Bullying is intentional, hurtful and aggressive behaviour that makes others feel uncomfortable, scared or upset.
A person who shows bullying behaviour usually picks on another person’s looks, culture, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Reality check: Bullying is serious – it affects more people than we realize.
1 in 3 Canadian teens say they’ve been bullied recently
Almost half of Canadian parents say their kid has been bullied
Students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirited, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) are discriminated against three times more than heterosexual students
It’s important to know the difference between bullying and single acts of aggression or conflict. Not all mean or rude behaviour or conflict is bullying.
Understanding the difference helps when it comes to knowing how to intervene.
Mean: Saying or doing something on purpose to hurt someone without consistency
Mean behaviour aims to hurt someone. Kids are mean to each other when they criticize things about another person (e.g. clothing, intelligence, coolness, etc.). Usually, mean things are said impulsively and then often regretted later.
Mean behaviour can be triggered by feelings of anger, frustration or jealousy. A kid might say something mean to make themselves look better in comparison to another person.
Being mean can sound like:
“Are you seriously wearing that sweater again? Didn’t you just wear it, like, last week?”
“Get a life.”
“You’re so fat/ugly/stupid.”
“I hate you!”
Mean behaviour causes damage. It’s behaviour that should not happen – it should be discouraged and stopped.
Bullying is serious – the effects can be traumatic and long-lasting. Victims can show a range of emotional, behavioural, physical and relationship problems.
Kids who get bullied can end up feeling:
Different from their peers
Weak or unable to defend themselves
Depressed or anxious
Like withdrawing from friends or family
It can also cause them to have:
Low self-esteem, loneliness and social anxiety
Problems going to school regularly
Some adults who were bullied in their youth report extended psychological harm into adulthood, like continued distress, self-blame, fear, and internalized problems like depression.
Here are some tips to help you start the conversation.
If your child is being bullied
Choose an appropriate time to talk with your child – use open-ended questions, for example:
“What did you like the most about your day?”
“What was the most frustrating part of your day?”
Listen – let your child do the talking, encourage them to describe the bullying in as much detail as they can and document it
Make sure your child knows that its okay for them to feel the way they do
Paraphrase what you heard – this will help them feel understood and open to having help
Give them tips and tricks on how to handle bullying behaviour or how to resolve conflict in a non-aggressive way and show them how to get help
Act out a scenario and have your child confidently handle the situation
Create opportunities to make new friends – for example, enrol your child in different programs or activities
Encourage your child to stay away from anyone who shows bullying behaviour
Make sure your child knows that it’s okay to stand up for themselves, but it’s not okay to be violent or aggressive
If your child is exhibiting bullying behaviour
If you suspect or have been told that your child is exhibiting bullying behaviour, you need to take it seriously and address the situation in a calm, open-minded manner.
You should make it very clear that the bullying behaviour must stop immediately
Ask your child about their friends and what they do together
Find out if something is happening at school or at home that is causing them to act out
Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to open up
Paraphrase what you heard and have them take ownership over their actions
Set appropriate consequences