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  • Beware the Bully: The Different Kinds and What You Can Do

    Psychologist Kathleena dela Rosa gives you the lowdown on bullying and what you can do about it.
    by Ines Bautista-Yao .
Beware the Bully: The Different Kinds and What You Can Do
PHOTO BY @shironosov/iStock
  • Once your child is in school, he has to learn how to fend for himself: doing schoolwork, eating his baon by himself, making friends, and sometimes even defending himself against so-called friends who are out to pick on him. 

    Bullying is a common problem among children. According to psychologist Kathleena dela Rosa, there are different ways a child can be bullied.
    • Physical - pushing, hitting, punching
    • Verbal - name-calling, shouting
    • Psychological - alienating such as saying, ‘we won't 'friend’ you’
    • Threatening - this can be a combination of physical and psychological
    • Cyberbullying - happens on social networking sites

    Dela Rosa says bullying in preschool doesn’t usually get as serious as it often does in the higher levels. “I have seen some nursery girls do the alienation ‘we won't friend you’ routine. As for physical bullying, kids in preschool have a tendency to get physical as they don't have as much verbal prowess to have their needs known,” she says. However, she adds that for an act to qualify as ‘bullying’ it has to go beyond one-time incidences. “Bullying has to have the additional requirement of regularity—meaning, that one person regularly picks on a certain person.”

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    Why the bullying?

    As much as bullies get a bad rap, dela Rosa says their actions stem from fear. “Even if it's a bit counterintuitive, bullies do what they do so that they will be accepted—so that they will have a sure set of people who will always be with them. They do this out of fear of being the next target themselves.”


    At the same time, bullies look for children who are what she calls “easy targets,” usually the kids who are different from everyone else. The bully’s followers will easily understand why that child shouldn’t be a part of their group. However, there are also some bullies who just bully everyone.

    Be on the lookout!

    Some children may tell their parents about their problems in school, but some don’t. Just to be safe, here are some signs that will clue you in to what’s going on:

    • Any change in your child's demeanor: suddenly very sullen, or scared all the time
    • If he suddenly does not want to go to school

    “If these happen,” says dela Rosa, “Try and talk to him or her a bit more or even try and get the teacher to do a little snooping for you. Even if it's not bullying, it's always good to know what's causing the change in his demeanor.”
    At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that bullying is different for boys and girls. “Boys are usually very physical and a bit verbal but girls are really more psychological and verbal,” says dela Rosa.

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    Steps to take 

    1. Always keep the communication lines open. Even if your child is not being bullied, he must always feel that he can run to you for anything. By making sure this is the norm in your relationship, you can be confident that your child will keep no serious secrets from you.

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    2. Process what he is going through. Together, you can brainstorm what your child can do or how he can deal with it if it happens again.

    3. Empower your older child. If your child can deal with it himself, allow him to. This will further boost his confidence. However, dela Rosa warns, you must step in if it is a life-threatening situation.  

    4.    Enlist the teacher’s help for the preschooler. After processing and talking to your little one about the situation, talk to the teacher. She can keep an eye on the situation and do something about it.
    5.    Keep your emotions in check. “While you may stress, panic, get angry, or all of the above, do not show this to your child,” says dela Rosa. “Be calm yet warm and sympathetic when speaking to him or her about the bullying.”

    The other side

    What do you do if your child is the bully? Dela Rosa says you take the same steps. “Talk to him and ask what and why he is doing the things he is doing. Process and make sure that he realizes what he makes others feel.” However, she adds, “Don't push him to immediately ask for forgiveness, but allow him time to really understand why what he did is just not right.”

    Just because your child is the bully doesn’t mean he’s the bad guy. There are problems he is also experiencing and these are manifested in his behavior. You may also enlist the help of the teacher so that he isn’t labeled as “bad” or “naughty” and explain what he is going through.


    Bullying can bring up strong emotions in you as a parent because if there’s anything instinctive about parenting, it’s the drive to protect your child. However, it is important to remember to keep calm before doing or saying anything rash. At the same time, it is not a time to just abandon your little one and tell him to “man up.” Your role is to listen, empower, and guide your child into doing the right thing, and only then can you beat the bullying. 

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