Bullying

Boy standing up to a bullyLong description linkBullying is using power over a person or people in a harmful way. Bullying goes against our rights, has negative effects on our safety, and can affect our chances to develop our full potential. The high frequency of bullying and its serious effects on children are becoming more recognised. This page provides practical ways to deal with bullying.

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What is bullying?

Bullying is behaviour that threatens or hurts another person. It can cover a lot of different behaviours, such as:

  • teasing
  • staring
  • name calling
  • threatening
  • blocking the path of a person
  • hitting or hurting
  • stealing
  • spreading rumours or malicious gossip
  • leaving a person out of  activities.

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How much does it happen?

Bullying probably happens in every school and even every classroom some of the time. For example, in a school of about 100 kids, probably as many as 15 or 20 kids are being bullied. Some will be bullied more than others, but there are plenty out there who know what it can be like.

That means if your child is in a class of 20 or more children, there are probably at least two or three kids in your child’s class who are bullied. You won't always know it's going on because kids might not talk about it. Even if they do happen to talk about it at school, sometimes kids will not want to worry their parents with this sort of information.

Bullying can happen in other places too, even at home or at work. You may have even directly or indirectly experienced, bullying of adults by other adults. The information on this page mainly concerns bullying between children, but some of the same principles may apply to adults.

Bullying and the child with disability

Boys bullyingLong description linkChildren who are different in some way may be targeted for bullying more than others. The differences often go beyond having a disability. Read more on the Bullying - No Way! website.

While children with obvious disabilities are often targeted for bullying, the child who has less obvious disabilities may also be targeted because there is usually less understanding of the reasons for their differences.

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About ‘bullies’

People who do most bullying sometimes get called the ‘bullies’, but we need to be aware that labelling individual people can create problems. For example, it can result in a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ – when you make a prediction about something and the prediction itself, makes it more likely to happen. When we call someone a bully, they may come to think that bullying behaviour is what is expected of them and bully even more.

Having information about bullies can help kids have better ways of dealing with bullying when it happens. It can also help them think about more ways to stop it from happening in the first place.

Some of the characteristics of bullies:

  • Some bullies have problems of their own - bullying is a way they use to try to hide their problems.
  • Bullies often feel bad about themselves - bullying gives them a feeling of power that makes them feel better for a little while.
  • Some bullies are too confident - this makes them feel like they can do anything and not have any worries about the consequences.
  • Bullies only stay bullies while they think they can get away with it - if someone strong stands up to them they often back down.
  • Some bullies are looking for a physical fight - these bullies may be looking for a way of ‘letting off steam’ because they are so frustrated with some part of their life.
  • A bully might be angry or frustrated about something that no-one really knows about and they can't talk about.
  • Bullies might not have a good idea of how other people feel - they might only be able to see the world through their own eyes.
  • Some bullies don't know any other way of getting other kids to listen to them.
  • Bullies sometimes depend on a group of supporters - if that support isn't there, they don't bully other people.
  • A few bullies have developed bad habits by watching people at home or on TV and they just haven't learnt a better way.
  • Some bullies have been bullied themselves.
  • Not all bullies are kids - some adults are bullies towards kids too - if you know an adult who is a bully towards kids and want to do something about it, you may get advice through the Child Abuse Report Line (phone:13 14 78).

Disclaimer: General information only - you should consult with the relevant professional before using it with a particular child. See further disclaimer details.

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What you can do to help

  • The first thing is to remind the victim that it's not their fault if they are being bullied or teased - sometimes victims need to be reminded of this before any other advice is given.
  • Let the victim know that even though it's not their fault, there are things they can do to help stop it from happening.
  • Let the person know that there are also things they can do to feel better if bullying continues.
  • Remind the person that there are people around to help – Novita psychologists can help with bullying and teasing.
  • Remind the person being bullied that they didn’t always feel this way, and they won’t feel this way forever - give them a feeling of some ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ if they are feeling at a low point.
  • Check whether the child wants to talk about it with someone not so close to the family or school - if so, try encouraging them to contact the Kids Help Line, it’s a free call (Phone: 1800 55 1800). Bullying is one of the more reasons for calls to the Kids Help Line, so Help Line workers have lots of experience of helping with this problem.

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What kids say about bullying

The following messages from kids with disabilities about bullying have been drawn from the book titled: If you want to know about it just ask: Young disabled people talk about health and health care.

  • Parent saying just ignore them - cartoonLong description linkTom (13) noticed that there is a vicious cycle, and that he plays into the hands of the bullies by reacting, "But then they all, like you know, well they know I get mad and all that, so they keep doing it".
  • Emma (9) said "I don't think my parents understand because they just say ignore it and you can't because it upsets you so much"
  • Paul (11) "Oh if someone calls me a spastic, I look up to them in the face and I say, what did you say? and they say ' I called you a spastic' and I said that's going to be the first and last time you said that."
  • Oliver (11) "... I tried everything, telling the teacher, tell my parents, tell the principal, the principal will speak to them. It was OK for a week but, they didn't tease me, then ... they started teasing me again" ... "I've nearly tried everyone, everything to try and stop them teasing. Now I'm just, if they tease me I just fight back and that gets me in more trouble ... And I don't care about it."

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Things you can do to help stop bullying

  • Most schools in South Australia already have rules to deal with bullying - find out your child’s school's rules about bullying.
  • Tell someone in authority at the school that the bullying is happening - sometimes telling someone else is enough - people don’t always realize what’s going on until you tell them, and if they don’t know, they can’t help.
  • Ask the classroom teacher about the rules for dealing with bullying and other behaviours in their classroom.
  • Give the child permission to avoid the bully for a while - this can work for a while but it’s probably not the answer for the long term.
  • Ignoring helps, but anyone who says it's easy to ignore bullying just hasn't tried it - sometimes it’s good to get help for the child in how to ignore properly – Novita psychologists can help with teaching effective ignoring.
  • Teach the child safety in numbers - teach them the right times to stay with or near others who might see what is going on.
  • Teach the value of not giving in to the bully - there may be times when giving in is the best option for a short-term solution. Giving in to the bully might get rid of the problem straight away. But, the bully may be back again as soon as they want something, or they will learn that bullying works and use it on other kids as well.
  • Some people have talked with the bully and had good results - it’s probably best for a child to have talked about this idea with someone older like a teacher, parent or school counsellor before they try it out.
  • Allow the child to get some instruction in self-defence - you'll need to shop around to find a form of self defence that you are comfortable with and that is likely to be safe.

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Things you and your child can do to feel better

Usually children are not allowed to hit back, so here are some things that kids can do:

  • Find out more about bullies.
  • Ask your school to do a survey or questionnaire to check about bullying and how often it happens.
  • Give the child permission to write a list of all the things they'd like to do about it even if they can’t do all of them - they can then throw the list away or keep it somewhere safe.
  • Encourage them to draw a picture of the bully and have fun making the bully look silly - get them to put it away with their list of things to do, or put it up on their wall at home - don’t let them put it up at school, unless no-one knows who it is about.
  • Involve as many support people as you can - in most cases, the more people who know about the possibility of bullying and how to stop it, the better.
  • Encourage them to write down or keep count of how often it happens - they can use this to see progress or to show you their progress. They can also use it later to show someone else what has been happening and how often. Make sure they keep their notes safe and in a private place until ready to use them.
  • Encourage them not to forget to take the time to enjoy the other good things that can happen in their life.

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What kids need to know that parents know about bullying

It can help if you can find ways of letting kids know you have the following information on board:

  • Bullying is wrong.
  • Bullying is not the fault of the kid who gets bullied.
  • Other children are bullied too.
  • Strong kids get bullied too sometimes.
  • Bullying can be stopped.
  • Kids who bully other kids probably need help to solve their own problems, and then they might stop bullying.
  • Kids deserve a chance to try their own solutions.
  • Kids should be given help when they ask for it.

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Books

The following books may be found in the Novita Toy & Resource Centre. If you are registered with the Centre, you can borrow them by completing the on-line request form.

  • Bricher, G. (2001). If you want to know about it just ask: Young disabled people talk about health and health care. Published by the author: Adelaide.
  • Rigby, K. (1996). Bullying in schools and what to do about it. Australian Council for Educational Research, Camberwell, Victoria
  • Suckling, A. & Temple, C. (2001). Bullying: A whole school approach. ACER Press, Camberwell, Victoria. (Includes 20 Masters of Activity Sheets and 25 Masters of Action Plans, Incident and Student Report Forms, Parent Information, Individual Management Plans, Posters and Certificates)

Disclaimer Detail: The information on this website is of a general nature only and does not constitute advice. Novita Children's Services makes no representations as to the accuracy, usefulness, suitability or application of the information to a child's particular circumstances. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the information. In using this site, you are agreeing to the Terms and Conditions of Use for the site. 

Glossary

Malicious

Desire to cause harm. Active ill-will.

Rumour

Statement about someone that may not be true.

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