The Basics of Bullying and How You Can Help Students Prevent & Cope With It

We hear about bullying so often it has become somewhat of a buzzword. Not all bad behavior, or even mean behavior, is considered bullying. Before we can prevent bullying or help kids deal with it, it is important for teachers, parents, and kids to be able to identify bullying when it happens.

What is Bullying?

In Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of bullying is “abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc.” defines bullying as harmful behavior that has two main key features, an imbalance of power and repetition (or the potential for repetition).

  • An Imbalance of Power means that the bullying behavior is carried out by someone stronger, older, more intellectually capable, etc. than the victim. One child doesn’t have to have an inherent advantage over another; even a child having a weapon or information that they can  used to blackmail another child creates a power imbalance.
  • Repetition: Bullying isn’t just an isolated incident. It is something that happens again and again and is often a pattern of behavior.

Parents sometimes complain that because a peer called their child a name or wouldn’t play with them that it amounts to bullying. That is not necessarily true. It is important to differentiate between normal childhood conflict and bullying because we approach them differently with kids.

Three main types of bullying:

Now that we have specified what bullying is, lets looks at what types exist.

  • Verbal: name calling, insults, yelling, etc.
  • Emotional: spreading rumors, purposely leaving one child out, stonewalling (refusing to talk to another child), etc.
  • Physical: pushing, hitting, kicking, destroying property, etc.

Often these happen in tandem with each other, and no one is less damaging than the other.

Just How Common Is Bullying?

Most everyone hears about bullying and its consequences, but how common is it really? Unfortunately, very.
Bullying is on the rise. According to USA Today,

Around ⅓ of students say they were bullied last year according, a statistic that keeps rising.

  • Bullying can happen at any age, but it tends to be the worst during middle school.
  • Bullying happens in many places, some of them unlikely. A lot of bullying happens at school or on the bus, but can also happen in the neighborhood, at extracurricular activities, such as on a sports team or in a club. Bullying also frequently happens online.

Potential Consequences

Bullying has the potential to do a lot of damage to kids.

  • Kids that are physically bullied can suffer physical injuries as a result of bullying.
  • Victims of bullying have an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suffer from less academic achievement.
  • Bullying puts both the persecutor and the victim at risk. Kids involved in both sides of bullying are at greater risk for mental health problems in the future.


  • BeCool: Our curriculum, the BeCool conflict management series, teaches kids to deal with their feelings in healthy ways. Bullies often don’t know healthy ways to handle their anger. Instead, they are aggressive or passive aggressive and take their feelings out on their peers. Victims, on the other hand, tend to shut down and struggle to stand up for themselves. The BeCool series teaches kids to stand up for themselves and use their emotions in healthy ways. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to bullying, so the BeCool Series addresses various issues that face kids at all different ages and stages throughout their K-12 career.
  • Culture: Create a classroom or school culture where bullying isn’t acceptable. That means limiting sarcasm, not tolerating put-downs as ‘just kidding,’ and encouraging kids to include everyone. It’s important to promote kindness and focus on what kids do well. A kind, supportive atmosphere, where kids connect with each other and with adults, is the best antidote to bullying.

How to Deal with Bullying

It isn’t possible to completely eradicate bullying in schools. Despite our best prevention efforts, it will still happen sometimes. So, how can we handle it?


  • Dole out harsher and harsher punishments. While natural and logical consequences for behavior are powerful teaching tools, there are limits to their effectiveness and punishment can sometimes be demotivating to kids.
  • Overlook the bully. Bullies are often projecting their own negative feelings onto others. They need support to stop their behavior. They need someone to talk to just as much as victims of bullying do.


  • Listen. Kids need to be heard and know that their feelings are valid. Create a culture of safety where kids feel that they can talk to you and their concerns will be heard.
  • Educate kids about what bullying is, and what it is not. Encourage them to tell a trusted adult if bullying is happening to them or to someone else.
  • Encourage kids to stand up for themselves and for each other. Roleplay specific situations and give them the tools they need.
  • Show them the options they have when responding to conflict with the BeCool series. BeCool teaches students methods of self-control of positive self-talk making them better able to asses conflict situations.

Bullying is a big problem that doesn’t have a quick fix. It is a complex problem that needs a complex solution, but by educating students and having a plan for when bullying does happen we can give kids the tools they need to deal with bullying.

To learn more about the BeCool series, click here to read about the research behind it and how it was proven effective, or see the clip below to get a sample of the VideoModeling™ program.  If you think it could benefit your schools, contact us to see how you can get a free 30-day trial!

By: Amy Curletto

Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.

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