How to Protect Your Child from Bullies
The last thing Dr. John Knight expected to hear when his wife called him at the office was that their son Jonathan, a “popular” 12-year-old, had been punched in the nose by a boy at school.

Knight was even more alarmed to learn Jonathan had been teased repeatedly for several days and even “rednecked,” a term used by children to describe the act of hitting someone on the back of the neck.

“I was enraged that this could happen,” says Knight, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “I felt powerless and mad that it had gone on for a couple of days and no one had intervened.”

When a child is bullied, parents are frustrated, angry, even frantic. They ask: why is my child the scapegoat? How can I stop the bullying?

Bullying – when one child or several repeatedly tease, taunt, threaten and physically abuse another child – occurs in every school to children of all ages. A 1993 survey of 16,000 students in grades 9-12 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, found that 16 percent had been in a fight at school the previous year.

Bullying cuts across all socio-economic classes, occurring in cities as well as suburbs, according to a 1991 Massachusetts study conducted by Harvard Community Health Plan Foundation’s Pediatric and Adolescent Violence Prevention Project. The study investigated intentional injuries among 200 children, ages 3-18.

Dr. Luisa Stigol, a Dedham pediatrician and the study’s principle investigator, says there is a direct relationship between violence among children and violence in society.

“Parents want to bring up children according to their values and teach children non-violence, but the violent messages from our culture and TV are so overwhelming that parents are losing control,” says Stigol.

Dan Olweus, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Bergen in Norway and a recognized authority on bullying and victimization, says children should be spared this degrading treatment.