Last Updated: February 11, 2021

The signs of bullying in children usually manifest in them not wanting to go to school on Monday mornings, or frequent complaints of headaches and stomach pains. Your child will want to skip school to avoid meeting the bully and his demands.

The headache and stomach pains result from emotional stress and anxiety arising from bullying.

When bullies team up, in what is referred to as mobbing, they are capable of inflicting lasting emotional and physical harm upon their victims.

It can lead to psychological low-downs such as low self-esteem, hopelessness, loneliness, depression, embarrassment, shyness, fear, and poor performance in class!

What is bullying?

Bullying takes place when one child uses aggressive actions and words to coerce, embarrass, make fun of, abuse, grab property, threaten,and even assault another child.

It is done repeatedly and intentionally by the bully to dominate, cause emotional pain, or physical harm upon the victim.  

This is how Wikipedia defines bullying:

Bullying is the use of force, coercion, or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception (by the bully or by others) of an imbalance of physical or social power.

Bullying is a global problem and is made even worse because of rapid urbanization, cross-cultural existence, and technology.

Besides the school and communal bullying, the massive adoption of mobile computers by learners in the 21st Century is ensuring that children who have been earmarked for bullying are also targeted online.

The problem is estimated to affect a third of the children who use the internet.

According to UNICEF,

Around one-in-three young people across 30 countries say they have been bullied online, while one-in-five report that they have skipped school because of it.

Classifying bullying

Children who bully others are most likely victims of bullying themselves or have unwittingly been forced to join bullying groups through peer influence.

Many times bullies become bullies because of a feeling of inadequacy and wanting to impose themselves on others. They may have bigger body masses, are generally defiant, short-tempered, and believe in solving problems through violence.

They normally have no empathy, and therefore care less about the feelings and pain others experience.

In a much bigger picture, bullies are by-products of unstable and broken homes where violence is common even with parents.

Besides fellow children, teachers too, and relatives knowingly or unknowingly contribute to the bullying of young children. Teachers may participate in bullying by shaming learners because of poor academic performance!

Bullying can safely be divided into 3 different categories:

  • Direct bullying is when physical actions such as beating, theft, destruction of property, and face to face verbal actions such as direct abuse and insults are expended.
  • Indirect bullying is when a victim is systematically excluded from social groups or is subjected to socially viral rumors and lies.
  • Cyberbullying is when perpetrators use social media chat platforms, text messaging, email other electronic platforms to torment, mock, and embarrass victims.

According to UNICEF, victims of bullying are kids who are,

  • culturally different
  • of different religion
  • of different social status
  • victims of health disabilities
  • academically gifted in class
  • socially shy
  • new in the community or school
  • quiet and peaceful

Common signs of bullying in children

When children suddenly develop behavioral changes and want to keep to themselves, it is probably time to take a close look and find out what the matter is.

Of course, other reasons – medical included, could as well lead to withdrawal and related symptoms. This does not stop parents from getting to the bottom of the problem.

learner sleeping in class may manifest as a sign of bullying in children
Sitting alone in the classroom can be viewed as a sign of bullying

Below are common signs of bullying in children, both at school and at home. Beware, the bullying child maybe yours as well!

1. Signs of bullying in children at school

Bullying happens at home, in the neighborhood, online, but is most prevalent in schools, because the environment is conducive.

First, there is a lack of direct monitoring of individual learners because of the unfavorable teacher-learner ratio.

Second, the school environment collects children from all kinds of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.

Somehow, these children will behave and treat each other differently as par their backgrounds.

Children who are bullied at school will show the following bullying symptoms. They will

  • experience an unexplained decline in academic performance
  • have unexplained injuries, bruises, cuts from fighting
  • develop mood swings during lessons
  • have a few friends
  • have low self-esteem due to frequent ridicule
  • develop aggression as a defensive mechanism
  • lose stuff at school
  • are targets of ridicule and teasing
  • say little during class discussions
  • experience persistent headaches and other emotional pains

2. Signs of bullying in children at home

The home is meant to be the place that victims of bullying find solace and peace of mind. The children should be at ease most of the time, and should not exhibit the telltale signs evident at school.

Nonetheless, a few signs will be carried back home and it is up to the parents to pay attention.

Usually, the victims

  • have difficulties sleeping at night, and are often turning and twisting
  • experience repeated nightmares at night
  • are unwilling to discuss any bullying problems
  • come home hungry because their food was taken away from them
  • develop change in eating habits – usually low appetite
  • have unexplained injuries, bruises, cuts, swellings
  • are sickly sometimes or pretend to be so in the morning in order to skip school
  • have stomach pains because of hunger, food poisoning and anxiety
  • look freighted sometimes
  • have little interest in social media, where they have been active
  • develop an interest in gadgets, where they have not been active
  • have low self-esteem
  • become aggressive and want to bully younger siblings

The role of parents, teachers & the community

Active parenting, awareness, and seamless communication between children, parents, educators and the community are fundamental in discovering and stopping bullying.

Correct parenting can also help reduce the number of children who become bullies.

Children should be encouraged to report instances of bullying even when they are not involved directly. Teachers, relatives, and friends who are unaware of their roles in bullying should get themselves up to speed.