Would you really know if your child is bullying others?

When I hear the word bully, I think of “Biff “from Back to the Future. Biff Tannen was a big, selfish bully who got what he wanted by intimidating others. Biff had an overbearing personality and was just plain mean. He had poor social skills and terrorized everyone who crossed his path. Biff was a stereotypical bully.


But is this really what a modern day bully looks like?

I was surprised to learn that a “real bully” is actually very popular, has excellent social skills and high self esteem. They are aggressive AND pro-social, they are also competent and have a lot of assets. I don’t get it – this kind of kid sounds like they have it all together. Why would they bully?

Well I learned from bullying prevention expert Tracy Vaillancourt (see her bio it’s impressive!) that we must first appreciate that most children and youth are capable of bullying others. Bullying is a relationship problem and is about power – or rather, an abuse of power.

In today’s schools, approximately 12 per cent of girls and 18 per cent of boys reported bullying others. This means that in a classroom of 35 students, between four and six children are bullying others. Yikes! That’s a lot of relationship problems!


It’s important for all  children to have healthy and productive relationships, whether they are bullying, are being bullied or are witnessing bullying. Having healthy relationships will help decrease bullying and this is where parents can help.

Here are 8 key strategies to help kids build positive relationships:

  1. Talk about the effect of bullying on others. Ask how they would feel if someone was picking on them. Would they want to be left out, or put down?
  2. Teach your child that they may not like everyone but it is important to treat everyone with respect.
  3. Talk to your child about their own strengths. Teach them how they can use their power to help – not hurt – others.
  4. Acknowledge positive behaviours by praising respectful and cooperative behaviour when it happens.
  5. Help your child learn healthy ways to control anger, solve problems and resist peer pressure to bully.
  6. If you hear the beginnings of a hurtful comment, it is important to stop and address the problem when it occurs.
  7. Teach your child that real leaders show respect for others.
  8. Be a positive role model as children learn by example.

Parents can influence bullying behaviours. Let’s all do our part to help stand up and not stand by.  Do you have anything more to share with us?

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.


About Cynthia Lindsay RN

Hi everyone. My name is Cynthia Lindsay and I work as a public health nurse with the school years program. I've been a nurse for over 20 years (wow time flies!) with the last 13 years focused on what I've discovered to be my passion... Parenting. I now have many parenting accreditations and enjoy connecting with parents in the community through Triple P, parenting groups & social media. "Je parle aussi le français" and I love working, making connections, and raising my 2 teens with my hubby in Halton.
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5 Responses to Would you really know if your child is bullying others?

  1. Veronica says:

    This is surprising. I work in preschool and our most common bullying problems are about leaving someone out or peer pressure. I love the 8 steps you have provided. May I print them out and post them for our staff and parents to read?
    Thank You,

  2. Anca says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    What do you do when all the talks lead to nothing? All the discussions about the topic and bullying behaviour at home end up with an apology and promise of a change (“promise to think before I speak/act”, “use better judgement” etc) but all the words are meaningless if the changes are not made, right? So what do you do? forbid his social interactions? I can limit the socializing (with bad influence kids) after school, but I have no control as to what happens at school. He doesn’t get that much screen time as he no longer has his own electronic device (he can use the family ipad/computers at any times). Ground him? He will retaliate. He even had some counselling sessions with the school, in the hope that he will learn more about keeping his impulse in check. He’s never violent – but his tongue is! Otherwise, he is is very likeable 13 year-old, good looking, very athletic, smart, great social skills, and displays great confidence. It’s hard to admit but yes, he is a bully.

    I used to think that I knew a lot about bullying but you never know everything. Or too much.

    So what do I do? He is involved with sports and extracurricular activities to keep him busy. I am at loss. My youngest boy is the exact opposite – I’m parenting both in the same way!

    • Hi Anca,
      Every child’s personality is unique – so your comment makes total sense that you are parenting the same way however both boys are simply different. Therefore, they will also react differently to the same parenting strategies.

      No one likes to recognize that their child might be anything but the perfect little person. So I must commend you on recognizing and attempting to address the behaviour.

      Bullying behaviour is very common in likeable, good looking, athletic, smart kids. These kids usually also have great social skills, this is how they can have so much power. And you are correct that words can be very hurtful and long lasting, even more so that physical harm.

      It sounds like you have tried a few different things with him. At the age of 13 years old he is capable of knowing right from wrong and being empathetic. As per the above blog, it is best to start working on his empathy skills so that he stops this behaviour because he knows it is very hurtful and that he understands how someone feels.

      Be patient this will take time.
      Be sure to highlight his strengths and how he can use his power to help not hurt others. Also, praise his positive behaviours especially when he does something thoughtful for others. Perhaps you can work with the school to devise an action plan on how to help him control some of his impulses, including some deep breathing – relaxation techniques.

      We do have nurses who can discuss the situation further with you and work through perhaps a parenting plan to support him. Our nurses are available Monday- Friday 8:30-4:30pm – simply dial 311. Thanks for commenting and let us know how things progress. ~Cynthia RN

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