How parents, teachers can recognise when a child is being bullied

Bullying comes in many forms and is prominent across generations.

We should really make a more conscious effort to become more aware of such behaviours [iStock]

Bullying is defined as unwanted aggressive behaviour that physically, verbally and emotionally inflicts pain and suffering on a person. It is a deliberate act and is repeated over a period of time by the same person at the same victim. Bullying comes in many forms and is prominent across generations.

Adult and workplace bullying are not foreign concepts in our social and professional environments. But like all things learned and acquired, it is best to recognise and address negative behaviours early, right from school age when children begin to form opinions of others and develop their characters.

Traditional forms of bullying include verbal, social and physical bullying. People within the same environment as the bully and the bullied can witness these in person. Some, however, ignore them because it is “not their business.”


Some are even of the opinion that a certain person deserves to be bullied. Others may actually not even be aware of the signs or the detrimental effects these behaviours have on human beings and may either not detect them or bother to address them.

It is extremely important to take note of the forms through which bullying occurs.

This comes in the form of neglect, a child/group of children singling another child out of activities with their peers, discouraging other children from being friends with a child, spreading false rumours about another child and embarrassing another child in public.


This is probably the most obvious and comes in the form of hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing, rude body language/hand gestures, tripping, taking or breaking another child’s belongings.

3. Cyber-bullying

This is gaining more and more attention globally. Cyber-bullying takes place over the internet, largely via social media. As many children now have social media accounts, it is very possible to take bullying away from the physical environment to the digital environment. Children (and even adults) are very conscious of their social footprint and status these days. In fact, they are almost obsessed with it.

Therefore any form of harm carried out on this space is equally as dangerous as the traditional forms of bullying. Unfortunately, this is an area which is more difficult to control due to the absence of physical restrictions over what a bully may say or do over the internet or even through chatrooms, WhatsApp or text messages.


The truth is that it is very difficult for parents, teachers and other children to detect bullying, particularly, when it is well disguised (which is made easy through digital media). However, there are some warning signs, through which we can tell if a child is being bullied. These include:

  1. Fear of going to school or attending a particular class.
  2. Frequent loss of specific belongings.
  3. Physical injuries or unexplained bruises.
  4. Nervousness.
  5. Loss of confidence.
  6. Withdrawal or distress.
  7. Poor academic performance.
  8. Eating disorders.
  9. Sleeping disorders.
  10. Torn books or clothes.
  11. Bullying others (including retaliation).
  12. Suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Furthermore, in the school environment, anti-bullying behaviour should also be encouraged amongst the children. Examples include:

  1. Having a friendly expression on their faces.
  2. Complimenting others.
  3. Smiling more.
  4. Laughing at other people’s jokes.
  5. Being kind.
  6. Involving everyone in activities.
  7. Modesty.
  8. Giving children equal opportunities to participate in school activities.

Teachers, parents and even children should be sufficiently enlightened about all signs of bullying, so that they can be addressed early before such behaviour evolves into negative social behaviour (for the bullies) or lead to mental or psychological issues (for the bullied).

Also, in general, we should really make a more conscious effort to become more aware of such behaviours in our environments and also the effect of our own behaviour on others around us.


This article was originally published in 2017.


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