What is bullying and how to know if a child is being bullied?


What is bullying? For anyone responsible for a child, it is important to know what bullying is and to recognize its signs. This problem affects thousands of young people worldwide; unfortunately, many parents do not realize that their children are subject to this hostile behavior.

My experience as a therapist has taught me that the role of parents in bullying situations is essential. That is why I invite you to join me in this article and to reflect, in the name of God, on this delicate subject.

What is bullying?

What is bullying? A persistent and abusive behavior from a bully that can cause physical or emotional harm to a child or adolescent. It may be group or individual aggression that exposes the victim to sustained public humiliation and ridicule.

The Bible tells us «Do not hurry yourself (…) to become offended» (Ecclesiastes 7:9); but the victims of bullying are generally vulnerable to mistreatment and often suffer serious psychological consequences that remain after the physical consequences have disappeared.

Characteristics of bullying

Although bullying is a complex phenomenon, it has a few outstanding characteristics:

  • It is intentional. The aggressor has every intention of assaulting their victim.
  • Bullying is consistent. The acts of harassment are sustained; they have been performed over and over again, repetitively and consistently.
  • It is carried out among peers. It is usually carried out by young people of the same age as the victim: schoolmates, teammates, neighbors, and even siblings or cousins.
  • Bullying has different manifestations. Abuse can be verbal (insults, threats, name-calling); sexual (touching the victim or making fun of his or her sexual orientation); physical (hitting, pushing); social (isolation, spreading rumors); cyberbullying (harassment by telephone or social networks).
  • Seeks defenseless victims. The aggressor or aggressors always choose physically or emotionally weaker victims to attack them. Children with a physical disability, with self-esteem problems, belonging to minority groups are the most bullied.
  • The absence of empathy prevails. The bully does not have the ability to «put him/herself in the shoes» of the assaulted. There is a complete disconnection with the suffering of the victim.
  • According to a study conducted by Spanish researchers, many adults perceive bullying as a transitory act; however, it has been proven that the dominance-submission relationship generated lasts over time; as well as its consequences in the adult life of the bullied.

How do you know if a child is suffering from bullying?

What is bullying and how to know if a child is being bullied? Changes in a bullied child’s behavior may not be noticeable if you are not paying attention. An attentive parent, however, will notice that:

  1. Has decreased school performance

In my conversations with parents, I often tell them that this is one of the most obvious signs that something is wrong. When a child begins to drop grades and performance in school, there is an urgent need to investigate what is happening.

  1. Presents anxiety problems

Anxiety usually manifests itself in situations such as lack of sleep, nightmares, irritability and loss of appetite. There are other more physical signs such as generalized malaise, breathing problems and exhaustion. It can also manifest itself in quick mood swings.

  1. Does not want to go to school

School is the child’s and adolescent’s personal space. It is the place to meet with classmates and share common activities and interests. Therefore, if a child is recurrently absent from school or expresses fear of attending, something negative is happening there.

  1. Is always on the defensive

They may be alert and defensive all the time. Also feel guilty about anything in their environment; or assume that someone is blaming them, even if it is not true.

  1. Suffer extreme emotional reactions

They may burst into tears, have episodes of anger or panic in irrelevant situations. I suggest you dig deeper and look for the real cause of these seemingly exaggerated outbursts.

  1. Is afraid of being alone

A victim of sustained harassment may be afraid of being alone; going out alone to the supermarket, going for a bike ride or playing in the park may be situations in which he or she is likely to encounter the aggressors. The fear may be such that he or she does not want to be alone even at home.

  1. Behaves aggressively at home

Irritability and aggressive behavior are consequences of the harassment that the child suffers at school. The child is overwhelmed and may explode in an environment where he/she feels it is safe to let out all the accumulated anger and resentment.

  1. Isolates or locks themselves in their room

The victim of bullying may show a tendency to isolate themselves, not only from their family, but also from their friends. It is normal for a teenager to spend time in their room and jealously guard their space, but excessive isolation and apathy can be a sign of bullying.

What can parents do in these cases?

Now you know the answer to the question: what is bullying? But what can you do in these cases? Specialists agree that bullying is a serious problem that must be tackled from all angles. In some cases, when the bullying situation disappears, children return to their normal life; in others, they require psychological and/or psychiatric support. Regarding home care, some actions that I can recommend for you are:

  • Establish a two-way communication channel with your child.
  • Show them that they can trust you.
  • Investigate the situation, the parties involved and the seriousness of the problem.
  • Contact teachers and school officials.
  • Consult a therapist to discuss assertive actions to confront the bully.
  • If your child feels very affected get professional help. This support is highly recommended in any case.

Something very important is to keep faith in God and not encourage your child to take revenge. It is essential to be positive, «Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult» (1 Pedro 3:9), acting firmly, but without hatred.

Regarding therapeutic care, do you have doubts about how to manage it? Call 407 618 0212 and I will be happy to answer your questions.

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