All of us have been through bullying, been a bully or at least, witnessed bullying at some point in our lives. This is one of the prime reasons for depleting mental health in adolescents. Intended or unintended, what may seem normal to us, may be harmful for someone else. A genuine conflict between peers is distressing, but it is not bullying. Bullies seek power and almost always bully a child who is not likely to fight back and who is perceived to be different or “less than.” The victim may come from a nontraditional family, practice an unfamiliar religion, wear unusual clothes, or have some unfashionable physical or emotional traits. 

Bullying takes several forms, including snatching belongings from a classmate and making retrieval a “game,” taking someone’s dessert at lunchtime, and issuing put-downs like “that’s so gay” or “that’s retarded.” Other forms can be gossiping about someone’s clothes, deliberately ignoring or excluding someone from an activity, and ridiculing or teasing. Teasing, gossiping, and attacks on character can occur in person, but the Internet has made it much easier for bullies to operate anonymously and, therefore, more cruelly. All adults should learn to recognize the clues that can identify a bullying victim. 


A parent or teacher can use everyday examples that can help a child grasp the idea that people are more alike than different. For example, apples vary by colour and taste, but they are all apples. 

By the same token, some children might have families that look different from the families of other children, but nonetheless, they are still a family and deserve respect. 


Adults can provide the best example by modelling respectful and friendly behaviour. Talk to children, find out their names, and say something affirming to them, even if it’s something as simple as, “Great smile!” It is especially important for adults to model friendly behaviour when they see children who are off by themselves. The isolated child who does not fit in easily is a common target for bullies and befriending them is a way to help make them less vulnerable. It is common for children to shun victims because they do not want to be picked on, too. However, a dad who says, “Oh, let’s say hello to Michael, he’s all alone,” and models a friendly conversation is helping his own child overcome such fears.