As parents, we don’t like to think of our children as ever being a bully or being bullied. Unfortunately, more than 50% of children are likely to be connected with bullying, i.e. as a witness, a victim or as an actual bully. Therefore, it’s likely that as a parent you may have to face some aspects of bullying in relation to your child. If it is your child that is being bullied, then there are ways that you can help.
What is Bullying?
We will begin by looking at what bullying is exactly. Bullying is classed as intentional and persistent hurt towards one person or a group by another group or a person. It can take place face-to-face or via the internet and it comes in many forms:
- Physical – Any method involving physical violence, damage to possessions, theft or threatening behaviour.
- Verbal – Threats, taunts, mocking, repetitive teasing or name calling.
- Cyber – The exploitation of digital technology e.g. the internet, to bully an individual or a group via actions or messages which aim to cause humiliation, anxiety or offence.
- Emotional – Creating and spreading rumours, tormenting, humiliation, excluding or ridiculing.
How to Help Your Child with a Bully
It is important to be able to listen to what your child is saying and not get upset or angry. You need to be able to ignore your own feelings for now. Once you have listened to what your child is saying, repeat it back to your child so that you can show that you have actually listened.
It is worth asking your child how they think you should move forward. You don’t want your child to feel like you are taking over and they end up feeling excluded from the next step or even end up feeling more worried or stressed than they feel already.
You need to comfort your child and tell them that this is no fault of theirs, as many children feel like they have brought this on themselves. Your child needs to know that being bullied is not a sign of weakness and a bully is not a stronger person.
Try and encourage your child to act confidently, even though they may not feel it, as our tone of voice and body language says a lot about us. Often a bully will say something to induce a reaction and if a child appears unaffected, it’s more likely that a bully will give up.
It’s also important to not let a bully dominate your child’s life. Try and support your child in developing a new skill, such as participating in a new activity or a new club such as self-defence or drama. This will help them to build their confidence, keep the bullying in perspective and create new friendships.
Dealing with Your Own Feelings
If your child is being bullied, as parents we may feel helplessness, hurt, anger, fear or guilt. Before reacting, you need to think carefully about how you feel. It may be that you need to admit that you don’t know the answer and that you need to find answers by going online, speaking to staff at the school or calling a helpline.
If you are able to do everyday tasks together you will find that these create perfect opportunities to talk about bullying, in a casual way. That said, you cannot expect that after one chat, the message will stick.
Don’t feel distressed if you find that your child would rather talk to their friends or other adults about their problem. Additionally, you may find it useful to talk to your friends in confidence and it’s probably best to do this with friends who don’t have children at the same school as your children.
By law, all schools must have an anti-bullying policy. Going to the school for support may be the first port of call. We would advise the following:
- Before visiting the school, make sure that you have all the facts listed. i.e. who is involved, what has happened, when it occurred, who has seen it, if your child may have done anything that may have provoked the situation, whether there has been one or several incidents.
- Be sure to have an appointment with an appropriate member of staff, don’t just arrive at the school unannounced.
- Explain that you want to find a solution and want to work together to achieve this.
- It’s not unusual for a school to not be aware of any bullying that is taking place, so do not accuse the school of anything.
- You need to be patient and give the school time to effectively solve the issue. It is important to keep in contact with the school and arrange to have another meeting to see how the issues are being resolved.
If Things Don’t Improve
If you are unsatisfied with what the school are doing, don’t give up, and never feel like you are being a troublemaker or a time-waster. If it gets to the point where your child is too scared or worried to go to school, then contact the LEA (Local Education Authority) education welfare service, who can intervene.
Always bear in mind that you can also seek additional support from the following: