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Warning Signs of Bullying

Parents who are concerned about the possibility of bullying naturally want to be able to identify warning signs if either their child is engaging in bullying of others or has become the victim of a bully. This article reviews warning signs of bullying.


Warning Signs that May Reveal that a Child Is Bullying Others

Depending on your child's personality and your own views on morality, you may be more concerned that your child could become a bully than that he or she would be a bullying victim. There are several types of behavior that might arouse this concern:

  • A child who is rude and demanding with adults, seeking his or her own way in everything, even when dealing with authority figures like parents and teachers, may arouse concern about how he or she will behave with those less powerful and not in authority.
  • A child who is prone to unbridled physical fights with siblings may arouse the concern that he or she will use physical force to try to control others outside the family as well.
  • A child who is unable to deal with frustration or control his or her impulses may arouse concern about his or her ability to let others who are less capable have opportunities to learn, play, etc.
  • A child who seems to have new acquisitions that exceed his or her allowance may raise concerns that he or she has been "exacting tribute" by forcing other children to give him or her anything that takes his or her fancy.
  • A child who is charismatic and capable, but chooses to hang around with "tough" friends and move as a group may cause concern that the "mob mentality" may be clouding his or her judgment in dealing with others.
  • A child who is spending inordinate amounts of time online may raise concern that he or she is engaged in cyberbullying.

Note that any of these signs could be an indication of a totally different issue. A child who is rude and demanding may simply need firmer discipline. A child who gets into physical fights may need another outlet, such as a sport. A child who can't control impulses may have AD/HD. A child who has new possessions that you don't recognize may be stealing. A child who hangs with tough kids may have been the victim of bullying and chosen this way of protecting him- or herself. And a child who is spending a lot of time online may be watching the entire set of episodes of "Lost" or trying to master chess. For these reasons, it is best not to jump to conclusions about the causes of these warning signs, but to investigate further.

Warning Signs that May Reveal that a Child Is Being Bullied

 A child on the other end of the bullying may also show behaviors that can either signal that he or she is a victim of bullying or other things entirely, so they must be further investigated. Here are some behaviors that should draw your attention:

  • The child is missing valuable possessions and can't account for their whereabouts.
  • There is a dramatic change in the child's social life, with a sudden loss of friends.
  • The child goes through noticeable changes in sleep or eating, with interrupted sleep and lessened eating.
  • The child's grades take a turn for the worse with no reasonable explanation.
  • The child seems depressed, sad, angry, or frustrated, or exhibits a loss of self-esteem.
  • The child begins to show avoidance behaviors. This could be about riding the bus, going to school, or using the computer or phone, depending on how the bullying is taking place.
  • The child suddenly begins showing evidence of being in fights, or takes to wearing long sleeps and pants uncharacteristically or when it doesn't make sense for the weather.

Alternative explanations include the following. A child whose possessions seem to be disappearing could be gambling them. A loss of friends can occur naturally as children develop and move in different directions. Changes in eating or sleeping could result from a physical illness or injury. Grades getting worse could come about due to the need for vision correction or hearing assistance or AD/HD. Depression, sadness, anger, and frustration can all be normal and natural reactions to the vicissitudes of life. A loss of self-esteem may come about if a child does something he or she feels guilty about. Avoiding people or school can come about because of a crush or a failed romantic relationship. And fights could be evidence of gang involvement. Any of these behaviors are serious enough to deserve your attention and to be checked out.

Related Article: Warning Signs of Teen Pregnancy >>

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