Dealing with bullies

Bullying makes us feel awful and even when we know that our child is having a rough time at school, we don’t always know how to react. Here are a few tips to spot bullying and end it for good.

Types of bullying

The new Anti-Bullying Act defines bullying as the severe or repeated use by one or more pupils of a written, verbal, electronic or other form of expression, a physical act or gesture or any combination of them if it is directed at another pupil and if it has the effect of or is reasonably intended to have the effect of, causing harm to another pupil. In Canada, 75% of children report being bullied at some point during their school years and 25% of children between 11 and 18 years old have experienced cyberbullying.1 

Among the strategies used by bullies, we find:

  • Verbal and social bullying: insulting, spreading false rumours, threatening, calling names, telling the pupil he stinks, etc.
  • Physical and sexual violence: hitting, pushing, touching without consent, etc.
  • Cyberbullying: using emails or Facebook to humiliate and harass the pupil.
  • Extortion: Stealing money or meals.
  • Playing on allergies: Threating someone or touching him with allergens.
Allergic children usually experience verbal violence. However, some troubling cases report children who actually threw food at allergic children! About 300,000 young Canadians under 18 suffer from food allergies. When exposed to allergens, these children can suffer from a reaction that could potentially be mortal. An anaphylactic reaction can occur in the minutes that follow but it can also occur a few hours later. The only way to prevent this type of reaction is to avoid the foods that trigger allergies, which becomes impossible when it gets thrown at them. To avoid a very dramatic situation, make sure that your child carries his EpiPen at all times.
React quickly

When you ask bullied teenagers what they would have done differently, they almost always regret not talking to an adult quicker. These children say that a problem that had been there for months was solved in minutes after talking to someone in charge, yet experts2 agree: children only talk to adults after they have tried everything else.

Children often fear being labelled tattletales and that fear makes them vulnerable to bullying. If they let people harass them out of fear, it will become normal for other kids to see them get humiliated. At that point, changing mentalities will become harder. That’s why you should act quickly!

Take matters into your own hands!

In chronological order, here’s how to react when your child is being bullied:

  1. Listen to your child carefully and take it seriously.
  2. Tell him to tell his bully to leave him alone.
  3. Tell him to avoid places where he gets bullied.
  4. Talk to the school staff.
  5. If that’s not enough, talk to the bully’s parents.
  6. Change the security settings of your child’s Facebook account.
  7. Block the bully from his email account.
  8. If you think that your child is keeping information from you, tell him to call Kids Help Phone. The information provided to the counsellor will remain confidential.

Several bullies avoid direct confrontations. If you put up a fight, chances are that he will stop being clever.

Avoiding problems

Being a bully’s parent is not easy either but it is a position where you can do much more and have a bigger impact. At home, you can do two things: defuse your child’s anger and stop over-preventing with young children.

If your child is aggressive, it is your duty to channel his hostility. Find the source of his rage, consult a psychologist or enrol him in a demanding sport without contact. Whatever happens, never assume that things will get better eventually or hope that his teacher will take care of all the discipline. Everything that concerns your children is your responsibility. You must make them become good classmates and good citizens.

If you have been bullied yourself and fear for your children, do not overly prepare them to deal with bullies that do not yet exist. A parent who tells his child: "if someone bothers you at school, defend yourself! " somehow gives permission to fight back against any kind of aggression. If your child fails to understand what you mean, he could get angry against a child who just refused to play with him and eventually become a bully.

The consequences

Bullying is no small affair. Cases of runaways and suicides are too many, the sorrow of these children is too great and the school structure does not give them enough loopholes. Studies on 1,420 participants in England and in the US3 also showed that victims of bullying are affected negatively during these difficult times and struggle to cope with the aftermath. That’s why we must act, and we must do so as soon as possible.

If you have trouble talking to your child, meet a psychologist. They say it takes a village to raise a child and this is even truer when that child is in distress. Later on, when all this is over, you'll be surprised to see how your child’s school can be fun and safe again.


  1. Un tiers des élèves victimes d’intimidation au secondaire (In French)
  2. First steps to stop bullying: Adults helping children aged 4 to 11
  3. Psychiatry

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