No parent wants to think of their child being bullied or, worse, being a bully, but the truth is that more than half of all children are involved in bullying in some way – as a suspect, survivor, or witness. As a result, there’s a fair chance you’ll have to deal with it sooner or later. There are things you can do to assist your child if they are being bullied.
Tips to help your child
Sandra Hiller, Family Lives, advises, “Listen without being angry or offended.” “Set aside your own thoughts, sit down, and really listen to what your child is saying – and demonstrate that you have done so by ‘playing back’ what you hear to them.” Instead of just taking over, ask your kid, “How do you want me to take this forward?” so they don’t feel left out of the decision-making process or get any more stressed/worried than they were before.
Assuage the child’s fears by assuring them that it is not their fault. Bullying also carries a stigma, and some children believe they are the ones who have brought it upon themselves. Remind them that many famous people have been bullied as well. Being bullied has nothing to do with being weak, and being a bully has nothing to do with being strong. Sue Atkins, a former deputy head and parenting coach, advises, “Encourage your child to strive to be positive, even though they don’t feel it.” The way you carry yourself and the sound of your voice say a lot.
Bullies are more likely to stop if your child gives the feeling they are unconcerned. Play out bullying situations with your child and practice his or her answers. Discuss how our bodies, voices, and faces all convey messages in the same way as our words do.
Allowing bullies to control their lives is not a good idea. According to Rob Parsons, an international speaker on family life and author of Teenagers!, “help your child learn new skills in a new environment.” Hodder & Stoughton’s What Every Parent Should Know (£7.99). This may include motivating them to join a club or participate in a sport such as drama or self-defense. This boosts self-esteem, puts the issue in context, and allows you to meet new people. Reduce the amount of pressure you put on yourself in other, less important ways, such as nagging about an untidy bedroom.
Things to avoid
Don’t go berserk and demand to see the principal, the bully, or the bully’s parents. This is typically the response that children fear, and according to ChildLine counsellors, it can exacerbate bullying. “Never tell your child to strike or call you names,” Sandra Hiller advises. “It clearly does not fix the issue, and it just adds to your child’s tension and anxiety if he or she is under-confident (as most bullied children are).”
Never ignore your child’s experience: It’s demoralizing to be told to “figure it out yourself” or “it’s just part of growing up” when your child has summoned the confidence to tell you about bullying. Lyndall Horton-James, Bullying Prevention Education Consultant and author of ‘Raising Bullywise Kids,’ warns against telling them to ignore it. This shows them that bullying must be accepted rather than confronted, and it sets them up for potential bullying.
Dealing with your feelings
Sue Atkins says, “You can feel rage, pain, remorse, helplessness, or fear.” “Your own childhood memories can help you empathize and solve problems, but they can also get in the way.” Consider your feelings before responding, or you will not be able to support as much as you would like.”
Lyndall Horton-James advises, “Be honest.” “Be willing to accept when you don’t know anything and offer to assist in the quest for a response by searching the internet, calling a helpline, asking their school, or going to the library together.”
Don’t be surprised if your child tries to discuss the issue with other adults and peers. You may also find it beneficial to have a private conversation about the situation with your friends – but ideally not with those whose children attend the same school.
Getting support from the school
Anti-bullying policies are mandated by law in all schools. Many also have various types of peer intervention, such as training certain children in constructive listening or mediation skills in order to assist bullied children. Peer counselors, advocates, counsellors, listeners, or mediators may be used in secondary schools, while friendship or playground mates, playtime pals, or peacemakers may be used in primary schools. Bullying Prevention and Education Consultant Lyndall Horton-James gives the following advice:
- Until you go to the school, make a list of all the facts: what happened, who was involved, when it happened, who witnessed it, something your child did that could have triggered the incident, and whether the incident was a one-time or sequence of events.
- Don’t show up at school unannounced: Schedule a meeting with the class teacher or the year’s head of school.
- Strive to collaborate with the school and make it clear that you need their assistance in finding a solution.
- Avoid blaming the classroom: Keep in mind that teachers are normally the last to learn about bullying at school. “Friends first, parents second, schools third” is the order.
- Patience is required: Allow the school time to address the issue, but keep in contact with them and schedule a follow-up meeting to see if the situation is progressing.
What to do if things don’t improve
Keeping a bullying journal is a good idea. Any incident should be written down as soon as possible after it occurs. Include the date, the event, who was involved, and who witnessed it. Include the impact on your child, whether or not your child told someone, and what they said or did, as well as any subsequent consequences.
Each time, inform the school. Make a list of what they say or do, as well as the consequences of their behaviour.
If your child is injured, take pictures and go to the hospital (and the police if the assault is serious).
Bullying can be dealt with in a number of ways in schools. This may vary from a note, a meeting with the bully’s parents, and suspension to internal exclusion, fixed term exclusion, and permanent exclusion within the school.
Related: How To Be A More Patient Mom?