How to Help Children Manage Bullying


A recurring theme in any work with children is the issue of dealing with bullying, or being teased. Whilst we endeavor to encourage appropriate social skills in our own children, we can’t guarantee that those they come in contact with will share or practice the same ideals or beliefs. Bullies typically enjoy the ‘game’ of teasing, and take delight in getting some ‘reaction’. Above all else, we need to encourage our children to make the act of bullying or teasing as unrewarding as possible. The following suggestions have proven useful in many situations: 


  • Many children either cry or become physical when being teased. This is what the bullies are looking for. If you don’t react, the bullies will soon find no fun in teasing you.
  • Sometimes a hard, cold stare will be enough to put the bullies off. If you look totally disinterested and mildly surprised by their foolish behavior, the bullies may actually begin to feel silly themselves.


  • The most obvious and non-confrontational way to handle teasing is to simply ask the person to stop. At this point, it is vital that you explain to the person EXACTLY what it is you would like them to stop. Rather than simply saying “stop it”, which sounds like a complaint, say “would you please stop pushing my books off the table, it is really annoying”. This sounds stronger and more definite.
  • If the teasing continues, a raised voice, serious tone or even shouting may be effective. In many cases, this can also attract the attention of others around you, causing the bully to retreat.


  • When ‘not reacting’ and ‘using words’ have proven ineffective, the best thing to do is to walk away.
  • It is possible that some bullies may follow you and continuing to taunt. If this is the case, walk towards a group of other children, or somewhere nearer to a teacher or adult. Bullies are less likely to tease when others (particularly adults) are watching them.


  • Whilst this seems to be good advice once teasing has occurred, it is actually a far better strategy to use BEFORE any bullying or teasing begins. Bullies are far less likely to pick on somebody in a group of three or more. They generally target children who are sitting or playing alone.
  • Many children feel that they may not be INVITED to play with others. Don’t always wait to be invited, why not INVITE somebody else, or a group of others to play a game with you!


  • Many children don’t want to have to seek out help or support, but occasionally, this is the best choice. Sometimes children will need an adult to speak on their behalf or to mediate in a dispute. At other times, children may seek some help to actually solve a problem or to manage a difficult task.

What you can do to reinforce this at home:

As well as encouraging the above strategies, parents can continue to reinforce appropriate social behaviors in their children. Whilst most victims of bullying are not to blame, there are many typical reasons for bullying that seem to occur time and time again.

A discussion with twenty Yr. 4, 5 and 6 students identified many of the following as reasons why children are often bullied or teased:

  • They are different (their looks, speech, ability, clothes, background, hobbies, choices)
  • They do annoying things (strange noises, comments, behaviors)
  • They are too sensitive (they cry easily – it seems funny to tease them)
  • They are too reactive (they will hit or become aggressive easily – it is funny to watch them react)
  • They are smaller / taller / smarter / not as smart / better or worse at sport or music etc. than most others
  • They don’t join in or understand the popular games / crazes
  • They have made mistakes (others feel good showing them up)

Many of these issues can not be changed (such as looks, size, culture, ability etc.), although some (such as behavior, crying, hitting, joining in) can. Children can be encouraged to at least understand and be aware of some of the triggers for teasing. In some cases, they may try to modify their behavior, and in other cases, they may begin to learn to accept, explain or quietly defend their differences and choices.

In many instances, children let bullying go, without telling teachers or adults what has happened. It is important that all children feel safe at school and in any other social environment. Children need to be encouraged to discuss any instances of teasing, or prolonged teasing (bullying) with adults. Schools need to be made aware of such instances, and steps must be taken to help both the bullies and the victims.

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