With the start of the academic year, new friendships are formed, others are left behind, social groups reshuffle and sadly, bullying may happen. Because let’s be honest, bullying happens in most schools. I am very weary when schools say that it doesn’t happen in their establishments. It does happen, the important thing is how the school community tackles it.
What is bullying?
Bullying happens when a child hurts another on purpose. The bully has more power than the victim, they may be stronger, bigger, or more popular.
Bullying is not a one-off quarrel. It happens repeatedly over a period of time. It is more frequent between the ages of 10-13 but it can happen at any age.
Types of bullying
Emotional: Socially isolating the child, calling them names, laughing at them…
Physical: Kicking, punching the child, damaging their property…
Cyberbullying: It is a form of emotional bulling using electronic devices. The issue with cyberbullying is that the victim cannot escape their attackers. They get no rest from the bullying. Not even when they are home and are meant to be safe.
Who is at risk of being bullied?
Everyone is at risk, but the reality is that some children are more likely to be bullied than others. Children that are perceived to be different in any way, for example, because they are new to the school, are from a different country or a different religion are more likely to be bullied. Children with low self-esteem, those with disabilities or special needs are also at a higher risk. In general, children who are thought to be “weaker” or “different” are more likely to be bullied.
How to know if my child is being bullied?
A sudden loss of confidence, the child becoming very withdrawn, moody, aggressive, throwing tantrums, being angry
School achievement falling
Not wanting to go to school: Finding excuses in the morning, complaining of feeling unwell in the morning
Coming back home without their materials or broken materials
Saying that they did not have lunch because maybe the bully took their lunch or took their lunch money
Having bruises or cuts
What to do if my child is being bullied?
Explain what bullying is and focus on behaviour rather than labelling other children (“They are mean”) or your child (“You are weak”).
Make it very clear that it is not their fault in any way.
Reassure your child that action can be taken.
Encourage them to be assertive. This doesn’t mean that they must be aggressive but calm and firm about their feelings. Practice role play at home so that when they face the bully, they have the tools to respond to them.
NEVER tell your child to sort it out by hitting the bully back. It rarely works and it can get your child into deeper trouble.
Explore ways to extend their friendship groups, for example by joining new clubs.
Encourage activities that encourage self-esteem such as drama or sports.
Explore ways with them to approach the school even if they don’t want to. You can maybe propose that you talk together with their favourite teacher.
DO NOT dismiss it as banter. If your child comes to you because they are being hurt or threatened, try not to say things like “Oh toughen up, it is just a bit of banter” or “Don’t be overdramatic, that has always happened and here we are”. Bullying can have dramatic consequences especially when the victim thinks there is no way out.
Keep a bullying diary in case you need it in the future.
Why do some children bully others?
The answer to this question is a rather complicated one. There is not one simple factor that explains a child becoming a bully. Bullying behaviour is influenced by a wide range of home, individual, school, neighbourhood, and societal factors.
Children bully others to gain status in their peer group. They seek out approval from their peers by being tough, cruel and powerful or by gaining reputation. Bullies often lack empathy, and their need to belong to the group overrides any other feelings they may experience.
It is important to remember that bullies themselves tend not to do well across many aspects of life. They tend to have problems at school, and show high levels of aggression, depression, and anxiety. They also have difficulties managing their emotions, particularly their anger.
What if my child is the bully?
No parent wants to think that our child is a bully but when bullying happens someone is doing it! Let’s start by saying that is it NOT your fault if the child is the bully.
If your child is indeed the bully, you need a plan of action with the school. Together you need to find the motivation for your child’s behaviour. Why are they doing it? Professional support may be a good idea in these cases. Consider that many bullies continue to behave that way all their lives, so it is very important that you tackle the issue as soon as possible.
Finally, it is important to consider that bullying rarely happens in isolation. Usually, the whole class or the whole peer group know about it. Some children may encourage it, others may think it’s wrong but they may be afraid of saying something and risking being next, whereas others may defend the victim. It is really important that all parents have a chat with our kids about this issue, encouraging them to confide in us or other adults around them if them or others are being bullied. Stopping bullying is not only the responsibility of schools or of those directly involved in it, but of all of us.
This article is based on Professor Helen Cowie’s masterclass: The complete guide to bullying. Do watch it to find out many more resources and information. If your child is struggling with bullying do not hesitate to get in touch with your REC Parenting therapist. Do also drop us an email at email@example.com for any comment or question. We are here to support you!
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