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Bullying is a big problem. It affects millions of kids—including victims, the bullies, and bystanders—and can have long-term damaging effects on the brain. Bullying is an issue to be taken seriously by parents, teachers, and caregivers.

Some bullies use physical aggression as their form of attack. Others use emotional abuse and verbal insults to keep themselves in charge. Either way, bullying is a form of violence that is often relentless.

What can parents do at home to put the brakes on bullying? Here are just a few thoughts:

  • Address sibling fighting. Sibling fighting is a contributing factor to bullying that goes on at school. A young child’s brain is not yet developed enough to reflect on emotional experiences, so when a child is hurt by a sibling, he or she reacts with the primitive response of fight or flight. If a child feels powerless with a sibling, the child learns not only how to feel powerless but also how to feel powerful—by also being a bully.
  • Give lots of praise at home. If children experience a warm and loving environment at home, they will know they can ask for help, and they will realize they deserve to be treated well.
  • Help your child find some true friends. It takes only one or two good friends to feel supported. You can help your child find good friends by making time for play dates and socialization.
  • Help your child take charge. We all know that we can control only ourselves, so help your child do what he or she can to feel good. Exercise is one way we all feel stronger physically and mentally. Nurture your child’s confidence through skill building, whether it be physical, artistic, or musical.
  • Be proactive at your school. If your child’s school does not have an antiviolence program, start one of your own. All schools should want to guard against damaging the brains they are in the business to develop. Every school should be a safe and protected place for children.