City of Ukiah, California

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Bully-Proofing Your Kids

I have to admit that, like many parents, I love it when it’s time for our kids to go back to school!

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy summer vacation and having quality time with our family, and I know our kids really enjoy being away from school.

But as the summer comes to an end, I know that parents – and I suspect kids – are ready to get back to a comfortable routine. And, many kids are excited to get back to school to see their friends.

But as the time to return to school approaches, some kids just don’t want to return because they fear they might be bullied or picked on at school.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), nearly a third of all students aged 12 – 18 years old reported having been bullied at school, some almost daily.

The NCES report reveals that: 

  • There is noticeably more bullying in middle school (grades 6, 7, and 8) than in high school.
  • Emotional bullying is the most prevalent type of bullying; with pushing, shoving, tripping, or spitting on someone being second.
  • Middle school students, and particularly sixth graders, were most likely to be bullied on the bus.
  • Sixth graders were the most likely students to sustain an injury from bullying, with middle school students more likely to be injured than high school students.

Learning how to bully-proof your child is a great way for parents to actively protect their child against this type of abuse, and the website is a great place to start.

The website indicates that kids and teens are prone to bullying by their peers for many reasons, including: their appearance, dress, academic ability, disabilities, hobbies or even their social status and parent's financial status in the community. Kids and teens who are bullied have higher rates of suicide and have low self-esteem, poorer academic performance, and overall struggle harder to succeed.

Because teachers, parents, and school administrators are more aware of the signs and the negative effects of bullying, they are taking a more active approach, providing swifter and harsher punishments, to help reduce bullying in schools.

There are all different types of bullying, from physical altercations to name-calling, teasing, spreading rumors and cyberbullying, and schools may not be able to completely stop them. This is why parents need to learn how to bully-proof their children to help protect them from this unnecessary abuse from their peers.

Even very young children have to deal with bullying. In addition to teaching the value of manners and treating others with kindness, parents and teachers of preschool-aged children have the difficult task of providing preschoolers with the tools (and permission) to let others know how they expect to be treated.

A great way to bully-proof your child is to help them develop a strong sense of self. Encourage them to learn about themselves and excel at being exactly who they are. Kids with low self-esteem are less likely to stick up for who they are, and they make prime targets for bullies looking to pick on someone they perceive as weak.

It is also important to encourage your children to explore activities that make them feel good about themselves. Find something that they are really good at, because it will help increase their overall self-esteem and feeling of self-worth.

The national website says that we should encourage kids to do what they love. Help kids take part in activities, interests, and hobbies like volunteering, playing sports, singing in a chorus, or joining a youth group or school club. These activities give kids a chance to have fun and meet others with the same interests. They can build confidence and friendships that help protect them from bullying.

Encouraging courageous behavior is another great way to help bully-proof children. You can encourage kids to stand up for themselves as well as their peers and other friends. When groups of kids or teens stand together to put an end to a bullying situation, the bully is more likely to back off and less likely to mess with those kids again.

When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that bulling will not be tolerated. Research shows this can reduce and even stop bullying behavior over time. The website provides a number of tips for adults to stop bullying:


Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.

Separate the kids involved.

Make sure everyone is safe.

Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.

Stay calm.

Model respectful behavior when you intervene.

Avoid these common mistakes:

Don’t ignore it. Don’t assume kids can work it out without adult help.

Don’t immediately try to sort out the facts.

Don’t force other kids to say publicly what they saw.

Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids.

Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately.

Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.

Get police help or medical attention immediately if:

A weapon is involved.

There are threats of serious physical injury.

There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia.

There is serious bodily harm.

There is sexual abuse.

If an illegal act, such as robbery or extortion—using force to get money, or property – is suspected.

Finally, everyone should know that bullying affects kids in many ways. Some lose sleep or feel sick. Others want to skip school. A few may even consider suicide.

If you are feeling hopeless or helpless or know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They understand bullying, and are there to help those who are being bullied.

As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: 

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Safety · Professionalism · Community Service