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How to Prevent Bullying and What To Do When It Happens

Updated on February 23, 2015
lawdoctorlee profile image

Ms.Treadwell is a licensed attorney and the author of "How Do Hurricane Katrina's Winds Blow: Racism in 21st Century New Orleans."

Many believe that "kids will be kids" or "boys will be boys;" that part of the growing up process includes teasing, scuffles, or spreading rumors; and that kids will "get over it and go back to being best friends tomorrow." Nothing could be further from the truth. These types of behaviors are not normally-accepted behavior, at least not in a grown-up world. There are consequences in the adult world for these actions. Perhaps, because we see it so often, we begin to think of it is normal. That often happens: when abnormal behavior becomes a pattern, we often view it as normative. Scary thought, right? What may seem natural to one person may be very harmful and destructive to someone else.

Before we can apply ways to prevent bullying or know what to do when it happens, we must understand what bullying is.

Bullying Statistics


What is bullying?

Bullying is any kind of repetitive behavior, physical or verbal, that causes pain to someone else. ( Sounds simple, right? There are a lot of behaviors that rise to the level of bullying:

  • name-calling
  • teasing
  • hitting
  • pushing
  • threatening
  • excluding individuals on purpose
  • starting or spreading rumors
  • taking another's personal property without permission or by perceived threat

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

"Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time..."

The power imbalance is found either in the size difference of the children or in popularity by numbers.

Take a look at the following example:

"Billy" the Bully and "Vinny" the Victim

I am always in the library working on the computer, researching, and reading; and every now and then I take out some videos. You may be wondering why I even mention the library. Well, it is where I saw my latest episode of bullying. Yes, in a public library.

Two boys were in the video section looking for movies to take home. Allow me to name them “Billy” and “Vinny.” The mother brought them to this section and then left them alone to make their movie selection.

“Billy” was much bigger than “Vinny” and appeared to be about 11 or 12 years old compared with “Vinny” who was approximately 7 or 8 years old. “Vinny” was very shy, timid, and thin in comparison. “Billy” walked around with his hands balled into fists along his side.

“Vinny” piped up to make a suggestion about a movie. “Billy” responded sharply, “No, that’s stupid, and you’re stupid.” “Vinny” remained silent. This exchange was repeated at least three times. I continued to observe.

“Billy” started discreetly inching toward “Vinny” and then used his own body to move "Vinny" slightly to the right despite “Vinny’s” attempt to stand his ground. This was repeated by "Billy" a few times. The more “Vinny” tried to stand still in place and ignore "Billy" the harder “Billy” pushed. Finally, “Billy” pulled “Vinny’s” hair. “Vinny” said nothing.

During the encounter, I glanced around looking for the mother. She was nowhere in sight. However, I could not remain silent and said to "Billy": “Hey, stop bullying 'Vinny.' Your behavior is way out of line.” The mother heard me and came over to the boys. “What are you doing, “Billy”?” I explained my observations of the children's behavior to her but she just said, "Billy" come with me." Shortly, thereafter, they all left the library. Who knows how she handled it later.

Let's take this story to the next hypothetical level to illustrate that the above scenario is not acceptable behavior in an adult world:

"Bob" is 21 years old and is married to "Veronica." They go together to the library to pick out a movie to take home. "Veronica" makes a suggestion to "Bob":

"How about we check out the movie Titanic?"

"Bob" responds:

"Titanic is stupid and you're stupid."

"Veronica" makes other suggestions and receives the same response from "Bob":

"Those movies are stupid and you're stupid."

"Bob" inches over to "Veronica" and starts pushing her with his body to make her move to the left. She ignores him. Then "Bob" pulls "Veronica's" hair...

Are you getting the point? These behaviors are not acceptable in an adult world; and children need to learn that as early as possible. In the adult world, we call it abuse.


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The Top 10 Ways to Prevent Bullying and What To Do When It Happens

Besides having a law degree, I am a mother of three who are all grown up now and in their twenties. I also have a school-age granddaughter. Unfortunately, I, like many others, have dealt with my share of bullying - both from children and adults.

Given the recent bullying episodes reported by the media, I felt that bullying is an important issue to address. Here are the best ways to prevent bullying and how to handle it when it happens in my "Top 10 Style."

1. Teach kindness and respect: Teach your children how to be kind and respect others. Advise them on how to resolve conflicts without violence or intimidation. Praise them for good behavior and when they do well to help build their self-esteem. Encourage children to help others.

2. Keep kids involved: Keep your children involved in positive activities that keep them busy and in good spirits. Such activities can include sports, music, art, hobbies, or other groups where they can interact with other children, build their own self-esteem, and develop social skills.

3. Open communication: Spend time talking with your children about their day and what they are doing. Start conversations with them about how they like different aspects of their day (I.e. the bus ride, changing classes, availability of teachers or other supervisors, how other kids are behaving and treating others). Your child should feel that you are interested and open for discussions about just about anything. This will develop a trusting relationship long term.

4. Understand bullying: Be aware of the signs the child is a victim of bullying: unexplained injuries or bruising, decreased appetite, not wanting to go to school or activities, "losing" personal items or money. Likewise, be aware of signs that the child is the bully: notifications from school or other parents, exhibited aggressive behavior, expressed frustration, pride in hurtful behaviors. Take time to teach and talk with your children about bullying. Ask them if they have seen any bullying or have participated in any bullying. Explain to them that it is the wrong way to treat people. If your child has bullied another, proper discipline is critical in teaching them that such behavior will not be condoned.

5. Explain the consequences: Bullying is an assault (putting someone in fear of getting hurt) and any unwanted touching is a battery. Bullying can be a criminal offense. There can be serious criminal and civil consequences to these actions.

6. Stand up for others: If you see it, speak out against it in defense of the victim.

7. Make a report: Report bullying to an appropriate authority (parent, teacher, principal, police) and get it documented. In addition, get a copy of every documented report at the time it is documented. You will need this as evidence and to demonstrate any patterns of behavior.

8. Model appropriate behavior: Do not bully your children or they will turn out to either be a continued victim of bullying by others or will become bullies themselves. Remember that children learn what they live.

9. Get counseling: Whether your child is being bullied or is bullying someone else, get professional help for the child.

10. Teach your children how to share: Sharing decreases the chances of them becoming selfish and self-centered.

"Bullying Scars" - by The Mayo Clinic

"Get over it."

Make no mistake. The effects of bullying can last a lifetime. Victims of bullying often become victim's of domestic violence or other abuse in their adult life. Alternatively, bullying can become the catalyst for one to become a bully or to be abusive to others. According to the Mayo Clinic, victims of bullying are at higher risk for:

  • Mental health problems including depression, anxiety, insomnia, self-harm, and suicide
  • Impaired academic performance or missing school.
  • Substance abuse
  • Violence

It will take professional help to "get over it." Children who are victims of bullying need the emotional support of and intervention by the adults in their lives.

Special thanks to ThePracticalMommy for inspiring this hub.

Works Cited

Mayo Clinic. "Bullying: Help your child handle a bully." Access date: February 4, 2015.

National Education Association. "Girls and Bullying: Focus on Women." February 2011. Access date: February 4, 2015. "If your child is a bully." 2007-2015. Access date: February 4, 2015.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "What is Bullying?" 2015. Access date: February 4, 2015.

Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be used or interpreted as legal advice. If you have a legal issue, seek out the services of a licensed attorney.

By Liza Lugo, J.D.

© 2012, Revised 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Ms. Lugo retains exclusive copyright and publishing rights to all of her articles and photos by her located on Hub Pages. Portions of articles or entire content of any of these articles may not be used without the author's express written consent.Persons plagiarizing or using content without authorization may be subject to legal action. The articles by Ms. Lugo regarding legal issues are purely academic in nature and do not constitute legal advice. For advice on legal matters, consult a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

Permission requests may be submitted to

This hub was originally entitled "How to Prevent or Stop Bullying." It has been substantially altered and edited.

Originally published on February 5, 2015. Latest corrections and edits made on February 23, 2015.


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    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 2 years ago from New York, NY

      Lesley, thank you so much for stopping by, reading this hub, and for your comment.

      No doubt bullying can happen at any age, including as adults. Treating people without dignity and respect is wrong on any level and at any age. It is never okay.

      Thanks for voting the hub up and for your willingness to share it with others. Let's work on making this world a better place for all of us.

    • profile image

      Lesleysherwood 2 years ago

      There is a vast amount of bullying in the workplace now compared to the 1970s and 80's. Too many people are trying to be 'leaders' by showing assertiveness, not realising that they're just being aggressive and bullish. This type of behaviour causes a person of any age (child or adult) a dread feeling of never being able to escape, to the point of suicide. "Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me' is not in fact true....Excellent hub btw, voted up and shared.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 3 years ago from New York, NY

      You're welcome, SCArt LM. Thank you so much for stopping by and for your generous comment.

      I think the issues are compounding by parents who believe there is no consequence or, alternatively, no remedy. Schools and police can also be held accountable for vicarious liability and failure to protect, respectively, particularly when a serious injury occurs. I encourage parents to take full charge and responsibility for their children's behavior lest they incur, at the very least, personal liability. Your job as a parent is to raise children into independent, responsible adults who make valuable contributions to society from whatever station they hold.

      Indeed, if schools say they don't have a bullying problem, it is likely because they have their heads in the sand. The appropriate answer to that question is an explanation of their bullying policy and relative examples of how they apply it .

      Hope you enjoy the rest of the day. Blessings to you & yours.

    • SCArt LM profile image

      SCArt LM 3 years ago

      Liza, firstly thank you for writing this hub and reminding us all that bullying is an ongoing problem. It is easy to forget that if it is not affecting us.

      And also I agree with Julie Daniels' comments - quite often the problem is with the parents refusing to accept that their child is the bully. From my own experience as a parent, schools are impotent if the parents of bullies are not willing to accept their child is the perpetrator and try to help change the situation. Indeed, the parents themselves can use bullying behaviour towards teachers and other parents (and, yes, that is from my own experience too).

      Maybe the parents need to understand what constitues bullying behaviour before they can help their children to stop such behaviour. As if so often the case education of parents on how to parent is just as important as the education of children.

      Schools often stress how keen they are to deal with bullying behaviour but in many cases I'm not sure they are able to.

      I once read some advice about choosing schools for your children (but I can't remember where!) that said if a school says they do not have a bullying problem then don't choose that school for your child because it is more likely that they are just unwilling to accept that they have a problem.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 3 years ago from New York, NY

      Queenmother, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read my work and for your comment. So glad you enjoyed reading this hub.

      Certainly, you make an important point regarding European colonialism and slavery. I believe that is a whole other level of abuses - way beyond bullying. At that level, we need to acknowledge that it was a policy of dehumanization - the people conquered and enslaved were not recognized as human beings in any sense of the word. I have a number of articles and hubs on these global crimes. My recent book addresses the concept of dehumanization at length.

      I am an eternal optimist and like to believe, with the awareness and commitment to change social values held by many, that we've moved away from having bullying considered honored and accepted, particularly with the legislation now in place. I feel the tide is turning.

      May the new year bring you and yours many blessings.

    • Ask Queenmother profile image

      Ask Queenmother 3 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Greetings Ms. Liza lawdoctorlee,

      Great article. I enjoyed reading it. Unfortunately we live in a society that makes bullies heroes. While the examples that you used were good, in the overall society bullyiing is honored and accepted. For example the Europeans used bullying tactics to colonize the non white world. They used bullying to maintain the slavery institution in this country. All around the world we see bully behavior encouraged like in sports competitions and fan behaviors. Until we can extract bullying characteristics from society people who bully will always have center stage. Blessings of light and love,


    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 3 years ago from New York, NY

      Julie, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read this hub and for your comments. Parents who choose to ignore their children's inappropriate behavior can find themselves in serious legal situations. Depending on the age of the child, parents can be held liable for a child's actions either criminally or civilly (or both). Assault and battery can be prosecuted in criminal court and are compensable in tort law. There are remedies available to victims.

      Encouraging children to participate in constructive volunteer work is an excellent way to have them channel their energies outside of bullying. It also teaches them empathy and the habit of giving to others. Children need lots of positive activities.

      Hope your day is wonderful. Blessings to you and yours.

    • Julie Daniels profile image

      Julie Daniels 3 years ago from Yorkville, IL


      Thank you for your hub. Our paths were meant to cross. This is an issue that I strongly believe in! Its time we put a stop to bullying. The "not my child" mentality needs to be broken. Schools need to help by calling out the bullies and their behavior. Keep putting the message in front of the parents who are choosing to ignore their children's inappropriate behavior.

      One way I strongly encourage parents is to have your child, at any age, volunteer. Maybe a young child can bring a newspaper from the street to the porch for an elderly neighbor. As children get older, they can push a stranger's shopping cart to the corral. These are all very small things, but they change the way children view the world around them. There are always age appropriate ways to help children become empathetic to other people.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 3 years ago from New York, NY

      SallyBea, thank you so much for your compliments on this hub. I, too, needed glasses as a child. I think I was 13; and I did the same, didn't wear them to avoid the ridicule. Too boot, I was the skinniest thing around! Ugh! I absolutely hate bullying.

      I so appreciate you voting this hub "up," "useful," and "interesting." People like you sure know how to make my day. Hoping the rest of your day is beautiful. Blessings to you & yours.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 3 years ago from New York, NY

      Thanks so much Catherine! It's nice to know that you consider yourself a survivor. I like to see myself that way as well. I know what you mean about "no one cared." That is the worst feeling in the world - that no one cares. I so appreciate your kudos, for voting this "up," and for your willingness to share this hub with others. Thanks for sharing a part of your day with me. It's always a pleasure to communicate with you. Stay blessed.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      This is such an important subject and one which you have handled beautifully. I had my share of bullying. I wore glasses as a child, well lets say I should have worn glasses but the kids teased me, so of course I did not wear them.

      I loathe the bully and I will speak out anytime I see it.

      You did a terrific job of this one.

      Voted up,useful and interesting, google+

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Great topic written with your usual expertise and professionalism. The effects of bullying have stayed with me my whole life. I'm a survivor, but I have had a lot of issues. No one card about bullying when I was a kid. Thank you for bringing attention to this. voting up and sharing, of course.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 3 years ago from New York, NY

      Bill, your compliments are humbling to me. Thank you so much for reading this one. I must admit, my goal in writing on HubPages is to share important information in a way that people can understand and use. Your comments give me confidence that I'm on the right track.

      I can't imagine how many times you have witnessed bullying incidents, especially as a teacher. I have witnessed it more times than I care to recall; in fact, I have my own personal experiences from my junior high school days. The emotional support I received from my parents was life changing.

      Have an absolutely beautiful day. Blessings to you, my friend.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 3 years ago from New York, NY

      Jodah, I so appreciate you stopping by to read this hub and for your comment. Glad you think this is a "great message." Hopefully, the library incident and the hypothetical that follows gives people a wake up call. These types of behaviors are never acceptable. Thanks for spending part of your day with me and for voting this hub "up."

      Hope today is filled with blessings for you and yours.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I could ramble on for quite some time about this topic, as I have seen it in practice for most of my life, but instead I'll simply say I love how your mind works. You are able to dissect complicated matters and simplify mix legalese with practical applications....I really do enjoy your articles.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      A great message here Liza. We heed to do everything we can to stamp out bullying where ever it may occur, at school, in the workplace, in the home, the Internet etc. Love this hub especially the comparison to the incident in the library and how you compared it to adults behaving the same way. Voted up