First steps to stop bullying: Adults helping children aged 4 to 11


Every child has the right to feel safe at home, at school and in the community (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990). Bullying is not a normal part of growing up. It doesn't usually go away on its own and often gets worse with time.

Bullying needs to be dealt with directly. To stop hurtful behaviour, we all need to respond when it occurs and take steps to prevent it. The first step is recognizing when there is a problem.

Here is some information to help you figure out whether a child you know has experienced, seen, heard or taken part in bullying behaviour. This information will also help you take steps to stop the bullying and help the child who is being bullied.

What is bullying?

Bullying is a form of aggression that unfolds within a relationship. The child who bullies uses aggression and control to maintain a position of power over the victimized child. As bullying evolves over time, the power dynamics and inequality in the relationship become stronger. The victimized child gets caught in an abusive relationship. This problem can also happen between groups of children.

The basic elements of bullying are:

Teasing, rough housing or even play fighting are not considered bullying when both children are having fun.

How many children are involved in bullying others?

Not everyone bullies or is bullied – a relatively small number of children are directly involved in bullying incidents.

Kindergarten to Grade 8



How many children are bullied?

Kindergarten to Grade 8



Minority groups

What are some of the types of bullying? Footnote 11
Physical Psychological
Verbal Social
  • [*] Ethnoculturally-based bullying–any physical or verbal behaviour used to hurt another person because of his or her ethnicity (culture, colour or religion)
  • Hitting
  • Kicking
  • Punching
  • Pushing/shoving
  • Stealing
  • Insults
  • Name-calling
  • Threats
  • Comments about how someone looks or talks
  • Comments about someone's ethnicity (culture, colour or religion) [*]
  • Gossiping
  • Rumours
  • Ignoring
  • Not including someone in group activities
Can hurt a child's body, damage belongings (clothes, toys, etc) or make a child feel badly about himself or herself. Can make a child feel badly about himself or herself. Can make a child feel alone and not part of the group.

How many children witness bullying?

Not all children are directly involved in bullying incidents, but many get involved in other ways – some watch, some encourage the bullying and some try to stop it.

When other children intervene – more than half the time, the bullying will stop within 10 seconds! – Hawkins, Pepler & Craig, 2001

Together we can make a difference in bullying
This advice was compiled from a variety of resources on bullying and is to be taken as guidance on how to deal with most bullying-related problems. For additional guidance, please consult the resources provided at the end of this information sheet.

Adults helping children: Practical advice

The child who comes to you for help may need some reassurance along with practical advice on what to do. You could try some of the following, using your judgement about the particular circumstances.

If the child is being bullied, you can suggest:

If the child sees someone being bullied, you can suggest:

Some assurances you can give to the child:

Your role: How adults can help

Bullying is not a problem that children can solve themselves. It is a power struggle that is difficult to change without the help of an adult. In most cases, it will require only a few minutes to stop the behaviour, especially if you act immediately and in a consistent manner.

If you are there when the bullying occurs, talk with the children who are being aggressive. Explain the hurt they are causing and have them make amends to those who were harmed. This can break the cycle.

However, most bullying happens when you are not looking. When you are told about it, take it very seriously since children usually go to adults with these problems as a last resort.

In a small number of cases, bullying behaviour is a chronic problem requiring the involvement of families and the assistance of a health professional.

If you are a parent, guardian or caregiver

If you are an adult responsible for children (e.g. a teacher or coach)

If you are a leader of an organization responsible for children (e.g. a school principal or manager of a sports team or other children's program)

The NCPS wishes to acknowledge the support and assistance of Drs. Pepler and Craig, through the Canadian Initiative for the Prevention of Bullying, in the development of this document.

You may also find the following Web sites helpful:



Parents, guardians and caregivers

General sources for all


  1. 1 Charach, Pepler & Ziegler, 1995
  2. 2 Ibid
  3. 3 Craig, Peters & Konarski, 1998
  4. 4 Ibid
  5. 5 Charach, Pepler & Ziegler, 1995
  6. 6 Ibid
  7. 7 Craig & Pepler, 1997
  8. 8 Peters & Konarski, 1998
  9. 9 Ibid
  10. 10 Pepler, Smith, Craig & Connelly, 2002
  11. 11 Pepler & Craig, 2000; Connolly, Pepler & Craig, 2003.
  12. 12 Craig & Pepler, 1997; Atlas & Pepler, 1998
  13. 13 Craig & Pepler, 1997; Hawkins, Pepler & Craig, 2001

Visit our page for contact information for your region and for further information on the funding programs of the National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) or call the NCPC: 1-800-830-3118.

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