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Bullying Behaviour

Bullying behaviour isn’t always obvious and can take different forms; emotional, physical, overt and covert.

Bullying is when someone repeatedly does something on purpose to hurt someone else. That can mean physically hitting or punching someone, spreading rumours or saying mean things about them, using put downs or name calling, and leaving them out or ignoring them. It can also mean sending them upsetting messages, comments, or pictures online or through text. 

Being involved in bullying behaviour doesn’t just mean being the one who is directly hurting others. Bystanders are people who encourage bullying, or see it happen but do nothing about it, or feel too afraid to do anything to stop it. 

If someone is bullying others, there might be things going on in their life that they are finding difficult to deal with and need more support with. As parents, caregivers or whānau, if you have been told that your child is bullying others, talk to them, and see how you can support them to change their bullying behaviour. 

Keeping an eye out

Bullying often happens out of sight and it may not be directly obvious. Someone who is bullying other people might:

  • Be aggressive, cold, uncaring about how others feel
  • Get into physical or verbal fights or get in trouble a lot at school
  • Get lower marks or not do well at school
  • Not accept responsibility for their actions
  • Want to be in control
  • Hang around people who bully others
  • Be being bullied by someone else
  • Be trying to express anger about events in their lives
  • Be experiencing an unsettled or violent home environment

Healthy conversations

It can be hard to find out that a young person you care about is bullying someone else, and you might not want to believe it at first. If you are family or whānau, here are some ways you could talk about it:

  • Be calm and talk to them in a non-confrontational way
  • Discuss specific behaviours that you’ve seen or have been told about, and the effects they have on other people, including how they make you feel 
  • Listen to what they have to say. Ask about some of the reasons they have been behaving like that. Ask them about how they’re feeling, and what’s going on for them
  • Talk about some things they could do when they’re feeling angry, that won't hurt others
  • Let them know bullying is unacceptable, and that you won't tolerate it
  • If they are struggling with their emotions, encourage them to go and see a counsellor, where they can talk about whatever’s on their mind

If you are just a friend of theirs or only know them from school, tell someone in charge about what you’ve seen. They can support the person to stop hurting others.

Taking action

It takes a lot of courage to stand up and speak out about bullying. Here are some things you can do to help put an end to bullying behaviour:

  • If you have witnessed bullying, don’t be a bystander - don’t ignore it. Tell someone who is in charge what is happening
  • If it is happening at school and the school doesn’t know about it, tell the staff what’s going on. They can support the person to stop hurting others
  • You could encourage the school to have a no-bullying campaign, raise awareness and encourage others to speak out
  • If you are family or whānau, set an example at home. How do people in your family deal with conflict? Model ways to treat each other well and with respect



Confidential Helpline: 0800 376 633

Youthline provides free phone, text, and email counselling support. Its website has great information for youth dealing with challenging situations including information about bullying.

Skylight – When the bully is your child

Skylight offers a wide range of services to support those facing times of change, loss, trauma and grief. You can purchase resources about how to support young people with bullying behaviour

Pink Shirt Day

Pink Shirt Day is about working together to prevent or stop bullying by celebrating people’s differences and promoting positive relationships. Pink Shirt Day provides information and advice for those who have been the targets of bullying, and their friends and whānau.

13 Reasons Why

Information about the series, how to talk about some of the heavy issues it raises, and how to get support if you need it.

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