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Bullying is a common concern with elementary school children. The Ministry of Education formally defines bullying as the following: 

“Bullying is typically a form of repeated, persistent, and aggressive behaviour directed at an individual or individuals that is intended to cause fear and distress and/or harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, or reputation. Bullying occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance.”

Bullying can take many forms. It can be physical, verbal, social or electronic. It is not a single episode of teasing or a hurtful comment but more ongoing in nature. It can cause embarrassment, shame, fear, and low self-esteem in the child being bullied. They may feel anxious or feel sick, have trouble sleeping or going to school.  

How to Tell if Your Child is Being Bullied 

Not all children who are being bullied tell someone. They may be embarrassed about the situation or fear making the situation worse if they “tell”. Some signs to look for are:

  • Feelings of anxiety, fear, or stress
  • Low self-esteem or putting themselves down
  • Avoiding certain situations
  • Decline in school grades
  • Being alone, such as having no one to play with at recess or during lunch breaks

What to do if Your Child is Being Bullied

  • Listen to your child
  • Explain the difference between telling and reporting (telling is intended to get someone into trouble while reporting is intended to protect others from harm).
  • Talk to the adults in charge where the bullying is happening.  
  • Follow up. Continue to listen to your child and book follow up meetings with adult leaders if the bullying continues. 

When bullying is taking place at school, discuss this with the teacher, principal or support staff. Your school board web site may be a good place to look for practical tips on how to address bullying at school.

  • Ask the child directly. Often children do not wish to tell their parents due to shame or fear that bullies will retaliate.
  • Look for signs such as: fear of going to school, lack of friends, missing belongings and torn clothing, and increased fearfulness and anxiety.
  • If threats of violence are made against your child, bring these issues to the attention of the school personnel.
  • Work with the school immediately to make sure your child is safe, that efective consequences are applied toward the bully, and that monitoring at school is adequate.
  • Advocate for involvement of the bully’s parents. If the bullying is happening to and from school, arrange for the child to go to school with older, supportive children, or take him or her until other interventions can take place.
  • If your child is timid, and lacks friends, try to arrange for your child to participate in positive social groups.
  • Suggest that the school implement a comprehensive bullying prevention program. 5

How to Help Your Child Manage Bullying 

  • Stay calm and control your reaction to what they tell you
  • Listen to your child and agree that there is a problem. Ask your child how they think the problem could be solved. Offer suggestions such as, ignoring, walking away, making other friends, telling the bully that their teasing doesn’t bother them or reporting to school staff. Help your child choose a solution that they are comfortable with and practice it.
  • Encourage your child to try out the solution and check back with them to see how it is going
  • It is not helpful to tell your child to fight back because it can lead to more bullying.
  • Encourage your child to talk to an adult such as a teacher or principal when it happens

Ensure that your Child Does not Bully others:

  • Talk to your child about what bullying is and the different forms it can take
  • Let them know that bullying is wrong and there are consequences for those who bully others
  • Encourage them to treat others the way they would want to be treated

Don’t Be a Bystander:

Bullying usually takes place in view of other students but away from adult leaders. It usually stops when a peer intervenes either by telling an adult or by speaking up. Teach your child it is not acceptable to watch someone being bullied and do nothing. They may not know what to do or how to help. Encourage children to report bullying to a trusted adult or to their adult leaders. Bullying could be significantly reduced for our children if those who see the bullying happen report the incident. .

Date of creation: December 12, 2012
Last modified on: March 3, 2015


1Belsey:, B. (n.d.). Bullying.org Where You Are Not Alone: FAQs. Retrieved from
2Kids help phone. (n.d.). Retrieved from
3Bullying, we can all help: A guide for parents. (2011). Retrieved from
4Sanders, M. et al (1996). Being bullied. Hang Tai Printing Co. Ltd.
5Thames Valley Board of Education. Safe Schools: Bullying Prevention. Retrieved frOM Retrieved from
6A Parent Guide for Addressing Bullying in Publicly Funded Schools in Ontario London Anti-Bullying Coalition, 2013 Retrieved from