Church Point / Mona Vale NSW 2105Monday to Friday 8am to 6pmPh: 0417 462 115FB Logo1
Maarit Rivers, Child Therapist

Ph: 0417 462 115

Church Point / Mona Vale
NSW 2105

Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm

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Being bullied is serious – it makes a child’s life hell

Being bullied is serious: it causes anger, shame and isolation, making a child’s life feel like hell. Maarit Rivers tells why, and how a parent can assist.

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Bullying is not generally about playground squabbles. Although a child sorts out squabbles and disagreements, a bully seeks satisfaction by causing hurt. Bullying is not just aggressive. On the contrary, it seeks to maintain and build up an imbalance of power. It is rarely one-off, hence aggression continues. A bullied child knows this and, as a consequence, lives in terror of what may come next.

Sadly, bullying is not uncommon. For instance, in Australia, one child in six is bullied at least once a week. Some adults see bullying as ‘part of growing up’. On the contrary, bullying is abnormal. Affected, are the bully, the child bullied and children who see it happening.

This article discusses those bullied. See my article Why a Child May Bully for children that bully.


Being bullied is serious: its various kinds

Indirect bullying is subtle. It is hard to detect.

Bullying actions and words that hurt. This is the most common form. It leads to others.

Emotional and relational bullying. The bully ignores, isolates, excludes, shuns, or is silent. Action may include gossip, lying and spreading false rumours. Furthermore, the bully may stare; roll eyes, giggle, or laugh at and/or mock. He or she may bully the victim’s friends, resulting in their being afraid to socialise with the original victim.


bullied-high school girl

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Being bullied is serious: direct or physical

Detecting direct bullying is easy. Bullies spit, damage clothes and property, shove and poke. In addition, they may throw things, hit and slap, pull hair, scratch and pinch, twist limbs. Even worse – they may choke, kick and punch. Regardless of age, as a result, such attacks emotionally damage even the strongest child.


bullying young


Cyber bullying is indirect and mainly via the Internet and mobile phones. Older children and teenagers are those most usually affected. It totally differs from personal bullying, and subsequently treated accordingly.

Most bullying is one-on-one – but bullies may enlist others. This issue is complex – but an experienced and suitably qualified therapist assists.


Being bullied is serious: it truly harms

A bullied child typically lacks energy – all goes into bullying avoidance. The child is likely to seeks develop survival skills, but at the expense of schoolwork. Bullying generally causes a child to feel angry, sad, upset, helpless and powerless. It affects emotional well-being, develops low self-esteem and feelings of loneliness. Bullied children typically show physical symptoms – such as stomach ache and headaches. They are likely to have nightmares or wet their bed. Long term bullying increases susceptibility to illness and, as a result, trigger those stress-related. This may include depression and anxiety.

A bullied child may develop behavioural problems. For instance, some may seek revenge – or become bullies themselves. A bullied child may start to avoid going to school, and/or drop out of other activities. By so doing they consequently isolate themselves from their peers. A bullied child’s schoolwork subsequently suffers, thus adding to its feelings of shame.


Being bullied is serious: it must be equally seriously addressed

Bullying directly affects the bully and bystanders. It can (literally) be fatal. Research shows children bullied for a long time are responsible for most USA school shootings.

Some children turn their anger inwards.  A seriously bullied child consequently wears out mentally and physically. That child must be constantly vigilant, ready to flee or forced to fight. Such children see bullying as never-changing. This can cause a child to commit suicide. Tragically this is not conjecture: sadly it has.


Being bullied is serious: why a child bullies

Any number of matters trigger a bully’s actions. It may involve race, ethnicity, religion, gender, physical attributes and also perceived mental abilities.

The child bullied may be the newest, or youngest in the school. That child may be fat, thin, short or tall, or have parents richer or poorer. The child may wear glasses or braces, or have acne or other conditions. Alternatively, a bullied child may be bright and talented, gifted, independent,shy or timid. A child may also be bullied as a result of perceived or actual sexuality.

That cause may be as seemingly trivial as ‘different’ clothing or lunch box food. It may be unusual behaviour. Children with physical or mental disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied. Furthermore, an ADHD child might act impulsively – thus irritating a bully.

Or a child just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bullies need no reason to bully. The cause, however, may change from time to time.


Being bullied is serious: your child may not admit to being bullied

A bullied child can find it hard to reveal that is happening. In addition, children have strong ethics about ‘being silent’. Because of this dobbing in’ is thus seen as a weakness.

Listen, and talk to your child. Attend closely to what the child tells you. Particularly notice behavioural changes such as being unwilling to go to school and/or do schoolwork. Or starts wishing to be alone. A warning sign is a need to go to the toilet immediately after coming home. Also be aware that indicators include the child talking badly about its peers, or openly using bad language. Be aware also of a child sleeping longer, being unable to sleep, or seemingly exhausted.

Give a bullied child love and support; it often thinks being bullied is its own fault. Moreover, he or she may indulge in negative self-talk, or feel and acts as if powerless. In addition they may even try to rationalise the bullying.

Above all – if a child reveals bullying to a responsible adult, assure that adult will do everything possible to stop it.


Being bullied is serious: give a bullied child these important messages every day

I believe, trust and care for you.

You can handle life situations.

I  listen to you.

You are very important to me. 

Give children positive affirmations, not only those bullied, bullying or aware of it. In spite of being bullied, affirmations assist a child to be confident.For example, they assist a child to become self assured and able to tackle difficulties themselves. Furthermore, if they cannot resolve issues themselves, they are confident to seek help. Meanwhile, their having good friends helps. Whilst bullying is truly – reinforce that being bullied is not the child’s fault. Nevertheless, some truly believe it is.


Being bullied is serious: if your child reveals being bullied – act immediately

Convince the child not to give up, and that bullying will stop.

Promise, and act to stop it as quickly as possible.

Do not rush to take over and solve the problem. To do reinforces a child’s feeling of being helpless – that they can do nothing about it themselves. If that seems possible, support your child to solve the problem itself.

Tell the child that when bullying happens they must tell someone. If that’s in school or during sports or any hobbies, insist the child keeps telling about it until action is taken. Enforce that such ‘telling’ is not ‘dobbing in’.

Empower the child. Explain that a bullying child may think that, by making another feel bad, it makes themselves feel better. Tell the child that the bully might be copying another. It doesn’t know bullying is wrong.

Enrol your child in a popular activity, ideally one where others participate and co-operate. To do this encourages your child to form new friendships.

Have your child learn a defensive martial art: such as aikido, hapkido or taekwondo. This builds up self-esteem. It aids inner calm and clarity of mind. After some training, that child begins to move and talk in a self-assured assertive manner. He or she becomes less likely to be bullied.

Being bullied is serious: advice for a child being bullied:

Attempt to ignore the bully. If possible, move away:

Act as if words do not hurt:

Behave as if not scared:

Tell the bully to stop – or you will tell someone.

Avoid places where bullying happens. Walk home a different way, or walk with others. If bullying happens on the way to and from school, seek safety houses. Where there is no safety house, run to any house and pretend to knock on the door. Bullies are scared of being caught. They are likely to run away.

Try to stay around other people, and make new strong friends.

Ask other children who are bigger and more popular to help. Attempt to have them be your friends, and spend more time with them.

Do not ask someone bigger and stronger to fight for you. Doing so escalates: violence does not stop violence. (in wars between nations everyone suffers).


Being bullied is serious: boost child confidence

Have the child:

Look in a mirror and say to itself – ‘I am strong.’ ‘I’m happy.’ ‘I am a great kid’. Do so every morning.

List things he or she is good at. Illustrate that. Locate it where it is seen every day.

Practice looking into people’s eyes and smiling.

Act confidently, standing tall and keeping the head high.

Practice talking in a strong loud voice (but not shouting).

Imagine the bully in nappies. That makes the child laugh, and the bully seem less scary.


Being bullied is serious: what you do when your child is bullied

It hurts inside to see your child suffer, You want to stop it immediately.

Do not get angry. Keep calm. Do not accuse anyone.

If your child cannot stop the bullying him or herself, promise you will talk to the school, kindergarten, sports coach etc. And do so. Ask their views, how ‘we can work it through together.

Do not approach a bully’s parents if alone. You need a neutral person as a mediator: perhaps teacher, kindergarten worker, or sports coach. Don’t attack the child, or its parents. They are likely to deny its possibility and may well be antisocial too.

Approach the parents in a diplomatic and friendly manner. Discuss the problem. Present it as problem for you, the bully’s parents, teachers, kindergarten workers, and sports coach. Ask ‘how we can collectively solve this problem’. Do not leave until a management problem is formulated and agreed. If necessary, be assertive, but friendly.

Keep regularly in touch to check how the matter is going. 

If bullying continues, keep clear written records of dates, of how it happens and of its nature.

Advise those concerned and ask to respond – in writing.

Schools have policies and procedures for resolving grievances. Ask about them, and proceed accordingly.

If bullying is unchanged, first talk to the school Principal, or the school Board or regional office. Do so in that order. If necessary, obtain legal advice. Finally, if bullying still does not stop, to move your child immediately to another school.

Consider also to take your child to a qualified counsellor, such as myself (Maarit Rivers), known to be experienced in such issues. If the child is traumatised by bullying, doing this is essential. 


Being bullied is serious: children who see others bullied

Most children who see others bullied, feel sorry for the bullied child. They may be upset about what’s happening. Very few intervene, or help the bullied child. This is because bullies are generally scary. Those aware of that bullying are equally too scared to intervene. They fear they will become the next victim. If a child does intervene it may, as a result, make the situation worse because they do not know what to do. (The bully may have a support group that teases the victim, and will encourage the bully to continue).

Children who see bullying may feel they have lost part of their freedom. As a result, they are likely to feel cautious in case they are similarly bullied. This erodes their self-respect, and causes a feeling of apathy. Often, such children are thus reluctant to talk about it.

Advise children the best way to help a bullied child is to discuss it with an adult who can help but, and equally importantly, not to help the bullied child directly.

Above all, make clear you will not stand there and watch bullying. Stress that you strongly disapprove of bullying. If you see bullying happening, get help from another adult.

Ensure you do not unwittingly bully yourself: for example by gossiping or teasing.

If the bullied child is shy, and reluctant to seek help from a responsible adult, nevertheless assist that child go directly to a teacher, school counsellor, and if necessary, the school Principal.


Being bullied is serious: stop it as quickly as you can

Bullying affects not only the child who is bullied. It can have serious long-term consequences for the bully.

Children who observe bullying usually suffer less damage, but it can seriously affect them too. Give every child advice on bullying and how to react if/when it happens.

Many children have difficulties expressing emotions and feelings. A skilled child therapist helps the child express these emotions and feelings. This reduces the chance of being bullied, or become distressed as a result of witnessing bullying.

My specialised therapy builds strategies that provide resilience, confidence and self- esteem. In addition, it teaches coping skills such as assertiveness and boundary setting.

If seeking help or advise ring Maarit Rivers now at 0417 462 115 or email me at


 Being bullied is serious: further reading

Bullies are a Pain in the Brain, Romain, T. (1997) Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis.

The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander, Colosco, B. (2008) Harper, New York

Bullying among young children, a guide for parents Rigby, K. (2003), Australian Government AttorneyGeneral’s Department, Canberra

Bullyproof Your Child for Life, Harper, J. (2007) Perigee, New YorkSimon’s Hook, Gedic Burnett, K. (1999) GR Publishing, California   What children tell us about bullying in schools, Rigby, K., Children Australia.


© Maarit Rivers, Therapist – Church Point, NSW 2105
0417 462 115,

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