What is Bullying?

Everyone has their own ideas of what bullying is and what bullying looks like. However one thing everyone agrees on is that they would never like to be called a bully. That is my experience working with children who display bullying type behaviour; they do not like the label of being a bully because they know that is socially unacceptable, albeit they participate in bullying behaviours towards others.

I think that society only accepts it as bullying if the behaviour is repeated over a long period of time. This is where children see the “grey” area, believing that if they hurt someone once or twice it is OK. We need to be clear in our message to children that bullying is any form of unacceptable treatment, discrimination or behaviour intended to hurt or harm the reputation of another.

We need to be clear in our message that bullying-type behaviour starts when the child deliberately sets out to cause harm to another child. This can be through name calling, excluding them from friendships, and online comments (cyber bullying), among other types of bullying behaviours. Extreme cases of bullying always begin this way! We cannot wait until it gets extreme before we call it out.

Different types of bullying

Verbal Bullying. This type of bullying happens when someone says mean or hurtful things to your face or behind your back. It can happen if you’re bullied for something beyond your control (such as racial, religious, or skin colour). Verbal Bullying could also come from spreading rumours about others – which is a damaging attack on someone’s reputation.

Physical Bullying. This is a kind of bullying where one person tries to hurt another person through various means, such as hitting them with fists, hair pulling, etc. People might mistake physical bullies for playmates rather than serious threats; however, there are sometimes other victims involved, too so be aware!

Gesture Bullying. A common form of this taking place online on Instagram for instance would involve the bully making creepy faces at someone else’s pictures trying to insult or make fun of you without actually having words coming out of his mouth (for lack of filter). Online pressure has led people suffering this type of harassment to commit suicide in extreme cases due to psychological distress, which continued exposure to an overbearing bully caused.

Exclusion Bullying. This is a type of bullying that bullies isolate their victims from inclusion, leaving them out of activities. You may be left all alone during lunchtime because the bully ensures few people speak to you. These acts can make it hard for you to feel confident and good about yourself. Extortion Bullying. This is an extreme form of bullying where the bully threatens to hurt you if they don’t get what they want from you—money, possessions, or even your lunch!

Extortion bullying can take many forms. One type of extortion is when the bully threatens to hurt you unless you give him something in return for not hurting you, such as money or possessions.

Cyberbullying is the malicious use of cell phones, instant messaging, email, chat rooms or social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to harass or threaten someone through bullying-type behaviour. Children are often cyberbullies, who have been given increasing access to these technologies at a young age. The situation becomes worse when you add in the truth that a bully can hide behind an anonymous pseudonym, which allows them to carry out their attack without fear of being caught or reprimanded for their behavior.

Why do children engage in bullying-type behaviour? 

There are so many reasons why children behave in bullying-type behaviour.

  • They want to be popular and fit in with friends
  • They may be dealing with difficult situations in their life, separation, bereavement
  • They have witnessed this bullying type of behaviour at home
  • They may have been bullied themselves
  • Lack of confidence and self-esteem

When I work with children who have been presented with bullying-type behaviour, it becomes clear that the behaviour is masking low confidence and self-esteem in that child. Bullying behaviour is a form of communication, and regardless of the type the child is communicating on the outside, how they feel about themselves on the inside.

A child who already feels unworthy or lacking in confidence will mask who they really are by pretending to be someone they are not; this is often to fit in with a group of other friends. They want to be accepted, seen and heard, and sadly at times, that notoriety comes by being hurtful to others through bully type behaviour.

If our children were confident in who they are and held themselves as good enough, they would not need to bring other children down to bring themselves up.

The victim

Why do many children tolerate the abuse without speaking out? Self CONFIDENCE. Children tolerate bullying behaviour because they end up believing that the things the bully is saying and doing is what they deserve. Children being bullied lack the confidence to speak up, feel unworthy and have low self-esteem taking this to the extreme, they begin to believe they deserve to be bullied because they are less of a human than the bully.

This is devastating for any child to believe they deserve to be treated this way.

Fear will also stop the victim from speaking out about the bully?

  • Fear that the bully will make it worse, 
  • Fear of being called a “tout”, a “grass”, etc from other peers, and they turn on them 
  • Fear they will not be believed that they are being bullied
  • Fear their parents/carers will tell them to “man up” or “stand on your own two feet.”
  • Lack of empathy

Basically, bullying results in having a lack of empathy. Empathy is what connects humans to each other, the ability to walk in another’s shoes and feel what it is like to experience what they are experiencing. 

If our children had empathy, they would not engage in a bullying behaviour because they would be able to feel the pain of their victim.

How can I help my child?

Bullying is a very complex issue for parents to deal with and anyone who has been through it will agree that the impact is devastating for the whole family. 

First – listen to your intuition!

Remember if your child is lacking in confidence and afraid to speak out they may not tell you that someone is bullying them.

Listen, Observe and Respond
  • They may not have the confidence to speak out but they will give you subtle hints, listen to them 
  • Do not brush their feelings away – Saying things like “ stand up for yourself” or “ give as good as you get” or “stop being a baby” are extremely detrimental to a child who is already lacking in confidence and afraid. Your child is looking to you for a solution for handling a bully. Ignoring or belittling their experience will only affirm their unworthiness.
  • Watch their behaviour, are they quieter, are they not going out, are they wanting to stay off school, not go to clubs etc. YOU know your child best and will know if behaviours are out of sync.
  • If you have concerns, create space for your child to talk to you; in a busy home, your child may get the courage to open up just as the phone rings, you are watching the news, making dinner, putting on a washing- there is no right time! How you respond is crucial in that moment 
  • Make them and the situation important!

Here is a little script that will help

  • *What has happened?
  • How are you feeling?
  • What are you thinking?
  • What would make this better?

*Remember – do not say what is wrong with you – if your child is being bullied, they already think there is something wrong with them! 

  • Build confidence 

Praise is a useful way to build confidence, however be cautious! If your child is lacking confidence they may not believe you.

Building confidence takes time and will require effort on our part and the part of your child. 

Simples strategies 
  1. Start with what your child is good at.
  2. Create opportunities for your child to experience success.
  3. Praise the efforts your child makes 
  4. Create affirmations – which are specific, they must be positive and opposite to how your child currently feels for example – if your child doesn’t feel they are good enough to have friends, you could create an affirmation, “ I am a good person and a great friend” 
  5. Simple, effective statements to repeat when the bully targets them – “That behaviour is not OK” or “I do not like that” 
  6. Identify a key adult that your child can confide in when you are not around; your school will help with this.
  7. Let your child know that you are listening and that their feelings are important.
Teach your child empathy

First and most important! You are the adult your child learns from you.

  • Create an empathic environment in the home- talk about emotions, consider each other’s emotions.
  • Do not judge others, children pick up on acceptable behaviours such as gossip, judging others, name calling. When we judge or gossip about others we are communicating to our children that some people are better than others, if they learn this they will replicate it!
  • Do not assume your child is too young to hear things, pick up on socially acceptable behaviour. Adults are guilty at times of thinking that their child doesn’t understand, but remember that non verbal communication is just as important as verbal!
  • Talk about emotions and situations, if there is something on the TV, news, online talk about what people are feeling, this will teach your child to be mindful of others feelings and to experience the feelings of others.
  • Practice gratitude. Coupling gratitude with empathy is powerful!
Celebrate difference 
  • Your child needs to grow up in an environment that accepts the difference in others. That difference could be race, nationality, looks, identity or interests. 
  • If your child grows up in an environment where their nationality, looks, life, and interests are better than someone else’s, that creates an inequality that can lead to them thinking they are better than others.
  • It is important that children understand the difference between accepting and agreeing. It is OK to disagree with another’s beliefs or how they live their life, it is important to have conversations about our beliefs and values too, but we should respect and accept that difference.
Why was odd socks for anti-bullying day created?

Founded in 2017 to raise awareness against bullying in school and to get children and adults alike to be brave and stand up against bullying.

With the rise of technology and an increased need for perfection from schools and social media alike, bullying has risen exponentially. In order to combat this problem, one day each year is designated as an odd sock day. This is meant to remind us all to think twice before we say something that might hurt someone else. It’s easy when looking at other people’s odd socks or bad haircuts or weight gain—that they aren’t perfect either. But if we can appreciate another person’s quirks, then we’ll find it easier to let go of harsh words when they come up too

Join BeeMe 

 If you want to help, your child joins BeeMe and participates in our courses that will teach your child about self-confidence, empathy and much more.

Further resources to help you as a parent whether your child is being bullied or the bully:

Anti-Bully Alliance
Stomp Out Bullying


What is Bullying? Everyone has their own ideas of what bullying is and what bullying looks like. However one thing everyone agrees on is that they would never like to

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