Dealing with bullying
Many of us will have very fond memories of our childhood – a time of fun and possibility, of exploration and excitement, of cheap cinema tickets and VAT-free clothing. But for some of us, to recall our childhood is to recall a time of fear and hurt caused by bullying. In fact, I’d venture to suggest that all of us will have encountered bullying in some form or another during our childhoods – so all of us will know how destructive it can be.
To be bullied is to be made to feel powerless, and as parents of bullied children we can feel powerless too. Fortunately, there are lots of excellent organisations out there offering advice and support to help parents get to grips with the situation. One such organisation is Kidscape, whose website is overflowing with helpful resources. The following key points are drawn from their free Advice for Parents download.
Three preventative measures:
- Talk to your child. Ask about school, about their friends, about break time.
- Build their confidence. Give them responsibility around the house – perhaps looking after a pet or keeping the playroom tidy – and make sure you tell them how well they’re doing!
- Expand their circle of friends. After-school clubs and weekend activities are good for this.
Three tell-tale signs to watch for:
- A change in behaviour – like anger, nervousness, tearfulness, introversion or nightmares.
- Body-language. Is your child jumpy and nervous, or unable to maintain eye contact?
- Feeling friendless. Does your child talk freely about what their friends have said or done, or do they keep quiet?
Three ways to respond if your child is being bullied:
- Talk about it. Don’t let your child bottle it up – encourage them to tell you about it, and reassure them that it isn’t their fault. No-one ever deserves to be bullied.
- Make contact with the school. Work together on ways to resolve the situation. Could the lunchtime supervisor keep an eye out? Should the teacher shuffle the seating plan?
- Keep written records. If the situation is resolved quickly, this gives you a reference point if it ever happens again. If things go wrong, it constitutes valuable evidence in a dispute with the school or another parent.
One golden rule:
Your child’s safety is key – never put them in a situation where you feel this might be at risk.
Sometimes children tell tall stories, sometimes they’re a bit oversensitive, and sometimes they cry wolf – so we mustn’t send in the cavalry every time Katy and Kirsty fall out in the playground. And the rough and tumble of childhood social interaction is important – it knocks some of our rough edges off, and teaches us how to get on with other people. The challenge is to raise children who are confident and socially-skilled, to tell bullying from rumbustious fun, and to act quickly and effectively to stop it developing.
More Kidscape resources are available here, including an excellent pamphlet aimed at primary school children called Don’t Bully Me. Are there any other strategies that have worked well for you? Let us know!