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How to Respond (Intervention)

Follow these guidelines for your organization or programs:

  • A clear definition on bullying: including the definition, 3 key elements, and different forms of bullying;
  • A reporting mechanism communicated to children, youth, and parents: including online reporting, written incident report, face to face reporting, etc.;
  • A plan to track bullying behaviours;
  • Steps for intervening in bullying;
  • A pre-established hierarchy of formative consequences;
  • A list of referral sources for children, youth and families;
  • An annual assessment of the effectiveness of the bullying prevention and intervention plan of action;
  • Annual comprehensive training on bullying prevention and intervention for staff, families, children and youth;
  • Opportunities for staff to discuss how to improve workplace climate and effective bullying prevention and intervention strategies;
  • Supervision/monitoring in locations around the organization where bullying occurs;
  • Staff that model inclusive behaviors, making a special effort to reach out to those most at risk for bullying and encourage other peers to be inclusive;
  • Consistent messaging in support of the Ottawa Bullying Prevention Coalition, including website material, parent, youth and school age resources, etc.



Avoid the following:

  • Disciplinary measures which are solely punitive (Pepler & Craig, 2014, Cohen, 2002);
  • Conflict resolution and peer mediation in an incident of bullying (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.b);
  • Messages that bullying causes others to have acts of violence or to commit suicide (CDC, n.d.b);
  • “Piece meal approaches” or “one-off” initiatives, such as a one-time assembly addressing bullying (Pepler & Craig, 2014);
  • Group treatment for children who bully (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.b);
  • Immediately trying to sort out the facts (CDC, n.d.);
  • Advising children to avoid social media to reduce electronic bullying (Pepler & Craig, 2014);
  • Ignoring adults’ bullying relationships—these are models for children (Pepler & Craig, 2014);
  • Youth engagement programs which provide token positions to a few privileged youths (Center for Excellence in Youth Engagement, n.d.).


Responding to children and youth who are bullying:

  • Progressive Discipline – A continuum of responses are implemented that consider mitigating circumstances and other factors, starting with “formative” or educational consequences that develop social understanding, attitudes and skills needed for healthier relationships. If bullying behaviour is repeated, consequences increase in severity;
  • Responses take into account the impact of the bullying and the unique individual, family, peer dynamics, and situational factors;
  • Parents/guardians are involved in working through problem. Other service providers are involved when necessary to support the child or youth, and parents/guardians;
  • A detailed follow-up plan is developed to monitor bullying behaviour as long as necessary to help ensure it has stopped. This involves: increased monitoring of children and youth who have engaged in bullying. Checking-in with the child or youth who was bullied. Check-ins should occur daily for a specified number of days, then every other day, then twice a week, once a week, once every two weeks, once a month;
  • If threats and harassment continue and/or escalate, law enforcement may be called in. (

It is important to remember that children and youth who are engaging in bullying need support as well. They may need to develop potential skills including:social skills, problem solving skills, self regulation, empathy, attitudes and moral understanding, positive leadership, communication skills etc. Incorporating this into the plan of action is essential.

Responding to children and youth who have been bullied:

  • The child or youth is immediately offered emotional support and assurance that there is a caring adult they can turn to. For example say, ”I am sorry this happened to you, this was not your fault”;
  • An individualized safety plan is developed and implemented (e.g., child or youth is connected to a peer mentor or someone the same-age, children and youth is allowed to enter building before bell rings, etc.);
  • Ongoing monitoring is implemented as long as necessary to help ensure victimization has stopped;
  • Parents/Guardians are informed as per plan;
  • Social workers (or other mental health workers) are involved when deemed necessary to support children, youth and families;
  • Additional community supports and/or referrals are offered. (


Validate the child’s feelings and empathize

Role-play with the child to show them positive ways to handle bullying or conflict. Give them tips on how to take a stand in a nonaggressive way.

Give them a scenario and have them look you in the eye and tell you to stop firmly. If the child does not feel safe or this is a serious situation report it immediately.

Suggest enrolling the child in a skills course (FRIENDS for Life – Resiliency)

Model good relationships

Increase social interactions -pair them with a prosocial child

Look into mentoring programs that will help the child gain positive attention and foster new interests and skills.

Help the child. Adults must make it safe to report bullying

Check-in with the child to make sure the situation is getting better.

Develop safety plan – see safety planning section

Encourage the child to stay away for the person or the situation while the investigation takes place and a solution is reached.

Work with parents to access community-based supports Community Health and Resource Centres located across the city of Ottawa

Encourage the child to participate in activities in and out of school like sports, art, drama, etc.

Focus on the behaviour, not the child

Make sure positive feedback out-numbers negative 3-1

Help the child explore ways of dealing with conflict

Examine your own behaviour -model healthy relationships and communication in your classroom/group/program

Suggest enrolling the child in supervised activities (FRIENDS for Life, empathy training, sports, clubs etc.)

Monitor the child’s behaviour – give positive reinforcement for kind and caring behaviours

Build empathy by teaching them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

Understand why the child is bullying, they may need additional support from mental health services

Use formative consequences- opportunities to teach more pro-social  skills

Children can play powerful roles in preventing or stopping bullying. There are many things they can do to make a difference:

They can directly intervene

They can support the person being bullied

They can discourage the bullying by redirecting the situation

They can get support from peers

They can report it to a trusted adult

Help children understand the important role they play

Let them know that harassing, teasing, spreading rumours of any sort including social media networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,  etc. is never okay.

Help them understand the impact of this behaviour

To never stand by and watch or encourage the behaviour

If children feel safe, help them develop assertiveness skills to take a stand.

To support the person who is being bullied to ask for help, or report it.

To show them how they can help their friend get help or report the incident

If children do not feel safe, encourage them to report bullying to a trusted adult.

Help them identify adults they can trust

Adults have a responsibility to keep children safe.

Questions to Ask:

  • How would you describe what happened?
  • What made this a bullying incident?
  • At what point did you make the choice to stay and watch what happened?
  • How might your presence have influenced the behavior of the student bullying?
  • What were you feelings?
  • How do you feel about it now?
  • How do you think the other person who was being bullied felt?
  • What could you have done differently?