Parents, Family and Whanau, Ministry of Education: Supporting your child’s education

Anti-Bullying Resources:


Is my child a bully?

It can be hard to know if your child or teen is being bullied because:

  • bullying often happens when teachers or parents aren’t around
  • a child being bullied is unlikely to tell anyone.


Is your child a bully?

Bullying is behaviour that repeatedly harms another less powerful person; the victim. Bullying can happen in many contexts and situations, including on websites and by cellphone. Bullying can be:

  • verbal, such as teasing, taunting, threatening and name-calling
  • physical, such as hitting and punching
  • non-verbal such as ignoring and excluding.
A bullied child can be hurt physically and socially. It’s often an isolating experience because the bullied child’s feelings of acceptance, friendships or group inclusion are damaged. Groups are a natural part of school life and to be excluded from the peer group can be traumatic for children and affect their learning, development and health.

Identifying students involved in bullying, and the victims, is often difficult as most happens away from home and outside the classroom away from teachers and is rarely reported to teachers or parents. Usually if children and young people talk about bullying, it is with friends. Teachers and parents usually start to notice something is wrong when the child or young person seems negative about school and joining in on certain activities.


Signs your child may be bullying others

Watch for warning signs that your child might be engaging in bullying behaviour.

Your child or teen might be bullying others if they:

  • are in trouble for fighting (verbally or physically) with other children at school
  • are defiant or confrontational
  • talk about other children as “stupid” or use other negative terms to describe others. For example, children “deserving” bad things to happen to them
  • are dominant and aggressive and become easily frustrated when they don’t get their way
  • show little concern for others who are in bad situations
  • are accused of being a bully at school or elsewhere.

Make sure you know your child’s interests and what they do when not at home. For example, know who your child’s friends are and what they do in their spare time. Observe how your child interacts with other children.


Deal with bullying

If you suspect your teen or child is bullying others, you can take these steps to help stop them:


Talk with your child or teen

If your child has been accused of bullying, talk to them and get their point of view. Ask questions. What has your child been accused of doing? What does your child admit to doing? Find out exactly what they’ve been doing and their reasons.

Your child may be having social or emotional problems they find hard to handle. Some children may feel pressured to take part in bullying to be accepted or so they don’t get bullied themselves.


Ensure your child knows what’s expected

  • Calmly explain that bullying behaviour is not acceptable. Explain how bullying affects others such as victims, bystanders and the school environment.
  • Avoid approaching your child in an accusatory or confrontational way.
  • Explain acceptable behaviour.
  • Discuss school rules and how you expect your child to behave at school and home.

Talk to your child about better ways to handle situations where they may act aggressively. For example, ask for help if they get frustrated, walking away to cool down, respect others and being tolerant of people who are different.


Praise appropriate behaviour

When you see your teen or child getting on well with others, or keeping calm when they don’t like something, let them know how well they are doing. You might have to look really closely at first ­but recognising and praising good behaviour is important.


Talk to the school

Talk to your child’s teacher about the problem and ask them for advice. When you and the school work together, you are much more likely to be able to resolve the problem. 

If you know about bullying, tell the school, even if your child is not involved. This shows your child that you and others are serious about stopping bullying.

Schools are expected to treat bullying as the serious matter it is. The National Administration Guidelines (NAGs) state that schools must “provide a safe physical and emotional environment for students”. The New Zealand Curriculum and Wellbeing and Belonging (in Te Whariki) both include managing self and relating to others as key competencies.


More information


Related downloads


New Zealand Research on Bullying

New Zealand Research on Bullying: “The Impact of Bullying on Children”

The above research was conducted by Dr Gabrielle Maxwell and Janis Carroll-Lind, and revised in October 1997.

It aimed to examine the child’s perspective on what is violent for them and the impact these violent events have on their lives.

The study involved violence at home, the community as well as at school.

Form 1 and 2 (year 7 and 8) school children were invited to take part in the research.

Eight schools participated, including four schools in a provincial New Zealand city area and four from a major urban area. A total of 259 children took part with an even mix of boys and girls, spread across the intermediate age range of 11-13 years.

The children were asked about experiences of physical, sexual and emotional violence or abuse in the previous nine months of 1995 and at any time in the past.

The study confirms high levels of both physical and emotional bullying in New Zealand schools.

Within any particular year it is likely that at least half and perhaps as many as three quarters of children are bullied. Ten percent are bullied weekly.

This research extends beyond simply surveying the amount of bullying and asks children about the impact the bullying has had on them.

The results underline the special vulnerability of children and show that the hurt done is often considerable and long remembered. An adult learns to cope with pain, fear, rejection, loss and loneliness but a child is easy to wound and often has few skills to cope.

At the same time, adults often fail to notice what is happening to a child or belittle the events.

It is commonly said that bullying is “simply part of growing up” or part of “the rough and tumble of childhood.”

But when the research reveals that children consider the death of someone close as the only experience worse than bullying, you get an idea of what impact it has.

A detailed copy of The Impact of Bullying on Children can be obtained from the Office of the Commissioner for Children at no cost.

The Office’s contact details are:
PO Box 12-537
New Zealand
Ph: 0064-4-4711410
Fax: 0064-4-4711418