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Stopping Bullying Behaviors: Advice for Parents and Caregivers

By — Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Updated on Sep 30, 2009

Every day in our schools (and communities) children are teased, threatened, and tormented by bullies. Bullying has been identified as a problem that creates a climate of fear, affecting the whole school.  Those who fail to recognize and stop bullying behavior as it occurs actually promote violence.  If we fail to stop the behavior, we send a message to the bully that  “You have the right to hurt people,” and a message to the victim that, “You are not worth protecting.”  This message needs to be changed and changed now.

Bullying is a form of abuse.

Harassment And Violence

Harassment and abuse are more accurate names for it. Parents and school personnel should no longer consider bullying “just a part of growing up.” It is harmful to both the perpetrators and the victims and is responsible for behavioral and emotional difficulties, long-term negative outcomes, and violence.

The National Institutes of Health (2000) recently reported that in the United States alone, bullying affects more than 5 million students in grades 6 through 11. One out of 7 students reported being victimized.  The violence that erupted at several schools in highly publicized shooting incidents in the late 1990s spurred several State legislatures to propose laws requiring schools to adopt anti-bullying policies. By 2001, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Colorado had passed laws, while others are pending in Illinois, New York, and Washington.

The severity of the problem has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), and other agencies. In response to this critical issue, SAMHSA/ CMHS is launching a Bullying Prevention Initiative with the help of prime-time television, public service messages, and bullying prevention educational materials.  This on-going multi-media communication Initiative – titled 15+ Make Time To Listen, Take Time To Talk... About Bullying – will bring this critical message directly to the children, parents and schools affected by these issues.

This article, for parents and schools, is a part of that Initiative. We hope that they and all adults who supervise children will learn what can be done, together, to take seriously their responsibility to prevent bullying among our youth.

Most people know what bullies are

They even know what problems victims of bullies sometimes face: years of constant anxiety, insecurity, and low self-esteem. Yet bullying problems often are ignored or denied.

Large numbers of students have been bullied over long periods of time while nobody paid any attention! Today, however, more people are recognizing that it is a basic democratic right for a student to feel secure at school and not to be troubled by offensive and humiliating treatment. Because of highly publicized school incidents, we now know that ignoring bullying can lead to violence or make a victim feel so overwhelmed that he or she sees suicide as the only way out.

The 15+ Make Time to Listen – Take Time to Talk Initiative has taken the stand:

No student should be afraid to go to school because of bullying, and no parent should be worried that their child may be bullied.

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