Preventing Bullying

Preventing Bullying

Preventing Bullying - A Guide

What Is Bullying?

Bullying is not always easy to define. Dan Olweus an expert in the prevention of bullying, says that bullying includes:

a) Deliberate hostility and aggression towards the victim

b) A victim who is weaker and less powerful than the bully or bullies

c) An outcome that is always painful and distressing for the victim

Bullying can be described as taking place when a child is the target of negative attention and actions. These actions can be far reaching and generally fit three major categories:

I. Intimidation such as:

Playing dirty tricks, defacing property or clothing, extortion, taking possessions, threatening to reveal personal information, verbal aggression such as name calling, dirty looks, taunting, teasing about clothing possessions or appearance, intimidating phone calls, verbal threats of violence or aggression against property or possessions, swearing, persistent teasing.

II. Social Alienation such as:

Gossiping or embarrassing another, setting a person up to look foolish, spreading rumours, ethnic slurs, publicly humiliating, excluding from the group.

III. Physical Aggression such as:

Spitting, hitting, shoving, pushing, kicking, defacing property, stealing, locking in or out of an area, violence against family or friends, threatening with a weapon, inflicting bodily harm, unwanted physical contact.

Persistent Bullying can result in the victim dealing with:
Depression, Low Self Esteem, Shyness, Poor Academic Achievement, Isolation, Attempted suicide

Unchecked and unreported, bullying also damages the bully who learns that he or she can get away with violence, aggression and threats. The bully comes to believe that this sort of behavior can get them what they want. When bullies carry on with these behaviors as adults they encounter all kinds of much more serious problems. KIDSCAPE conducted a survey of young offenders, which indicated that many had been bullies when in school. Research also indicates that adults, who were bullies as children have a higher likelihood of acquiring a criminal record, tend to be more aggressive, and have difficulty maintaining relationships. In short, children accused of bullying may need just as much help as those being bullied. Their behaviour may be an indication of hidden personal and social problems. Other children may be manipulating them or they may be being falsely accused.

Why Do Some People Bully?

People become bullies for a lot of different reasons.

  • They have family problems.
  • They are being bullied themselves.
  • They are selfish or spoiled and always want to get their own way.
  • They have no friends and feel lonely.
  • They feel bad about themselves and want to make others feel bad too.
  • They are taking out their own frustrations on others.
  • They feel insecure and unimportant - bullying gives them power.
  • They want to look "big" in front of others.
  • They have been bullied into joining a bullying group and have gone along with things just to stay on the bully's good side.
  • They don't care or understand how other people feel.

Whatever the cause bullying is usually a signal that the bully needs help

Bullies need victims. The bully will always be able to find something about a person to focus on: wearing glasses, having "too big ears", being in a wheelchair, being good at school, etc.
Bullies use differences as an excuse for their bad behavior, but it isn't the difference in the victim which causes the problem - it's the bullies who have the problem because they are: Afraid, Jealous, Envious, Cruel, Angry, Insecure, Unhappy

What to do if Your Child is the Bully

If you learn that your child is a bully:

Try to stay calm
Try not to become angry and defensive
Ask exactly what your child has been doing
Ask if they have behaved like this before.
The more you can find out the easier it will be to work out why your child has been bullying and what can be done about it.

Helping The Bullying Child

See if he or she has any ideas about why they bully and what they think might help them stop.
Reassure your child that you still love them - it's their behavior that you don't like but you will work to help them change this.
Find out if there is something in particular which is bothering them and help sort it out.
Work out a way for your child to make amends for the bullying.
Set up some sort of reward for good behavior.
Set limits. Stop any show of aggression immediately and help your child find other non-aggressive ways of reacting.
If your child bullies when faced with certain situations, help them work out and practice other ways of behaving.
Explain that getting away from a situation where they can feel themselves losing their temper, or things getting out of hand, is not a weakness. It's a sensible way of making sure the situation doesn't get worse.
Teach your child the difference between assertive behavior and aggressive behavior.
Praise your child when they do things well. Create opportunities for them to shine.
Talk with school staff. Explain that your child is making an effort to change his/her behavior. Ask what ideas they have to help. It might be helpful to have your child speak with an educational psychologist. This can be arranged through the school resource teachers.
Talk to school staff about setting realistic behavior goals for your child.
If you feel the situation is serious enough contact Mental Health and arrange counseling sessions.
Keep an eye on your child's activities, whereabouts, and friends. Set clear and reasonable rules.
Parents can always help by controlling their own aggression and by making it clear to their children that violence at any time is unacceptable.

Helping Bullies Deal with Anger:

If temper is lost or the bully becomes violent and aggressive easily, he/she needs to practice controlling these feelings. It is not necessarily wrong to feel angry but it is wrong to take out this anger on others. Learning to recognize the signs that he/she is about to explode can help the bully work out what they will do next time they feel themselves losing their temper.

Get away from the situation or person that is making them angry. This is not running away. It is often the best way to keep them and others from getting hurt either through a fight, an argument, or name-calling.

Take several deep breaths and count to ten.

Exercise can help release anger...go for a run, play football, etc.
Practice simple relaxation techniques. Tense every muscle in the body and slowly relax each individual muscle starting with the toes.

8 Things Bullies Need To Do

Everything a person does has an effect on their own life and in some cases on the lives of others. Bullies often fail to see this. Their actions are immediate and serve their own purposes. They see no one as a victim. Those they pick on are only a means to an end for them and serve to help them be noticed by others. Bullies must be made to understand that the actions have an effect and how others look at them because of those actions.

1. Acknowledge own actions.

2. Acknowledge results of behaviour on themselves.

3. Develop shame for the actions.

4. Change actions to stay out of trouble.

5. Find other ways to get needs met.

6. Acknowledge what their actions did to others.

7. Develop guilt for their actions.

8. Determine a way to help their victim.

8 Steps to Resolving Conflict In a Non-Aggressive Way

1. Cool down. Don't try and resolve a problem when you are angry. Take a time out and arrange a time to talk things out.

2. Describe the conflict. Each person should tell his/her story without using any put-downs.

3. Describe what caused the conflict. What specific events led to the conflict? What happened to turn it into a conflict?

4. Describe the feelings raised by the conflict. No blaming allowed.

5. Listen carefully and respectfully while the other person is talking.

6. Brainstorm solutions to the conflict.

7. Try your solution.

8. If one solution doesn't get results, try another.

Talking about Bullying

Bullying is certainly not a new thing. In the past it was often ignored or seen as just a part of life. In the last few years this way of thinking has changed and efforts are being made by parents and schools to help those involved in bullying situations. Talking about bullying can be a key that unlocks the door to many unhappy secrets. Adults who open this door must be prepared to deal with what they find. Perhaps the best advice is to trust your instincts- if you are worried discuss your worries openly and honestly with your child. As difficult as it may be, listen to them and consider that there are likely two sides to their stories. Your son or daughter may reveal some unpleasant facts about themselves. This is not a time to pass judgment or consider punishments. Instead take a hard look at the situation and counsel to the best of your ability.

Some things to remember:

1. Be patient - make time to listen to your child

2. Ask questions but do it sensitively - don't interrogate

3. Show your child that you care. Be careful not to do or say anything which could make an already anxious child feel even more so.

4. Do not take action before you discuss with your child what you could do or what he or she could do. It may take a little longer for you to agree on the best course of action than if the decision is taken by the adult alone, but this is time well spent.

5. Do not make promises you can't keep.

6. Tell your child that he or she has done the right thing by talking about what has happened.

7. Tell them that bullying is wrong and that those doing the bullying must change their behaviour.

8. Do not encourage your child to retaliate with similar actions as this just makes the situation worse.

Talking With Teachers

If someone in your family is being bullied or is bullying at school the best course of action is to talk to a teacher. Call and speak to the teacher on the phone and arrange a time to visit and discuss your concern. If the bullying is serious you may be upset when you speak with the teacher so here is a checklist of things to remember:

  • Speak to the teacher as soon as possible. Explain or ask how long the bullying has been going on.
  • Do not exaggerate. Be honest and stick to the facts, as you know them. Teachers and parents need to know how serious the bullying is if they are to make a judgment about the best course of action.
  • Make a note about everything you know about the bullying before you speak to the teacher so you don't forget to mention any important points.
  • Remember this might be the first time that the teacher has heard about the bullying and remember that your child may not have told you all of the facts.
  • Remember that the teacher wants the best learning situation for every child in the classroom. The teacher is as concerned as you are about dealing effectively with bullying to help keep and create this atmosphere. Bullying can be solved if parents, teachers and pupils work together to find a solution.
  • Request another time that you can check in with the teacher to see how things are going.
  • If the situation has not been resolved or continues, contact the vice principal or principal and discuss your concerns.

Resources for Parents

Internet sites: Most of these have links to several other sites where you can access information.
Books: There are thousands of books available on the topic, the following represents a very few. 

Randall, Peter, A Community Approach To Bullying, Trentham Books, 1996.
Colorosa, Barbara, The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, Harper Collins Publishers, 2002.
Borba, Michelle, Building Moral Intelligence, Jossey Bass, 2001.
Stockton, Maggie, Anti-Bullying, Daniels Publishing, 1996.
Fried, Suellen, Bullies and Victims -Helping Your Children Through The Schoolyard Battlefield, M.Evans & Co., 1998.


Many information sources were used to create this listing. Among them were the following:

Kidscape "Preventing Bullying-A parents Guide" 09/01/01

"Dealing With Bullies" ;A Love and Safety Club Teacher & Student Resource 17/05/01

Kidscape "You Can beat Bullying -A Guide for Young People" 09/01/01

Childline "Bullying and how to Beat It" 09/01/01

National Crime Prevention Council "Stopping School Violence" 30/03/01

London Family Court Clinic "Bullying Information for Parents and Teachers" 09/01/01

Dr.Rigby'sBullying Pages "What Schools Can Do about Bullying" 09/01/01

Alberta Teachers Association "Bullying, Everyone's Problem" 09/01/01

U.S. Department Of Education "Bully" 09/01/01

National Association for the Education of Young Children "Teaching Children Not To Be - -Or be victims of - Bullies" 09/01/01

Alberta Learning "Safe and Caring Schools" 17/05/01

CanTeach Encouraging Good Behavior" 24/08/01

Antioch University "Conflict resolution Presented To Children as Bullyproofing" 3/14/01

Mediate.Com "Decreasing Violence Through Conflict Resolution Education In Schools" 3/14/01 Alberta Teachers' Association "Bullying- What you can do about it." (1997)

The Love and Safety Club "Preventing Bullying and Harassment A Learning Resource for Teachers and Students.17/05/01

Allan Beane, Bully Free Classroom (1999)

Saskatchewan Learning: Caring and Respectful School Toward School plus (2004)