How To Tell If Your Child Is Being Bullied

Posted: May 19, 2012

How do you know that your child is being bullied? Unfortunately, parents are often the last to know...

According to Ohio State University Extension, experts say bullying can start early, occurring even in preschool. It tends to increase through the elementary school years, peaking in middle school, and then waning during high school.


  • Some indicators that a child is being bullied include:
  • Suddenly doesn’t want to go to school or loses interest in after-school activities.Grades begin to drop.
  • Seems isolated or begins acting withdrawn or nervous.
  • Returns from school with clothes torn or books and other items damaged.
  • Has unexplained bumps, bruises or other marks.
  • Has increased complaints of headaches or stomachaches, or has trouble sleeping.
  • Threatens to hurt self or others.
  • Begins bullying other children.


Ohio State University Extension provides these tips to help parents who suspect their child is being bullied. First, remember that children often don’t admit to being bullied, even when asked. They may feel embarrassed or simply want to avoid a conversation about something so painful. Or they might believe no one can do anything about it anyway.

Take any complaint of bullying seriously. Don’t downplay it, and don’t blame your child for being victimized. Don’t advise your child to strike back. That’s a common mistake parents make, but such aggression can quickly escalate. You don’t know what the other child may be capable of. On the other hand, advising your child to “just tell them to stop” isn’t helpful, either. Bullies don’t just fade away.

Instead, teach your child to be assertive and stand up for him or herself -- but just once. Sometimes displaying self-confidence is enough. But often, bullies might become more aggressive, feeding on the response.

Help your child find ways to avoid the bully whenever possible. It’s not an ideal solution, but avoiding the bully can help children avoid bullying, at least in the short-term.

Make sure your child knows it’s OK to ask for help. The bullying should be reported to teachers, a guidance counselor or another responsible adult.

Also, encourage friendships and the social skills needed to maintain them. Bullies often target children who are isolated. And, find ways to help your child develop self-confidence, and practice how to show it in conversation and body language.
Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension in Lackawanna County.