Category Archives: Anti-bullying tips

Anti-Bullying at it’s best for Middle Grade Readers

Polly’s Piralympics Series

Books that are Diverse, inclusive and stand against bullying. Written in a manner that has Pirates hosting their own Paralympics, as well as, Polly’s adventures with treasure, poachers, forever-homes, Loch Ness Monsters, Leprechauns and so, so much more…

Paralympics for Pirates and so much more!

Here is what some reviewers have had to say:

Reviewed in the United States on March 23, 2020

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Mark Gunning

Reviewed in the United States on June 19, 2020

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Tip # What comes after Bullying?

My child is being bullied, will he/she make it in the big wide world? Here are some of the success stories:

Business mogul Elon Musk was relentlessly bullied as a child in South Africa. Musk was picked on for being “the youngest and smallest guy in his school,” his mother told Esquire (2012).

Michael Phelps – Olympics swimming legend, was tormented and bullied hyperactive personality and big ears. He was even suspended from school for fighting one of his bullies. After that, he learned to channel his frustration in the swimming pool. He became the most decorated Olympian with 28 medals – bet his bullies wished they had kept quiet now.

Prince Harry (4th in line for the British Thrown) was bullied for his red hair in school, this even overlapped into his career in the British Army where he was called the “Ginger Bullet Magnet.”

Ed Sheeran – the singer was bullied for being ‘weird’ and for his red hair. Sheeran had a large birthmark on his face, a stutter, a ‘lazy’ eye, very thick NHS glasses and speech problems.

Barack Obama – US President, was bullied because they said his ears were too big.

Rihanna was bullied because her skin was too light, by other pupils at her school with darker skins.

Sergey Brin – Cofounder of one of Google, with an incredible estimated net worth of $50 billion, he the 13th richest person on the planet. However, Brin experienced bullying, thanks to his Russian accent, although he was Jewish in a Hebrew school, his voice separated him from making friends, making him feel lonely and isolated until he switched schools.

British author JK Rowling —The  Harry Potter Series. She told a fan that writing the Harry Potter Series was part of how she processed her difficult childhood. In fact, when describing being a teenager, she defined it as ‘completely horrible.’

How did they become successful? Well, they never gave up, and although the bullying hurt and I am sure many of them cried themselves to sleep at night, they BEAT THE BULLIES.


Roles in the Bullying Cycle – The Bully

The Bully. The word ‘Bully’ (Boele) was originally used in 1530, it was a Dutch word that meant sweetheart! (Oxford Dictionaries.)

Who is a Bully and why?

A bully is an aggressor who shows that aggression repeatedly, either physically, verbally, electronically or socially. They bully when they perceive there to be a power imbalance and they have the upper hand. Often a bully has previously bullied themselves and uses bullying as a way to distract previous bullies, who now view them as ‘strong.’

Bullies need to dominate and are often impulsive and aggressive. Up to 1/3 come from dysfunctional families (Rigby 1993)

Why do they do it?

i.    As mentioned above – sometimes to escape their tormentors.

ii.   For ‘fun.’

iii. To get even.

iv.  To show how tough they are.

v.   To just annoy others.

vi.  To get money or things


The bully doesn’t’ generally like to fight, they like to DOMINATE.

The bully is only as strong as the victim allows him to be.




How do I tell if my child is being bullied?

So, now we know what it is, how do we know if it is happening?

Beane (2008) suggests the following as indicators of possible bullying that can be observed by parents, guardians or teachers:

• Difficulty concentrating in class and easily distracted.
• Wanting to take a different route to school.
• Sudden loss of interest in school activities.
• A sudden drop in grades.
• Possessions often lost or damaged without explanation.

• Uses ‘victim’ body language – head down, shoulders hunched, avoids eye contact

• Prefers the company of adults at playtimes.
• Becomes overly aggressive and unreasonable.
• Talks about running away.
• Frequently asks for extra money.
• Carries protective devices.
• Sudden loss of respect for authority figures.

• Coming home from school, quieter than normal

• Not wanting to go to school (eg. faking a sore tummy or feeling sick)  arrives home with unexplained scratches,   bruises, damaged clothing.

• They can experience headaches, start bedwetting or have difficulty in sleeping.

Children will often not say what is happening to them directly.

As boys get older they use more avoidance strategies to try to avoid the bully, however, if this fails it can often overflow into a physical confrontation. Eg. the bully continually pokes a child in front of him in class or pulls a chair from his intended victim as they are about to sit. this may lead to the victim ‘ losing it’ and attacking the bully, regardless of consequences.

Girls will usually revert to telling a friend about what is happening to them, which often provides the extra support they need and resolves the problem.

So, now we know what to look for, what can we do?

Snitching v’s Bullying


So, what is the difference? The main difference here is the intent.

Snitching is:

  • Trying to get someone in trouble or hurt them
  • Looking for attention
  • Done because you want to get your own way
  • Telling when it is not bullying or important and could be handled by yourself

Reporting is:

  • Telling a parent/teacher/guardian about a situation that is dangerous.
  • Looking out for your safety (both physical and emotional) of yourself and your peers when severely threatened
  • Speaking up because something is really wrong; not because you want to get someone into trouble.
  • when you can’t resolve the problem and need adult intervention

This is often difficult for kids especially as they get older. They often will NOT report something that SHOULD BE reported for fear of retribution from the bully as well as their peers.

My book How Polly Became a Pirate is being used in schools in Johannesburg, South Africa to help younger kids up to 12 years old get around the problem of ‘snitching’. At the end of each chapter, there is an interactive page where they can ‘talk to Polly,’ here they can say if they or anyone they know is being bullied and even draw a picture of what the bully looks like.

So far it has been successful in identifying bullies at schools because students don’t feel they are snitching, but rather chatting to Polly. Parents have also found this useful in identifying problems their children are having which they didn’t even know about. It is almost like writing a diary but to Polly.

What is Bullying

What is Bullying? How do you know if your child is being bullied at school, a social club, Sunday school, a youth club or even around where you live or the kid next door?


A bully wants to hurt the other person (it’s not an accident). A bully does or says the same things over and over again. Bullying is about using power over another person. There are four main kinds of bullying.

bullying pictograms

Physical:  • hitting, shoving, kicking, spitting on, beating up on others
• damaging or stealing another person’s property
Verbal:     • name-calling, mocking or hurtful teasing
• humiliating or threatening someone
• making people do things they don’t want to do
Social:      • excluding others from the group
• spreading gossip or rumours about others
• making others look foolish
• making sure others do not spend time with a certain person
Electronic: using e-mail, cellular phone or other forms of social media and text messages to:
• threaten or hurt someone’s feelings
• single out, embarrass or make someone look bad
• spread rumours or reveal secrets about someone

So, bullying is the physical or psychological intimidation that occurs repeatedly over time. Bullying can be overt (i.e., teasing, hitting, or stealing); boys are most often overt bullies, or, Bullying can covert (i.e., spreading rumours or exclusion); girls are most often covert bullies.

So now we know what it is, how do we know if it is happening? see tip #3



When do you know if your Child is being Bullied

When does a parent know whether or not their child is being bullied?

Bullying is a repeated form of attack whether verbal, physical or cyber bullying. Random name-calling and teasing are just that  – random. Yes, parents need to be aware that little ‘Johnny’ was teased at school today, but that does not mean you have to go racing up to the school.


Ask questions.

“Has X done this to you or someone else before?”

If NO then it is probably an isolated incident and unfortunately part of every child’s growing pains. Usually, in these cases, the children have long since forgotten what happened and moved on.

If YES, now is the time to act.