NEW MAGAZINE: WINNETKA Living, February, 2017: Article - BULLYING: What Parents Can Do written by Dr. Elana Ashley


 Bullying: What Parents Can Do

  By Dr. Elana Ashley

 Research shows one in three American children is directly involved in bullying—as a perpetrator, victim, or both. For parents, it is common to feel frustrated or even powerless when bullying happens. Yet it is your key role to provide guidance and response strategies to help your children cope. Here are some things you can do:

Have a Clear Definition of What Bullying Is

The concept of bullying should be clear in your own minds. While a social conflict may involve the intention of one party to hurt another, often negative consequences can occur accidentally and without a purposeful intention to harm another person. The use of inappropriate language and/or an abusive action as a one-time event is not considered bullying. Unlike a “normal, social conflict,” bullying is understood as: the repeated use of abusive language and/or abusive behavior to intentionally harm someone, with the aggressor maintaining power and control.

Know the Warning Signs

Warning signs that your child is being victimized includes, but is not limited to, the following: emotional signs (unusual sadness, crying, anger, anxiety); physical signs (bruises and scratches); headaches, stomach aches or other internal, physical complaints; difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much; excessive eating or not eating enough; faking illness in order to stay at home; not participating with peers in the classroom or in afternoon clubs or sports; decline in school achievement.

Encourage Open Communication

If you suspect your child is being bullied, implement and teach reflective conflict resolution skills. When you sit down to discuss a bullying incident, organize your thoughts to help you and your child understand what happened, why it happened, and how he or she responded to the bully. Be simple, direct and honest when you communicate your ideas. Encourage your children to do the same. You should show real concern, listen with sensitivity and compassion, and be as calm as possible.

Practice Response Strategies

Practice roleplaying to empower yourself and your children to stand up to a bully. The following is a very basic, brief introduction to responses to simple, bullying situations in elementary schools. First, your child needs to always keep in mind that NO ONE has the right to hurt him/her. Second, your child has two major options if someone targets him/her as a victim:

(1) If your child fears the bully, he/she does not have to say anything; rather, immediately walk or run away, and find someone trustworthy with whom to share what has happened.

(2) If unafraid, your child should look directly into the eyes of the bully, try not to blink, and say loud and clear what he/ she thinks and/or feels. Once your child has spoken in his/her own defense, the youngster should leave quickly. Regarding events that take place at school, the child should report the full information to a counselor, social worker, teacher or principal.

Provide Structure and Set an Example

Established rules for communication and behavior within your family should be adhered to in consistent fashion. Without parents agreeing upon rules relating to what is right and wrong regarding language and actions, children are bound to become confused, and lose all sense of what is and is not proper or acceptable. Discipline at home helps establish a pattern for interaction with others. Always use as your foundation a set of the highest human values and ethical standards, with which you can model healthy, meaningful and joyful relationships.


Dr. Elana Ashley is an educator, author, artist, storyteller and ventriloquist who teaches children and adults strategies for dealing with everyday issues. Her latest children’s book, Case Two: Big Bully Holly Howler, is an imaginative adventure full of friendship and creative anti-bullying strategies to empower children, parents, teachers and mental health professionals.

To learn more about Dr. Ashley and her work, visit her website: