Bullying is currently making headlines in the news in South Africa but it is, unfortunately, a worldwide problem.

The term bullying can be described as an individual using power to control, harm, or humiliate someone else, normally someone weaker, smaller, or more vulnerable than the bully. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or emotional and is usually repeated over a period of time.

In schools, bullying occurs in all areas, from the playground, classrooms, bathrooms, in hallways, on school busses, or walking home. Bullying is not limited to only one individual learner hurting someone, but can sometimes consist of a group of learners taking advantage of, or isolating one learner in particular and gaining the loyalty of bystanders who want to avoid becoming the next victim.

Studies have shown that that bullying peaks around the ages of 10-14 and decreases as children grow older.

Why do children bully?

Bullies are created, not born and it starts developing from a very early age. If a youngster’s aggression is not handled with consistency, they fail to acquire internal restraints against this behaviour. Children bully because it can be an effective way of getting what they want and because they lack the social skills to gain what they want without harming others.

Through observing parents who use the same tactics at home or in social settings leads children to mimic the adult’s behaviour. Those who chronically bully tend to have strained relationships with parents and peers.

Types of Bullying

There are many types of bullies and they use different tactics to intimidate and control their victims. Some are outright mean and use violence whereas others are sly about how they operate:

  1. Physical: This is the most obvious type. Bullies use aggression to gain power or control over their target. Examples include kicking, hitting, punching, slapping, shoving, biting, or any other physical attacks. 
  1. Verbal: These bullies will use words, statements, or name-calling to gain power and control over their victims. They use relentless insults to belittle, demean and hurt their target. They normally choose their targets based on the way they look, act, or behave.
  1. Relational Aggression: This type of bullying is sometimes referred to as emotional bullying. It’s a type of social manipulation where tweens and teens try to hurt their peers or sabotage their social standing. Relational aggression bullies often ostracize others from a group, spread rumours, manipulate situations, tease, insult, intimidate or break confidence. The goal is to increase their social standing in a group. Girls normally use relational aggression more than boys.
  1. Cyberbullying: Due to the increase in technology and social media, cyberbullying has become a major type of bullying. It includes posting hurtful pictures, threatening victims online, sending hurtful comments or texts, or falsely reporting a profile to be suspended. As technology creates anonymity these bullies are courageous and easily attack their targets by insulting and harassing them online.
  1. Sexually: This type of bullying consists of repeated, harmful, and humiliating actions that target a person sexually. It will include name-calling, crude comments, vulgar gestures, uninvited touching, sexual propositioning, and pornographic material. The comments are normally directly related to a target’s appearance, attractiveness, sexual development, or sexual activity. Sexting can also lead to sexual bullying. Private photos are also shared amongst classmates to humiliate the victim.
  1. Prejudicial Bullying: This is based on prejudice towards people of different races, religions, or sexual orientations. Tweens and teens will target others who are different from them and they will single them out. This type of bullying is severe and can open the door to hate crimes.


These are some of the warning signs victims of bullying might display:

  • A sudden lack of interest in school and wanting to stay home
  • A loss of interest in favourite school activities
  • Frequent ailments such as stomach cramps or headaches
  • A seemingly happy child on weekends but a tense child come Sunday evenings
  • Sleep issues like sleeplessness, nightmares, or bedwetting.
  • Comes home with unexpected bruises, scratches, or torn clothing
  • Severe mood swings like feeling irritated, anxious, sad, hopeless or showing increased signs of aggression
  • Spending time with the wrong friends
  • Talking about suicide


Should you suspect that your child is being bullied, you need to create a safe environment for him/her to talk about it. The matter needs to be addressed with sensitivity as your child may feel embarrassed and ashamed of what has happened to them. Remain calm and supportive and reassure them that he/she is not to blame for the victimization, this will enable them to talk about it.

The situation needs to be addressed appropriately with the school or with the bully’s parents.  Let your child know that it’s okay to feel anger and hurt but they should not retaliate in the same manner. Teach your child to be assertive but not aggressive.

Try to improve your child’s confidence, self-esteem, and overall emotional well-being by letting them participate in activities such as sport, or music, or any other healthy extracurricular activity of interest to them. This will improve your child’s social skills and strengthen friendships with their peers.

Be aware of signs of depression and anxiety and seek professional help when your child is unable to function normally or has suicidal thoughts. Research shows that victims are between 2-9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.

Don’t give up and help your child successfully navigate through this process of emotional turmoil.

Should you require assistance in helping your child cope with bullying, please feel free to contact me.

Debbie Hartmann, Life, Relationship and Teen Coach @ My Kinda Life Coaching.

My Kinda Life
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