What Parents Should Know About Bullying

Nov 12, 2013

Bullying can happen to anyone. While some kids may be more vulnerable than others, any child runs the risk of becoming a target of bullying. According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, 47% of Canadian parents reported having their child bullied and at least 1 in 3 adolescents in Canada have reported being bullied recently. These statistics indicates bullying is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

At the 2013 Reading for the Love of It conference, teacher, author and bullying expert Barbara Coloroso talked about the types of bullying that exist and steps parents and teachers can take to identify, confront and prevent bullying.

How We Talk About Bullying and Each Other Matters
Using the right language when talking with children about bullying is one of the key concerns when talking with kids. She used the example of teasing versus taunting. Is someone laughing with you or at you? Laughing with someone is teasing. Laughing at is not.

Bullying is not the same as teasing. Nor is it the same as sibling rivalry or two people arguing about something. Coloroso states that these are examples of conflict, which is a part of life. Bullying, however, is a deliberate attempt to hurt someone and then taking pleasure from their pain. She also encouraged parents and teachers to examine the things children watch and pay close attention to the use of the laugh track. When is the laugh track cued and how are characters presented? More often than not, laughs are coming at the expenses of others. Coloroso argued that this is because it's become the norm in our society to be cruel and mean. Using violence and humour at the expense of others is the root of cruelty, and it is something educators and parents need to be aware of because it is not okay.

The Different Types of Bullying
During the conference, Coloroso identified four types of bullying:

  • One-time event
  • Continuous and repeated
  • Hazing
  • Cyber-bullying

All of these things can occur through verbal means, physical means or relational means. Verbal bullying is the most common form of bullying with physical being the least common and relational bullying, such as gossiping, is somewhere in the middle. For Coloroso, stopping bullying at the verbal stage and creating a constructive and responsible solution in response to the problem will prevent bullying from escalating to the physical form.

Don't Place Blame: Work Towards Solutions
But Coloroso was quick to point out that as parents and educators, it's not about taking sides and placing blame. It's about identifying a problem and coming up with a plan to solve that problem. It's also important for kids (and their parents and teachers) to own up to the problem, whether it is a recurring or isolated incident.

The most important thing is to empower children with the tools to identify bullying and to work together to help stop it, regardless if your child is being bullied, if your child is the bully, or if your child is a bystander enabling the bullying or not stopping it. Letting kids know it's okay to tell and talk about bullying is the real first step in making a difference and curtailing this growing problem. For more information on Barbara Coloroso and her parenting and teacher resources on bullying, visit:


Natalia Diaz is passionate about education and raising readers. She has been working in media education for the last 10 years as senior editor at Scholastic Education, as editor of, and as writer and producer at TVOntario and the Independent Learning Centre (ILC). Currently, she is a contributing editor for Owlkids Magazine. She lives with her family in Markham, Ontario.

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