Responding to Bullying
Bullying affects everyone, including those who engage in bullying behaviour, those who experience bullying, and bystanders who witness the bullying.
- Don’t allow your initial response to control your actions.
- Take action to stay calm so that you can think rationally.
- Let your child know you are on his or her side and will do all you can to see that he or she is safe.
- Tell your child that reporting bullying was the right thing to do.
- Emphasize that he or she has the right to be safe at school.
Work with the school
- Contact your child’s teacher immediately to ensure that the situation is being monitored.
- Ask for advice about contacting the parents of the child who is engaging in the bullying behaviour.
- Check the school’s discipline plan for information.
- Ask about specific actions the school will take in this situation.
- Participate in the school’s action plan.
Make safety arrangements
- Tell your child not to go places alone and to tell an adult if someone is harassing him or her.
Help your child develop skills and confidence to stay safe and to respond assertively to bullying behaviour.
Practice effective responses.
- Recognize and validate these responses when you see your child use them.
- Never encourage a physical response toward harassment and bullying.
- Get information about effective responses your child can use to deal with bullying.
Affirm your child’s courage in telling you.
- Congratulate him or her on being willing to deal with harassing behaviour.
- Talk with your child about their feelings. Make it clear that you believe in your child’s ability to work through the problem.
- Follow through by periodically checking with the school to ensure the problem is resolved.
Silence encourages bullying behaviour. Thank your child for having the courage to tell you about it. A warm, non-judgemental manner will set the stage for this discussion. Model caring and concern for others. This will serve your child well in the future.
Stay calm and get the facts.
- Find out the names of those involved.
- Get the sequence of events / behaviours / frequency of harassment.
- Get the circumstances and location.
Stress that it takes courage to report bullying and harassment.
- Those who witness bullying and harassment have the most power to stop it.
Contact the school.
- Support your child in reporting incidents of bullying and harassment to responsible adults in the school.
- Reaffirm the expectation that it is your child’s responsibility to help make the school safe and caring for everyone.
- Don’t allow your initial response to control your actions.
- Take action to calm yourself so that you can think rationally.
- Set limits and give clear messages that you love your child but don’t love his or her behaviour – all harassing and bullying must stop.
- Talk about how harassment affects others.
- Impose appropriate, non-violent, logical consequences.
- Let your child know you will work with him or her to help find better ways to solve problems.
Get the full picture
- Help your child explore the reasons for the bullying behaviour and find different ways to interact with others.
- Check with school staff to get as much specific information as possible.
- Help your child identify the circumstances under which he or she becomes aggressive.
- Work to gain an understanding of the skills your child needs to learn to solve problems effectively. It is paramount to affirm and encourage positive behaviours and constructive, problem-solving skills.
- Let your child know the risk for legal consequences for bullying behaviour.
- Make sure you spend time affirming the qualities and behaviours you appreciate in your child.
- Don’t just focus on what isn’t working – also notice and comment on what is working.
Encourage talk about feelings
- Teach your child ways to express feelings that will help build empathy and problem-solving skills.
- Work out different ways to solve problems that do not involve verbal or physical aggression. Practice new responses.
- Discuss ways to handle situations that have been problems in the past. Make a plan.
- Help your child work out a way to make it up to the person he or she has bullied.
- Help your child look at the situation from the other person’s point of view.
- Consider what the person who has been bullied would want to happen.
Cooperate with the school
- Keep in touch with the school staff to find out how your child is doing. Ask for help if you need it.
- Ask the school to share strategies they teach students for self-control and resolving conflict. Practice and reinforce these strategies with your child.
Monitor TV, violent movies, video games
- Media violence has been shown to increase aggression in young people.
- Examine your parenting strategies, especially strategies used to discipline.
- Parenting strategies that are too strict or too lenient have been shown to cause behaviour problems in young people.
- Remember that you are a powerful role model for your child.
Guidelines for logical consequences
A range of logical consequences that could be applied should meet the following criteria.
- Reasonable: the consequences fit the inappropriate behaviour.
- Related: the consequences teach a skill or attitude that will prevent future inappropriate behaviour.
- Respectful: the consequences must respect the dignity of both the child who is bullied and the child who engages in bullying behaviour.
- Responsible: the consequences ensure that the child who engages in bullying behaviour is the one who is held accountable for his or her actions.
If you are bullied, recognize that it is not your fault, and know that you have the right to be safe.
To be safe, think SAFE:
Stand up for your self
Ask for help
Figure out your choices
End it calmly.
- If you are bullied, stand proud and make eye contact.
- Use a firm voice and tell the person who is bullying to stop–then walk away.
- Ask a friend to help you, and tell adults about the problem until someone helps.
- Think about different ways to handle the situation, but don’t name-call or get into a physical fight.
- Even though it might be difficult, show respect and treat the person who is bullying you the way you would like to be treated.
- Don`t believe any negative things the person who is bullying might say about you.
- Don`t blame yourself for the bullying, and don`t think that it`s “tattling” to ask for help. Not telling anyone will only allow that person to continue to bully you and others.
Those who witness bullying have the power to stop it. If you see someone being bullied, show that you CARE.
Care about others
Ask an adult for help
- If you see someone being bullied, offer to help.
- Invite him or her to hang out with you and your friends (people who bully often target someone who spends a lot of time alone).
- Tell the person being bullied that it’s okay to ask for help, and talk to an adult about the problem.
- Tell the person who has been bullied that you are willing to help with any future problems.
- Don’t try to solve the problem by bullying back.
- Keep your word, once the bullying incident has passed, make sure you don’t ignore the person who has been bullied—he or she needs to know that others are looking out for them.
If you are always picking on other students, you have a problem. It may be hard to admit you have a problem, but we all have to own up to how we treat other people. It’s not right to want to make others feel badly.
If bullying behaviour makes you feel powerful, you must realize that no one really likes other people who bully. You may scare kids into hanging around with you, but that’s not the same as having friends who respect you. Also, you are harming yourself. When kids who bully become adults, they often have problems. People who can’t control their behaviour have trouble keeping jobs and can even end up in jail.
Figure out why you bully. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you really mean to make other people feel awful? Why? Think about how that must feel.
- Is something making you unhappy – a problem at home or at school? Is there someone you can talk to about it?
- Is someone – an adult, a member of your family – bullying or hurting you? Are you taking it out on someone else? Can you talk to that person? Can you get someone else to talk to that person for you? Consider talking to a school counsellor or trusted adult.
- Is there someone in particular that you pick on? Is there something about that person that bothers you or makes you jealous?
- Do you hang around with friends that bully others? Why? Do you really want to be around people who like to pick on others? Can you really trust them as friends?
- Are you a victim of violence? If so, can you break the cycle of violence and make sure no one has to suffer as you did? Talk to a school counsellor.
- Do you have trouble making friends? Learning to make friends is a skill that takes practice. Watch someone you admire to get ideas about making new friends.
It’s time to make a change
Ask for help. Talk to someone at school about your problem and ask for help as to how you can control your negative feelings.
Changing behaviour takes time. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t change everything you want to change immediately. The fact that you are reading this and want to change is a positive step. Being willing to do something about your behaviour is half the battle.