How to be more aware of bullying behaviours and its effects




  • Why do children become bullies?
  • What is the impact on victims?
  • How to prevent bullying?

Bullying has been defined as, when a person is exposed, repeatedly and over time to negative actions on the part of one or more persons. – (Dan Olweus Ph.D.,1970).


Although there has always been a schoolyard bully, today, bullying has been recognized as a serious issue in our schools and our local communities. It’s sad to realize that the unfortunate reality is that during the next year, many children and youth will be bullied, become a bully or witness someone else being bullied.
During the past several years, many incidents of violent attacks on children and teens have been reported that leave parents and teachers struggling to provide answers when a child asks, “Why me?”

Bullying comes in many forms, whether it is name-calling, put-downs, spreading rumours, physical attacks or inciting others to ‘gang up’ on the victim.

Why do children become bullies?

“No, it’s not just boys being boys. It takes a special breed of person to cause pain to others. But the one most hurt by bullying is the bully himself—though that’s not at first obvious and the effects worsen over the life cycle. Yes, females can be bullies too. They just favour a different means of mean.” (Big Bad Bully, Psychology Today, 1995)

Many bullying behaviours can be identified in young children as they engage socially with other children. Parents and educators need to address negative behaviours as they arise or the bully may continue with their bullying behaviours as they reach their teens or even as adults.

Bullies often exhibit the following:

  • Need to have power over others.
  • Inability to accept differences of others i.e. race, sexual orientation, physical or mental handicaps.
  • Feelings of insecurity or lack of self-worth.
  • Reinforcement of inappropriate, aggressive behaviours
  • Lack of remorse or empathy towards others

Many social psychologists report that aggressive, bullying behaviours are often witnessed within the home and can impact young children to act out against others. Many children and youth live with fears of isolation and inferiority that are acted upon in violent behaviours that hurt others.

“Bullies are very often children who have been bullied or abused themselves. Sometimes they are children experiencing life situations they can’t cope with, that leave them feeling helpless and out of control. They may be children with poor social skills, who do not fit in, who can’t meet the expectations of their family or school. They bully to feel competent, successful, to control someone else, to get some relief from their own feelings of powerlessness.”  – (Sherryll Kraizer PhD, Coalition for Children Inc).

Each time a child acts out or behaves as a bully, there is an opportunity for learning appropriate behaviours. Parents and teachers have a responsibility to help their kids when they are being bullied and ensure that any child who is demonstrating bullying behaviours is held accountable and taught an alternative way to get their needs met.

Bullying Impact

Many children or youth who are bullied have experienced depression, loneliness, anxiety, becoming withdrawn, sad, have sleep disruption and changes in their appetite. Often they will pretend to be sick or skip classes in order to avoid the bully who torments them. The most devastating is that they often experience thoughts of suicide, but sadly some do follow through with the suicide to end their pain.


The most vulnerable age groups are junior and high school students and the highest among them are the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth. In 2001 a survey found that 83% of this population experienced verbal, physical, or sexual harassment and assault at school according to the National Mental Health and Education Center. ( Students may not share the experience of being bullied by their friends or parents due to shame or embarrassment. In some families, the response would be a comment like, “What are you some kind of wimp?? Or “Why can’t you just stand up to that bully?”

“Some parents…believe that their kids should somehow always be able to defend themselves against the bully.”  – (Psychology Today, 2006)

And in other cases, often when the victims feel unheard or disbelieved, they may then become a bully to others in order to cover up some of the humiliation and pain of being a victim themselves.

How to prevent bullying

Bullying just doesn’t stop in schools, as many youth are also cyber-bullied by others when they leave the school property. School Administrations need to enforce stronger rules and guidelines to protect youth during school hours.

Parents need to be aware of changes in their child’s school grades, eating habits, sleeping habits and check out any signs of avoidance of school or other functions that the youth would normally be attending.