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Bullying behaviors have long-term impacts
By Michaela Parker
MSU Extension Service
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Children are supposed to enjoy being around each other, but bullies can quickly spoil the fun and hurt a child’s feelings.
Watching children endure bullying is difficult, but what should parents do when their child is the bully?
Tashmia Turner, a family and consumer sciences agent for the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Madison County, said bullying is a behavior that should not be accepted.
Bullying -- unwanted, aggressive behavior that is repeated over time -- typically involves an imbalance of power, she said. That power imbalance can be based on differences in size, personality, popularity or cognitive ability.
Bullying behavior tends to peak by late middle school or high school, Turner said. It can take place in several different forms, including physical violence, verbal taunts and cyberbullying.
“Monitor your children closely, and let them know that bullying is unacceptable behavior,” Turner said. “Set up clear-cut and logical boundaries so that your children are aware of your expectations and their responsibility for their behavior.”
Boys and girls can both be bullies, but they bully in different ways, she said. Boys favor physical aggression, while girls are more likely to bully indirectly by spreading rumors and rejecting others. Recognizing the warning signs is an important first step to taking action against bullying.
“If your child displays bullying behavior at home with younger or older family members, then it may be possible your child is a bully outside the home,” Turner said. “However, those behaviors alone cannot accurately signify that your child is a bully, but they can be cause for concern if your child receives disciplinary reports at school.”
Additional signs that your child is bullying may include an increase in verbal or physical fighting, aggressive behavior or punishment at school, she said. Many children who bully do not take responsibility for their actions and often worry about their reputations. Children may also have unexplained money and a new set of friends if they are bullying others.
Alisha Hardman, Extension family life specialist, said bullying has effects on everyone involved.
“Bullying affects those directly involved, such as those who bully and are bullied, as well as those indirectly involved, such as bystanders who witness bullying,” Hardman said.
Children who bully at a young age may also engage in violent behaviors into adulthood, she said. Bullies are more likely to get into fights, drop out of school and vandalize property. They may also be more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol at a young age.
Children who witness bullying have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, Hardman said. They may also have a desire to miss or skip school.
Not all children who have been bullied will show warning signs, she said. Some indications a child may have been bullied include unexplained injuries, loss of friends, lack of interest in school, difficulty sleeping at night, and lost or destroyed belongings.
“If your child has been bullied, it is important to let your child discuss it with you,” Hardman said. “Parents should listen in a nonjudgmental way both about your child and about the child who is bullying. Let your child do all the talking, and don’t try to solve the problem for your child.”
Hardman encourages each parent to contact his or her child’s teacher to discuss bullying. Keep the teacher informed about bullying incidents so he or she can watch for the behavior at school. Follow up with teacher, and report the incident to the principal if the bullying behavior continues.