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Published on February 25, 2019

sad looking girl at school

Restore Love to Prevent Bullying

With only moments to spare before your children get home, you peel oranges, pluck grapes from the stem, grab the baggie of cut celery from the refrigerator, and dump the colors on a set of plates.

The door opens and closes. You hear feet shuffling across the floor and then scurrying up the stairs. One comes into the kitchen for a snack, while the other has disappeared into his room. Again.

“When children are bullied, they may begin to show indirect signs if they do not report it,” said Tomas Holtberg, PhD, LPC-MH, QMHP, a behavioral therapist with Avera Medical Group. “They offer reasons to avoid school and display behavior changes in the home. In some rare cases, they might come home with bruises.”

Bullying is the act of engaging in any behavior designed to demean or intimidate someone physically, mentally or emotionally. While the reason why a child becomes a bully is an individual matter, experts have pointed to a couple of possibilities why the child is inflicting cruelty on another:

  1. Bullies are trying to maintain popularity or a social status among peers. The individual preys on another child that he or she perceives to have a lower social status among the other children.
  2. Bullies are frustrated over a bad hand they were dealt. They feel entitled to take it out on other children when there is discord within their own family, snags with teachers, or a personal issue, such as an eating disorder, learning disabilities or insecurity.

If you are concerned your child is a bully, look for the following signs: defiance, irritation, withdrawn, isolation or quick to anger. It’s easy to view these types of children as evil, but they’re hurting as well.

In many cases, parents find out their child is being bullied — or IS the bully — by receiving a simple phone call from the school. Understandably, you may be quick to defend your child, whether they are the bully or the bullied.

“Many parents believe bullying should be handled by the school alone,” said Holtberg. “While the school is partly responsible, the most effective place in preventing a bullying problem is in the home.”

Remember, parents are teachers, too, and here’s some encouragement: parents are in the position to be some of the best teachers.

These tips can empower children to become good friends, peer advocates and respected adults:

  • Encourage children to have an open mind. Both the potential bully and victim will look at each other as a human being with thoughts, feelings and talents.
  • Form a line of communication. Kids want to be heard. Listen to everything — the mundane to the incredible days at school. If something bad is occurring, the child is more apt to share.
  • Be the change you want to see in the world. “If you model kindness, respect and empathy in the home, this vastly reduces the chance a child will become a bully,” said Holtberg.

At times, parenting can feel like the most difficult job in the world. However, it’s the most rewarding job as well. Abandon the old thinking of “my kid didn’t start it; but he/she will finish it.” Restoring love in the schools and on the streets begins with parents choosing to love their children unconditionally in the home.

A newly published book, "A New Norm” is by Avera and Children’s Home Society, and it is ntended to touch the lives of children, adolescents and even adults who suffer from depression and related mental health conditions.

It can help foster meaningful conversations between parents and their children, and within families, youth groups and classrooms. To learn more or to order a book, go to

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