Bully Breakdown

As the prevalence of bullying continues among Canada’s youth, Dani-Elle Dubé looks at the various factors that make a child more likely to become a bully, and explains the warning signs you should be looking for.


We all know that bullying is and has always been a problem in schools. But with research revealing almost a third of Canadian children say they’ve been victims of bullying, one’s got to wonder: who’s doing the bullying?

Having a better understanding of bullies could benefit those who feel like targets.

And it could help parents identify if their child has become an aggressor in the school yard.

According to Statistics Canada, 41 per cent of students surveyed in 2010 said they were victims as well as perpetrators of bullying, and this number has remained largely unchanged since 2002.

Those who tend to bully the most are boys in grades 6 and 8 and girls in grades 8 and 9.

But what distinguishes children who bully? There are several traits that are common to children who bully

Children who bully tend to have a more positive attitude toward violent behaviours in general, according to a report from the U.S.-based National Association of School Psychologists

And according to The Bullying Project, an online resource for school administrators and teachers, people who bully often have aggressive personalities, with a tendency to react combatively in a number of situations.

A child’s aggression is heavily influenced by their family situations. Bullies rarely have the feeling of closeness and unity within their family dynamics and power struggles often occur within the family unit.

This, in turn, causes many kids and teens to use bullying as a way to gain attention and control.

Bullies also lack empathy and fail to recognize anyone’s desires but their own, according to About Parenting (about.com/parenting). They also have difficulty following rules and lack respect for authority.

Boys tend to be physically stronger than the other children they bully, and girls who bully are often perceived as popular.

But there is no single cause of bullying among children, and different factors such as family life, among many others, can come into play.

But there is help for children who feel they’re bullying others and want to take the steps toward stopping. The Kids Help Phone offers that help.

The Kids Help Phone is a safe place for kids, teens and young adults to call and receive counselling about issues affecting them. The service is free and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Nearly 3,500 of the program’s counselling sessions anually relate to bullying, while about nine per cent of contact made over the phone and online is bullying-related.

“Sometimes we’ll get a call from a kid who says they’re really worried about how they treated a kid at school that day,” said Shannon, a counsellor at Kids Help Phone.

“What we do is we explore the issue with them and sometimes they’ll say they don’t know how to control their anger…so we’ll talk about how to manage their reaction and anger to different situations.”

Common reasons she has heard as to why kids bully include low self-esteem and because they’re experiencing problems at home.

“We tell them that happiness comes within you and you can’t get it from hurting other people to make yourself feel better,” she said. “Kids bully when they feel disempowered. It’s a way for them to be seen or to have a sense of power.”

Research also shows that kids who bully on a regular basis are more likely to get into fights and sustain injuries, vandalize or steal property, drink alcohol, smoke, drop out of school and carry a weapon.

That’s why it’s important for kids, as well as their parents, to learn how to control their anger and know when it’s time to seek help.

This might mean that parents will have to swallow their pride and accept that their child — their pride and joy — is doing the unthinkable. But accepting it sooner rather than later, and intervening as soon as possible, could make a significant difference in their child’s future.