility as too many parents are either in the dark or just don't know how to handle the bully or the bullied child. Rated up!

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 7 years ago

      Bullying has become such a problem in schools now - a very timely and thoughtful hub - thanks for sharing.

    • Moonchild60 profile image

      Moonchild60 7 years ago

      Enlydia - I am sorry to hear that your daughter ended up ostrasized. I am however very happy to hear that she is not totally undone by the situation as many girls end up being. The choice to keep her away from those people was a wise one. A favorite saying of mine as a teen was "I'm looking forward to looking back on this". Much luck and good fortune to your daughter!!

    • Moonchild60 profile image

      Moonchild60 7 years ago

      Saddlerider1 - That is so unfortunate that your son had to go through all that. It makes me so sad to think of the kids that are suffering, even now, and don't know where to turn. I am so glad he decided to finally turn to his parents. Bravo to you and your wife for demanding confrontation and making sure this issue was resolved. Dedicated parents make a world of difference. Thank you so much for coming by and sharing.

    • Enlydia Listener profile image

      Enlydia Listener 7 years ago from trailer in the country

      My daughter refused to return to her old school...her old friends turned against her...we chose to keep her home...which in spite of the loneliness seems to be preferable to her...I would rather she find a way in this world that does not involve being a part of a malicious group or a target of a malicious group.

    • saddlerider1 profile image

      saddlerider1 7 years ago

      Bullying is prevalent in schools today. My youngest son of 15 was bullied and kept it to himself for far to long before finally breaking down to us. He was avoiding classes, leaving through the back door of school to avoid the BULLY. He started smoking weed to help him be less fearful, not the thing to do. He also was been texted by the BULLY and her friends. Finally his mother and I took over, between discussions and letters to the school board, we finally had a meeting face to face with his teachers, principle, student counselor and parents of the BULLY. Through a tough standoff, we got our message across loud and clear that we were not going to stand idly by watching our son be BULLIED. It was all talked out, we had the BULLY resolved to our satisfaction, our son is no longer BULLIED and the culprit has since left that school. But there are still many of them out there and the police has to get involved at times. It's so sad to hear of kids taking there lives because they fail to speak out and be heard. Our son finally spoke out and WE his parents fought to have changes made in the school system. Great post I vote this UP.