​​​I've been called a bully

You may feel upset and be confused about why someone has called you a bully.

If you are not sure whether you have bullied someone, go to Learn about bullying to find out if you have used bullying behaviours. Even if you don't think it's bullying, someone has a problem with how you are behaving towards them.

You have a responsibility to help fix it.

You can take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again. You may also need someone else to help you to change things.

Take responsibility
Apologise, repair the damage and make a change
Think about why you bully others
Think about the other person
Learn about diversity

Take responsibility

Admitting to bullying or other inappropriate behaviour is a big thing.

Taking responsibility for what you've done is the most important first step that you need to take:

  • accept that others don't like the way you behave
  • think about how you have not followed the rules about respect and behaviour; think about why the school has those rules and talk to others about them
  • 'suck it up' and accept any consequences you have been given by the school and/or your parents
  • get ready to work with your school and/or parents to work things out.

Apologise, repair the damage and make a change

It may be okay to apologise to the person and reassure them that you will not do it anymore.

Don't be surprised if they don't trust you or aren't comfortable to talk with you about it. If they don't want to talk with you, you could try writing them a letter apologising for your behaviour and assuring them that you've learnt and won't behave like that again.

Take steps to repair the damage you have caused. If you were bullying someone online, remove any offensive or hurtful images or messages. There may be other ways you can repair the damage you have caused to others.

Tell a parent or teacher that you have been using bullying behaviours and feel bad about it. Ask them to help you to change your behaviour and to learn how to deal with conflict in better ways.

Think about why you bully others

It is important to understand why you were behaving this way.

There is no excuse for bullying, but there could be a lot of reasons you have done this.

You may have felt pressured into doing this by friends, even when you knew it wasn't right. Maybe you've been in trouble at school because of this kind of behaviour. Think about why you may have done this.

Did you do it:

  • because you were angry with someone
  • to have control over someone
  • to make your friends laugh
  • to feel better or tougher than others
  • to get even with someone
  • because you think there is nothing wrong with it
  • because you think the other person deserved it
  • to stop others bullying you?

There are better and less harmful ways to deal with these issues.

If you don't know why you are bullying others, talk to someone about it to help you work it out.

A guidance officer or counsellor may be able to help you to understand why you were bullying someone and give you some strategies to help you make and keep friends, deal with conflict better, and learn about other people's feelings.

You could speak to a counsellor at Kids Helpline via chat or email or call them on 1800 55 1800, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's a free call.

Think about the other person

Have you thought about how your behaviour is affecting the other person? They may feel:

  • upset or scared
  • that something is wrong with them
  • like they have no friends and that no-one likes them
  • like it is their fault
  • ashamed that this is happening
  • that there's nothing anyone can do to help them
  • that if they report the bullying things could get worse.

Are you trying to make yourself feel better by making someone else feel rotten?

There are better ways to deal with your own feelings and problems. Talk to someone for help.

Learn about diversity

The world is made up of an enormous diversity of people, and being respectful of those differences is important for getting on with others throughout your life.

Sometimes we are uncomfortable with people who are different from us. Sometimes this can lead to bullying.

Sometimes we copy the way people in our family or the community think about and behave toward others without thinking about why.

People who stand out as different are more likely to be bullied. Learning about how people who are different from you see the world helps you behave respectfully.

Go to More information to read more about people who have a disability, are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, or a different ethnic background from yours, etc. Ask your special education teacher/coordinator, school nurse or another teacher at your school about it.

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