Bully Free Alberta


How can I tell if my child is being bullied ?
What can I do if my child is being bullied ?
What shouldn't I do ?
How can I tell if my child is bullying others ?
What can I do if my child is bullying ?
What if my child is a witness to bullying ?
What parents can do about cyberbullying
What kids and teens can do if they're cyberbullied
Talking with your kids about cyberbullying
What can parents do about homophobic bullying?
What can teens do about homophobic bullying?

How can I tell if my child is being bullied?

Children don't always tell parents they're being bullied because they're embarrassed or afraid the person who is bullying will get back at them. Children may believe they must remain silent in order to belong.

Your child's behaviour may be a clue to bullying even before they are willing to talk about it. Warning signs include:

Being afraid to go to school.
Changing his/her route to school.
Avoiding the school bus or asking you to drive them to school.
Complaining about feeling ill in the mornings.
Skipping school.
Starting to do poorly in school.
"Losing" belongings or coming home with clothes or books destroyed.
Regularly "losing" lunch money (to pay off a bully).
Coming home with unexplained bruises or cuts.
Having nightmares.
Becoming withdrawn.
Beginning to bully other children.
Spending time with a teacher or supervisor during recess rather than with other children.
Attempting or talking about suicide.


What can I do if my child is being bullied?

If you suspect your child is being bullied, ask them directly.
Are there any bullies in your class? What kinds of things do they do or say?
Who do the bullies pick on? Do they ever bully you?

If the answer is yes - here are seven ways to take action right away.  

1. Offer comfort
Let your child know you are there to support them, and that you will do all you can to help them feel safe. Let your child know the bullying is not his/her fault. 

2. Work with the school
Contact the school immediately to make sure the situation will be monitored so your child will be safe. Ask the school for advice about contacting the parents of the child who is bullying and the parents of other victims. Check the school's plan for supervision and intervention during recess and noon hour. Work with the school to implement an anti-bullying program involving students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members.

 3. Make arrangements for safety
Identify a safe adult and a safe place at school, so your child knows where to get help. If the bullying happens on the way to school, arrange for your child to go with older, supportive children, or take them to school yourself until the threat of bullying is gone.

 4. Help develop confidence
Create "Circles of Support" for your child. If your child is shy or doesn't have friends, encourage them to participate in clubs or social groups that share similar interests. Encourage your child to invite other children to your home, one at a time. Suggest your child contact another student the night before to ask if they would like to play at recess or noon. Children who bully tend to pick on children who are isolated, so everything you can do to help your child develop confidence in his/her social skills will help. Tell your child to always be with a group and not be alone anywhere that bullying could happen.

 5. Practice effective responses
Explain that crying or getting upset only encourages bullying, and work with your child to practice more effective responses to bullying situations. For example, they could say, "no" firmly and walk away. Another strategy is to have a reply ready for the bully's usual taunt. For example, "yes, my hair is very red and I like it."

 6. Build self-esteem
Create opportunities for your child to do something well - a task, a sport or hobby - and praise them for it to help build self-esteem. Research shows that kids who survive bullying had at least one adult that cared about them, and the child realized that they was competent in something. As another way to build confidence try to find opportunities for your child to mentor younger children.

7. Communicate
Encourage your child to talk with you about his/her feelings and ideas. This may take numerous attempts before your child is able to break free from the fear of tattling.

If these steps don't work
If you have tried the above options and your child is still overwhelmed with a negative atmosphere at school, consider giving your child a new start at a new school. If that is not an option, reassure your child that you will keep working until the situation is resolved.



What shouldn't I do?

If your child is being bullied there are five things you shouldn't do:

1. Don't minimize, rationalize, or explain away the bully's behaviour.
If you do, you are inadvertently telling your child they are in this all alone.

2. Don't rush in to solve the problem for your child.
Unless your child is in physical danger, your taking over the situation will convey to your child that they really are helpless, and convey to the bully that your child really is a vulnerable target. Ensure the safety of your child, but also give them the tools to fend off and stand up to the bully in appropriate ways.

3. Don't tell your child to avoid the bully.
Avoidance can be a short-term but not a long-term solution. Your child can't keep running and hiding remaining in fear of the bully. They will become an ever-weakening victim.

4. Don't tell your child to fight back.
Don't teach your child that fighting is the answer. Defend, yes. Be assertive, yes. But tell them to use their heads and feet first. "This is a dumb place to be, I'm out of here." Kids who act assertively are more successful in counteracting the bully than those who fight back.

5. Don't confront the bully or bully's parents alone.
The bully learned to bully somewhere, maybe from his/her parents. They may be defensive, uncooperative and blame the victim. Enlist the help of the school.



How can I tell if my child is bullying others?

Children who bully may exhibit these 10 behaviours:
  1. Using verbal or physical aggression to deal with conflict.
  2. Coming home with items or money that don't belong to them.
  3. Hanging around with other children who appear aggressive.
  4. Having a hard time expressing feelings.
  5. Being unable to play cooperative games with others.
  6. Becoming angry when they lose a competitive game.
  7. Talking about "getting even" with others.
  8. Reacting to questioning with anger or avoidance.
  9. Playing inappropriately with much younger children.
  10. Putting down other children in conversations.



What can I do if my child is bullying?

A child who bullies must learn it is unacceptable and there will be consequences. If you learn your child is bullying, here are 11 ways to take action:

1. Stay calm
Try to get as much information as you can from teachers and others about your child's behaviour. Avoid blame and focus on potential solutions.

2. Be firm
Let your child know firmly that bullying is not acceptable, and that it must stop. Discuss positive and negative power, and how their actions can be helpful or hurtful. Stress that you still love them and will help them to change the bullying behaviour.

3. Ask why
Talk to your child about how bullying affects the victims. Ask your child how they would feel if they were being bullied. Ask why they bully others and what might help to change that behaviour.

4. Encourage expression
Encourage your child to express his or her feelings. Find out if there is something troubling your child and try to help solve the problem.

5. Use non-violent consequences
Work out an effective, non-violent consequence that is appropriate to your child's actions and age. For example, take away a privilege.

6. Aid reconciliation
Work out a way with your child to help make up to the victim for the bullying.

7. Set rules
Keep an eye on your child's activities, whereabouts and friends. Set clear but reasonable rules, and give immediate feedback on progress.

8. Seek Help
Cooperate with the school in working to change your child's aggressive behaviour. Keep in touch with teachers/counsellor to find out how they are doing.

9. Spend time
Spend time with your child and offer praise when they show non-violent, responsible behaviour. Work with them to find non-violent ways to deal with anger and "let off steam."

10. Monitor TV
Make sure your child does not see violence between family members and monitor television and video-game playing for violent content. Encourage discussion about suitable role models and heroes. 

11. Reflect
Examine your own behaviour to see if you are using your power as a parent appropriately. Remember that you are a powerful role model in your child's life. Practice healthy interpersonal skills in your relationship in the family and in the community.



What if my child is a witness to bullying?

Children who see another child being bullied may be reluctant to interfere or tell adults for fear that the bully will try to get even with them. But silence encourages bullying. If your child witnesses bullying, here are five ways to take action:

1. Set a caring example
Talk with your child about how the victim must feel. Try to help them feel empathy for others. Set a good example by letting your child see you care for others. 

2. Encourage support
Talk with your child about the importance of standing up for others. Point out that if enough children stand up to the child bullying, they will have to change. 

3. Explain the need to tell
Encourage your child to report bullying to an adult. Explain that there is a difference between tattling and reporting to prevent another child from being hurt. 

4. Encourage solutions
Get your child to talk about what might stop someone from bullying. For example, they might create a distraction by changing the subject or suggesting a game. 

5. Help assess the situation
Encourage your child to speak up for a bullying victim. But also help them determine when a situation is dangerous enough to go for help immediately.



What parents can do about cyberbullying

©2006 Media Awareness Network. Adapted with permission.

Because bullies tend to harass their victims away from the watchful eyes of adults, the Internet is the perfect tool for reaching others anonymously—anytime, anyplace. This means for many children and teens, home is no longer a refuge from the cruel peer pressures of school.

To help prevent cyberbullying, you can:

  • Learn everything you can about the Internet and what your children are doing online. (Visit and for more information.) Talk to them about the places they go online and the activities that they are involved in. Be aware of what your children are posting on websites, including their own personal home pages.
  • Encourage your kids to come to you if anyone says or does something online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Stay calm and keep the lines of communication and trust open.
  • Talk to your children about responsible Internet use.
  • Teach them to never post or say anything on the Internet that they wouldn't want the whole world, including you, to see.
  • Create an online agreement or contract for computer use, with your kids' input. Make sure your agreement contains clear rules about ethical online behaviour.
  • Install blocking software, but be aware that kids may find ways around them.

If your child is being cyberbullied, here are some ways to take action:

  • Consult the examples provided on this website for how to talk to your child about cyberbullying.
  • Watch for signs that your child is being cyberbullied. A reluctance to use the computer, cell phone or go to school may be an indication.
  • If the bully is a student at your child's school, meet with school officials and ask for help in resolving the situation.
  • Report any incident of cyberbullying to your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
  • If your child is bullied through a cell phone, report the problem to your service provider. If it is a persistent problem, you can change the phone number.
  • Encourage your school's bullying policy to include harassment from mobile and Internet technology. Find out what your school is doing about bullying and offer ways to support the school.
Report any physical threats to your child to the local police or RCMP detachment.



What kids and teens can do if they're cyberbullied

©2006 Media Awareness Network. Adapted with permission.

It's important that young people learn to protect themselves online and respond to cyberbullying among peers when they encounter it.

Here's what children and teens can do:

  • Guard contact information. Don't give strangers a cell phone number, instant messaging name or e-mail address.

If you are being harassed online, take the following actions immediately:

  • Tell an adult you trust - a teacher, parent, older sibling or grandparent.

  • Leave the area or stop the activity (i.e. chat room, news group, online gaming area, instant messaging, etc.).

  • If you are being bullied through e-mail or instant messaging, block the sender's messages. Never reply to harassing messages.

  • Save any harassing messages and forward them to your Internet Service Provider (i.e. Hotmail or Yahoo).

  • If the bullying includes physical threats, tell the police as well.

  • Take a stand against cyberbullying with your peers. Speak out
    whenever you see someone being mean to another person online.




Talking with your kids about cyberbullying

There are a number of useful tips regarding safety on the Internet, and there is software available to filter out or block access to certain sites. Nothing is more powerful or effective than parental supervision and interaction.

The best line of defense is communication. It’s very important as parents, teachers and caregivers to talk about online interactions. We’ve created a number of scenarios to help you open a dialogue with teens around cyberbullying.

Click here for a script to help you talk to your kids about cyberbullying.



What can parents or guardians do about homophobic bullying?

Homophobic bullying is defined as bullying behaviours that are motivated by prejudice against a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Anyone can be the victim of homophobic bullying, and it can happen anywhere, and at anytime.

Click here for a document on tips for parents on homophobic bullying.





What to do if you are the victim of homophobic bullying

Homophobic bullying is defined as bullying behaviours that are motivated by prejudice against a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Anyone can be the victim of homophobic bullying, and it can happen anywhere, and at anytime.

Click here for a document on tips for teens on homophobic bullying.




Call the Bullying Helpline 1-888-456-2323 toll-free in Alberta, anytime.
Trained staff are available to help in more than 170 languages.

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2005 Government of Alberta

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