Bullying is rightly an issue of concern to many parents and schools

This document will help you to understand more about the issue of bullying.  

Bullying happens in school as in other walks of life. Children are particularly affected by it. If you’re worried that your child is being bullied, there are things you can do to recognise it, understand it, stop it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

(You will see that we have used ‘he’ for children and ‘she’ for adults – this is just to make it easy to read.)

What are the signs?

Your child might tell you that he is being bullied or you might hear about it from somebody else – your child’s friends, your neighbours or your child’s teachers. Often though, a child who is being bullied manages to hide it. He might be afraid that the bully will take revenge on him. He might feel that he is powerless and a failure. Because of this, you need to know some of the signs of bullying and look out for them. Some signs are:

– not wanting to go to school
– a pattern of headaches or stomach aches
– damaged clothing or bruising
– missing equipment or belongings
– asking for extra pocket money or stealing
– a sudden drop in standards of school work
– fear about walking to and from school
– secrecy about the reason for tears.

Remember that, if your child is showing one or more of these signs it doesn’t necessarily mean he is being bullied – there might be other explanations. But be aware of the possibility and look into it further.

If you think your child is being bullied, talk to him about it. Encourage him to be open and honest. Reassure him that you want to help and that you won’t do anything to make things worse. Give him time and don’t put pressure on him to tell you everything at once. Let him know that he can talk to you when he’s ready. Then give him the chance to talk.

If your child is being bullied, it might take a while for him to tell you about it. Or the sense of relief might be so great that everything comes rushing out at once. Stay calm. You will feel angry and upset. You might want to take revenge. You will certainly want to protect your child from further bullying. But your main task now is to listen and provide comfort and understanding.
What can I do to help?

If you know that your child is being bullied, you need to take action to make sure that the bullying doesn’t happen again:

End the secrecy.

The bullying needs to come out into the open. If the bully is at your child’s school, tell the class teacher and the headteacher.

The school will probably have a behaviour policy with procedures for dealing with bullying. Find out what the school does in this situation. This is unlikely simply to be a punishment for the bully. The school wants to make sure not only that the bullying stops, but that it doesn’t happen again (with your child or with any other). Remembering the characteristics of bullies, it could be that the bully also needs some sort of help.

Provide reassurance – Now that things are in the open, your child will need reassurance. The bullying – particularly if it has been going on for quite a while – is going to have had an effect. He is likely to feel a failure, because of what has been said to him by the bully and because he wasn’t able to stop the bullying. He is also going to feel frightened that it might happen again.

You need to make him feel good about himself. Show him he is loved. Emphasise his talents, achievements and likeable qualities. Make sure he knows he can talk with you – about good and bad things – and provide the opportunities for talk.

Make him feel secure. He might need you to be around him a bit more than usual. Even if you don’t normally do it, you might need to walk with him to and from school or to get someone else to do it. He might need longer to say goodnight, perhaps keeping the light on for longer. You don’t want him to become over-dependent on you, and a lot will depend on his age, but you do need to take things slowly while he builds up his self-confidence.

Work with your child’s school – Having told the school about the bullying, try to work with the teachers on a plan of action. Let your child’s teacher know how things are going. Tell her anything you find out about what has happened. Tell her about any effects you have noticed. Ask her how your child appears in school. Has his work been affected? Is he mixing with other children? Does he appear upset? Sometimes everything is sorted out very quickly. Occasionally it takes a lot longer. You need to see if there are ways that you can work with the school in your child’s best interests. But be prepared for the unexpected. Sometimes it happens that a bully and his victim end up as best friends!
Recognising the bully

Children who become bullies tend to:-

– feel useless and have little self-esteem
– have been taught to succeed at any cost
– be spoilt, without controls on behaviour
– feel insecure in some way
– have been bullied or abused themselves.

This doesn’t mean that all bullies have all – or even any – of these characteristics. But understanding something about why someone bullies can help in dealing with what happens.

Bullies tend to pick on someone they see as ‘different’ in some way. A victim might:-

– be new to the school
– be overweight – even slightly
– wear glasses
– speak with a different accent
– belong to a different cultural or racial group
– be particularly clever or not particularly clever
– be a loner who finds it difficult to mix with others
– be naturally submissive
– be overprotected.

Again, victims might not show any of these signs at all.
To Sum Up

Bullying can strike anywhere. Despite all your efforts and everything done by the school, your child could become the victim of a bully. You need to be aware of the possibility and look out for the signs. If it does happen, you need to act quickly and calmly so that your child is safe and secure and so that any ill effects can be overcome.