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Dealing with Bullying

What is Bullying?

Bullying is repeated, unwanted aggressive behavior by one or more individuals towards another. Bullying involves an observed or perceived power imbalance, and can result in physical, social or academic harm or distress for the targeted individual. Bullying is typically behavior that is repeated.

A bully is usually someone both you and your child know and who misuses his/her power over your child. This may be a peer, a young person, or an adult. A child is most vulnerable when s/he is alone with another person, or in a group setting where there is inadequate supervision.

Bullying is not:

  • Conflict between friends
  • An argument between people of equal power
  • Accidental
  • A “one-time” event (usually)
  • Friendly teasing that all parties are enjoying
  • Something people grow out of (Beyond the Hurt, Canadian Red Cross, Beyond the Hurt, 2016)

Types of Bullying


Hitting, shoving, kicking, spitting on, grabbing, beating up others, damaging/stealing property


Name-calling, humiliation, degrading behavior, hurtful teasing, threatening. Verbal bullying can occur in notes, in person, over the phone, through text messaging or chat rooms, and/or via social media.


Making others look foolish, excluding peers, spreading gossip or rumours. Relational bullying can occur in person, over the phone, through text messaging, or over the computer


Impersonate other people, send threatening/ harassing emails, spread lies/ rumours, trick people into revealing personal information, send/forward mean text messages, post pictures of people without consent. Cyberbullying includes the use of email, cell phones, text messages and Internet sites.

‹ Back to Abuse and Harassment

How to keep children safe

I. Focus on the following five essentials to help keep your child safe:

a) Communication

  • Listen, talk, believe and reassure your child.
  • Provide opportunities for conversations.
  • Be open to any questions; nothing is off limits.
  • Be open to discussing difficult subjects such as sexuality.
  • Develop frank and open communication with the coaches.
  • If you have concerns, communicate them to the appropriate persons.
  • If you see or hear bullying, harassing or abusive behaviour, speak out!

b) Knowledge

  • Make your child aware of vulnerable situations.
  • Review your club’s bullying, harassment and abuse policy and procedures.
  • Be aware of your club’s screening and selection process for staff and volunteers.
  • Get to know the adults who are interacting with your child.
  • Discuss with coaches their expectations and the setting of boundaries: physical, sexual and social.

c) Develop Personal Skills

  • Teach your child specific ways to handle difficult situations.
  • Help your child define their personal boundaries.
  • Teach your child how to be assertive when their boundaries are crossed.

d) Build a safety plan

  • Develop check-ins, contingency plans, family codes
  • Attend practices and games.
  • Be wary of regular private closed practices.
  • Be concerned of time spent alone with older youth and adults beyond training and game times.

e) Advocate

  • You are your child’s strongest supporter.
  • Evaluate situations according to the “best interest of your child”.

II. Be aware, and pay attention to in-person and online interactions involving your child.

a) In-Person

  • If someone is being bullied, s/he should not watch, laugh or join in.
  • Ensure all children are included in group activities and inappropriate behaviours are addressed.
  • Help your child see the value of offering empathy and support to those who are bullied.
  • Demonstrate respectful behaviours at home and in your daily interactions.

b) Online (Cyberbullying)

  • Learn about the websites, blogs, chatrooms and cyber-lingo that your children are using.
  • Recognize that online communication is a very important social aspect in your child’s life.
  • Talk to your children about what is acceptable behaviour online and offline.
  • Keep the computer in a common area so you can monitor activities.
  • Establish communication lines with your child so s/he feels comfortable talking about cyberbullying experiences. Let them know that you are there to support them.
  • Report any incident of online harassment and physical threats to the local police or your Internet Service Provider.
  • Report any bullying that occurs over your child’s cell phone to your phone service provider. You may have to change the phone number if the problem does not stop.

When you believe that your child, or any child, is a victim of abuse, harassment or bullying, report it to the proper authorities.

What to do when bullying occurs:

If you are being bullied
  • It is not your fault, and there is nothing wrong with you. No one deserves to be bullied.
  • Tell an adult you trust. They can give you support and help stop the bullying. If no one helps you, keep telling until you do get help.
  • Have a teacher or an adult help you with a safety plan if the bullying is making you afraid or upset.
  • Stay calm and walk away. Responding with insults or fighting back will make the problem worse.
  • Use humour. Make the person think you don’t care.
  • Be assertive, look confident and let the person know s/he needs to stop.
  • Hang out with friends who will support you and work together to speak out against bullying.

Four steps to stop Cyberbullying:

  • STOP – Do not try to reason with or talk to someone who is cyberbullying you.
  • BLOCK – Use the block sender technology to prevent the person from contacting you again.
  • TALK – Tell a trusted adult, inform your school, use a help line and/or report it to police.
  • SAVE – Save any instant messages or emails you receive from the person who is bullying you.
If you are a witness to bullying:
  • Stand up for the person being targeted. A passive response gives the bully a sense of reinforcement as there is no opposition. A negative response supports the person being bullied and may stop the bullying.
  • Refuse to go along with bullying or harassment – people who laugh, agree or cheer only encourage the behaviour. Instead, take the side of the person who is being targeted. Don’t give the bully positive attention, power or social status.
  • Report what you see or hear to an adult or police.
If you are bullying someone:
  • Stop the aggressive, controlling behaviour.
  • Take responsibility for your actions.
  • Treat people the way you want to be treated.
  • Learn how to be a good friend.
  • Talk to someone about how you feel and ask for help.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, follow the acronym DARE:

D (DOCUMENT): Document your observations.

  • Record behaviors, dates, times and people involved.
  • Don’t pressure the child or youth for details - the matter may go to court, so it is important that evidence is not contaminated.

A (AFFIRM): Affirm the child’s situation.

  • Identify vulnerable situations and be there to observe and protect your child.
  • Don’t assume the child or youth hates the person hurting them - there may be conflicting feelings
  • Don’t react with shock, horror or disbelief - even though you may feel like it.
  • Seek advice or information from a knowledgeable person.
  • Tell your child your concerns.
  • Listen to your child’s fears about the situation.

R (REPORT/REFER): If you have strong suspicions, report to the appropriate authorities. Don’t promise to keep a secret - you are legally bound to report if it is a protection or criminal issue. Don’t put the responsibility of reporting on someone else - they may not do it.

  • Manage minor conflicts with respect
  • If it is moderate or serious bullying or harassment, refer the complaint as specified in your organization’s policy.
  • If it is Criminal Harassment or Abuse, the police must be informed.
  • Keep it confidential; do not get caught in the rumour mill.

E (ESTABLISH): Establish support for your child. But don’t promise “everything will be fine” as there are many problems to resolve and they will take time.

If you are told that someone is being harassed:

Your priority is to ensure that the child’s best interests are protected. That can be done by following the acronym HEARD:

H (HEAR): Hear what they are saying and not saying. Listen to the child’s fears about the situation.

E (EMPATHIZE): Empathize with the child. Let them know you understand, and will help.

A (AFFIRM): Identify vulnerable situations and be there to protect the child.


  • Manage minor conflicts with respect
  • If it is moderate or serious bullying or harassment, refer the complaint as specified in your organization’s policy.
  • If it is Criminal Harassment, the police must be informed.
  • If it is abuse refer immediately to your Provincial/Territorial Child Protection Agency or Police.
  • Keep it confidential; do not get caught in the rumour mill.

D (DOCUMENT): Document the situation and your response; determine the support the child needs.

When you believe that your child, or any child, is a victim of abuse, harassment or bullying, report it to the proper authorities.

How do children and youth cope with the trauma of bullying, harassment and abuse?

  • Pretend it never happened.
  • Convince themselves that it wasn’t so terrible.
  • Find excuses as to why it happened.
  • Blame themselves.
  • Develop physiological defenses - headaches, body pains and illnesses.
  • Escape through drugs, alcohol, food or sex.
  • Try to hide from their pain by being perfect.
  • Attempt suicide.

Why do kids not tell?

  • Fear
  • Believe they are responsible.
  • Do not want to get the perpetrator into trouble.
  • Embarrassed/ashamed.
  • Think no one will believe them.
  • Worry that they will not be allowed to play hockey.

What can a parent do?

  • Listen and observe
  • Watch interactions with others
  • Be aware of sudden changes in behaviour and/or displays of anger
  • Question bruises/ marks on face, back, thighs, upper arms, head, buttocks, genital areas
Why don’t people report?
  • Unaware of the reporting laws and policies.
  • Believe that they can take care of the problem themselves.
  • Fearful of retaliation from the abuser - or are friends with the abuser.
  • Find it hard to believe.
  • Assume someone else will make a report.
  • Don’t want “to tell” on someone.
  • Want to protect their child from questions and embarrassment.
  • Are not sure where or how to make a report.
  • Just want it “all to go away”.
Do children ever make false allegations?
  • Yes - research shows that about 8% of disclosures are false.
  • Most of the false allegations by children are encouraged by adults.
  • It is important to reinforce the truth - false allegations are devastating to the person accused.

When you believe that your child, or any child, is a victim of abuse, harassment or bullying, report it to the proper authorities.