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Parents: are you part of the bullying problem? Take this quiz.

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  December 27, 2012 07:45 AM

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Did you know that at least one in ten middle school students reports being bullied?

That's a lot of kids--and one of them could be yours. Bullying is a serious problem. The more we study it, the more we understand that not only is it dangerous and damaging while it's happening, but victims (and bullies) have a higher risk of mental and physical problems long after the bullying has ended. 

Children who have something different about them, such as being overweight, having a learning disability or neurological problem, or a different sexual orientation, are at higher risk of being victims of bullying. Even children with health problems have a higher risk--a recent study showed that a third of kids with food allergies are bullied just because of their allergies!

We are also learning that adults can sometimes be part of the bullying problem--by ignoring it, encouraging it, or even doing it themselves. And most of those adults have no idea that they are doing it. 

Are you part of the problem? Answer these questions:
  • When you want your child to do or stop doing something, do you every use phrases like "don't act like a sissy" or "you throw like a girl!" or 'you're getting fat"?
  • Is "tough love" part of how you parent?
  • Do you spend limited time talking to or being with your child?
  • Have you ever wondered if your child might be bullied--and not said or done anything?
  • Have you ever wondered if your child might be bullying someone--and not said or done anything?
  • Do you praise your child for being aggressive?
  • Would you be proud of your child for being successful and popular--even if you suspected he or she might be bullying people?
  • Do you ever talk about other people in a demeaning way in front of your children?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you may indeed be part of the problem. It's time to take a long, hard look at yourself and your parenting, and make some changes.

Here are a few more questions:
  • Do you know the signs that a child might be a victim of bullying?
  • Do you know the signs that a child might be a bully?
  • Have you talked to your child about cyberbullying--and about what they do online?
  • Do you regularly tell and show your child that you love them no matter what?
If you answered no to any of those, it's time to start learning--and talking.

To learn more about bullying and how parents can be part of the solution and not part of the problem, visit

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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