Dealing with Bullies

Age Group: /
Resouce Types:

(S)top the bullying immediately,
(T)ag and identify the behavior at once,
(O)ffer assistance and social support to the victim,
(P)resent immediate/appropriate consequences for bullying behavior,
(I)nstruct witnesses and bystanders
(T)each students, personnel, parents and friends intervention strategies.

What are some guiding principles of intervention to manage teasing and bullying?

In working with children it is important to consider the following principles of intervention:

  • Each teasing/bullying event will require a different solution.
  • The strategies used by the child must suit the child.
  • Role playing is fundamental for the child to be assertive and use the strategies with confidence.
  • Children must not simply be rescued; they need to learn coping or reactive strategies and conflict resolution strategies. They need to be helped to build resiliency – it is important not to inadvertently promote or perpetuate helplessness or victimhood. However, children do need the continuing support of adults in the process of dealing with bullying and bringing it to a stop (see the next point).
  • Children and parents must use judgment in responding. Different levels of intervention will be required. Given appropriate problem solving strategies, children may be able to resolve bullying that is less serious. In other cases the power imbalance between the victim and child who is bullying will require intervention from parents, teachers, administrators, and, if necessary, police personnel.
  • Intervention must be tailored to meet the needs of the child, parents and classroom peers.
  • Any proposed intervention first MUST BE DISCUSSED FULLY with the child who is being victimized and the child must be asked whether or not he or she thinks the proposed plan will be helpful or if it will make things worse. Some interventions by well-meaning adults have made things worse for children in the past. As Mellor (personal communication, 2003) has stressed, in order for a child to have full confidence in an adult at a troubled moment, he or she should be encouraged to see the process as two-way.


“Ignore it.”

It is important to emphasize that ignoring the incident of teasing or not giving a reaction may be the most helpful thing to do at that moment, but “ignore it” does NOT mean that the child should not tell anyone about the bullying. Children should continue to talk with an adult and keep talking until they get some help and support. Thus to “ignore it,” as we talk about the strategy, is an active decision based on good judgment.
“Making a comeback”

Making a comeback or saying something witty or unexpected back will be appropriate for some children but not others. It may work in some situations for some children who can carry it off – in other situations and for other children making a comeback may make the problem worse. If this strategy is encouraged, have the child practice what to say and how to say it to be effective.

“Using humour”

Again, using humour can be effective if the child can carry it off. However, the child must not use humour in a self denigrating way.

At the end of this article is a compilation of commonly suggested strategies found in the literature.

What are some general conflict resolution strategies?

In developing TAB20 the following conflict resolution strategies were drawn and adapted with permission from the Grace Contrino Abrams Peace Education Foundation Inc. Some are applicable to teasing and bullying, and some are not.

  • The first is called the “I can speak up – 5 Finger Strategy”. A hand is used to depict the following five steps:
    • Say the person’s name….Steven
    • Tell how you feel ……I don’t like it
    • Describe the behaviour…….when you call me names
    • Be respectful…………..please
    • Tell what you want……………stop
      Or – Steven…I don’t like it.. when you call Sally names…her name is Sally… please…call her Sally.
  • Teachers report that younger elementary school children resonate well to the 5-finger strategy in its pure form. Older elementary children often shorten it. The essence is that children learn that a first level of intervention is telling the aggressor to “stop.” This strategy will work in some but not all situations.