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A Child being bullied

General Points
Bullying can be a highly emotive issue. It is important to stress from the outset that before describing a child’s behaviour as ‘bullying’, adults need to be clear as to precisely what they mean by this. The Antibullying Alliance defines bullying as "any behaviour that is:

  • Harmful carried out by an individual or a group
  • Repetitive, wilful or persistent
  • An imbalance of power, leaving the person being bullied feeling defenceless                   (2006)


Two core emotional needs usually underpin bullying behaviour - the need for power and/or the need to be safe. The definition of bullying above makes clear the reference to power being a key feature of bullying. Feeling safe is a particularly important need for children living in environments where physical aggression is occurring. This need can then lead them to being susceptible to perceiving other people and their actions as a threat, even when they are not.

Interventions will require consideration as to how the safety of others can be ensured and also how best to help the child meet these needs more appropriately. Another element of the plan will be to consider whether support is required to help the pupil integrate more effectively with peers. By its very nature, bullying will create a sense of fear and intimidation in others who are likely to keep their distance from the pupil how is bullying them. This can create a vicious circle - the pupil then feels that yes, they have power over the others, but at the same time they are not isolated from them and don't belong, which in itself might create problems.

Questions to consider in assessing the behaviour:

  • Who is being bullied? Where? Is anyone else involved?
  • What actually happens? - is it verbal? physical?
  • Are there any elements of either racism, sexism or homophobia?
  • How does the pupil behave in other situations?
  • To what extent is the pupil integrated with their peer group generally?
  • At what level of competency would you say their social skills are?
  • Is there any evidence that the pupil him/herself is being bullied?
Behaviours Possible developmental tasks Competencies related to behaviour Affirmations Strategies

Physical bullying/Intimidation

Verbal abuse

Sexual intimidation

Picking on more vulnerable pupil(s)

To express anger and other feelings

To follow simple safety commands

To learn extent of personal power

To learn to exert power to affect relationships

To practice socially appropriate behaviour

To develop internal controls

To identify with one’s own sex

To learn to get needs met (eg in relation to safety)

To practice socially appropriate behaviour

Conflict resolution

Managing feelings

Social skills

You can feel all of your feelings

It’s OK for you to be angry, and we won’t let you hurt yourself or others

You can try out different ways of being powerful

You can explore who you are and find out about others

Investigate any instances of bullying and deal with in accordance with the school’s/setting's bullying policy

Use appropriate sanctions

Ensure that there is adequate monitoring of behaviour

Mediation between the bully and victim

If there are child protection concerns, inform relevant staff member

Developing social skills

Raise self-esteem

Provide opportunities for pupil to display qualities, attributes and skills that will help peers to see the positive side of him/her

Emotional literacy work

Addressing prejudice and stereotyping

Help pupil to find more appropriate channels to express personal power

Where there is a strong group dynamic, help the pupil to find a different role – likely to involve working with the group as a whole

'No blame' approach - an initial discussion with the pupil being bullied concentrating on their feelings. Then a meeting with a group in the class, including the pupil doing the bullying, outlining how the 'victim' is unhappy and exploring with the group possible solutions. Weekly meetings follow to closely monitor progress.