How To Intervene With Bullying

It’s difficult to stop bullying if you don’t know what it looks like. Bullying will escalate quickly if parents, teachers and children don’t stop it. It’s important to take all forms of bullying seriously- if adults don’t, then neither will children. Bullying can be defined as repeated harassment and attacks on others and can be perpetrated by individuals or groups and can take on many forms such as:

  • physical violence and attacks (incl. biting, pushing and hitting)
  • verbal taunts, name-calling, nicknames and put-downs

  • threats and intimidation

  • stealing of money and possessions

  • exclusion and isolation from activities, or social groups

  • spreading rumors and teasing

  • ganging up

  • cyberbullying

Bullying is happening more often than we realize. 1 in 7 (15%) children are involved in bully-victim interactions.


70% of bullies are boys while the remaining 30% are girls. Boys tend to use physical aggression as their means of bullying and girls tend to tease, exclude and isolate others. Both ways are harmful and have long lasting effects on the victims.


Take the problem seriously.

  1. Intervene immediately. Stop the bullying behaviour as soon as you see it or become aware of it.
  2. Talk to the bully and talk to the victim- separately and not in front of his or her peers. If more than one child is involved in instigating the bullying, talk to each child separately.
  3. Don’t ask children to work things out for themselves. Bullying is different from other conflict; there is a power imbalance that requires adult intervention.
  4. Consult with the principal and other teacher’s to get a better understanding of the problem and alert them to the problem.
  5. Expect that the child/ren that did the bullying will minimize and deny his/her/their actions and responsibility. Refer to social codes of conduct when telling the bully why their behaviour was unacceptable. Label their behaviour as “bullying.” Tell them what behaviour you do expect of them.
  6. Reassure the victim that all possible steps will be taken to prevent a recurrence and that he/she is not to blame.
  7. Inform the parents of the bully and of the victim as soon as possible. A quick call home on the same day is preferred. Results are better and more positive when parents are involved early in a bullying situation, before behaviour patterns can become solidified and serious.
  8. Involve parents in designing a creative plan of action, whenever possible.
  9. For victims, involving them in groups and situations where they can make appropriate friends and develop their social skills and confidence is important. The goals should be to develop the child’s peer support network, social skills and confidence. Specific work in assertiveness skills may also be helpful.
  10. For the bully, specific re-education as to his behaviour is important. They need to understand that their behavior will not be tolerated and that there are other ways to solve conflict.
  11. Follow up in communicating with parents and teachers about the situation until it is completely resolved.
  12. Monitor the behaviour of the bully and the safety of the victim. Channel bully’s behaviour in positive directions and use praise/encouragement for improved behaviour. Show them other appropriate ways to deal with anger and ways to recognize when angry feelings are coming on (physical cues).
  13. If the bully will not change their behaviour, despite concerted efforts by parents and teachers, then they, and not the victim, should be the ones who are removed from the situation. Consequences for the bullies will be of interest to all the children and will set the tone for future situations and behaviour.
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