Stop Bullying in Its Tracks

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Kind behavior and bullying behavior have one thing in common: they both have lasting effects. A kind word or smile can make a young person feel good for the rest of the day. Name-calling and other bullying behaviors will not only make a child feel bad in the moment—it can have effects that range from sadness and anger to suicidal behavior.

As adults who work with children and youth, you are in a position to recognize these behaviors and stop them. In many cases, you are the first line of defense for a child who is being bullied on a daily or weekly basis. Here’s what you can do:

Be a good role model. Kids are more aware than we think. They see our behavior and pretty soon we see them modeling that behavior right back. Are you gossiping with co-workers, saying mean things to peers, or in general just being an adult bully? If so, you are modeling exactly the type of behavior that you want children and youth to stay away from. Take time out to check your own behavior.

Take action. Bullying isn’t just “kids being kids.” Although there are some advantages to letting kids work their problems out, keep in mind that bullying isn’t a simple argument or kids “solving their problems.” Bullying is not always easy to distinguish, but keep in mind the definition: repeated (or with the potential to be repeated), aggressive behavior among young people that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. When you see bullying, stop it. Learn more tips here.

Know the definitions. According to, hostility and aggression directed toward a victim who is physically or emotionally weaker than the bully are the more obvious signs of bullying. Often, you can physically see the victim in pain and distress. Bullying can be:

  • Physical: hitting, kicking, hair pulling, making threats, etc.
  • Verbal: spreading rumors, mean and persistent teasing, name-calling, etc.
  • Emotional: excluding from activities, gossiping, gaslighting (making someone doubt their own memory, perception, or judgment)
  • Sexual: abusive comments or unwanted physical contact
  • Cyber: bullying via technology such as emails, texts, instant messaging, social media, etc.

Teach kindness, compassion, and respect. Anyone can be the victim of a bully. The most popular kid in your group can become a target for one reason or another. But there are certain people that draw more bullying than others. For example, according to, 9 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) students reported being harassed and bullied in the last year. That is 90%! Remind children and youth that all people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, no matter how they are “different.”

Though we are nearing the end of October, which is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, keep these tips in mind all year long.