What is bullying?
Bullying is when someone intimidates or causes harm to another person on purpose. The victims of bullying can be verbally, physically or emotionally assaulted and are often threatened and made to feel frightened.
Bullying should not be viewed as an unfortunate but unavoidable part of school life. No child deserves to be bullied - it's unacceptable behaviour and can have a devastating effect on the victim. Most schools have an anti-bullying policy, so it's a good idea to be aware of the position adopted by your child’s school.
Bullying in school can include:
- Verbal harassment - face to face, by phone, text or over the internet
- Hitting, hair-pulling and kicking
- Teasing and name-calling
- Spreading rumours
- Damaging possessions
- Frightening and intimidation
- Exclusion at playtime or from social events and networks
How can I tell if my child is being bullied?
Your child may not tell you that he or she is being bullied. However, you may notice some changes in his or her behaviour, including:
- Unwillingness to go to school
- Feeling unwell, often with a headache
- Aggression towards you or others in your family
- Waking in the night
- Missing or damaged belongings
What should I do if my child is being bullied?
- If you suspect your child is being bullied, don’t ignore it.
- Find a quiet time to talk to your child. Explain that bullying is unacceptable and that no one should have to put up with it. Promise to do all you can to stop it.
- Make an appointment to see your child's school as soon as possible. Useful tips for the meeting:
- Decide what you want to say and what you'd like to achieve from the meeting before you go.
- Try to stay calm even though you may feel angry and emotional.
- Don't blame the teacher - he or she may be unaware of the bullying.
- Give specific examples of how your child is being bullied.
- Ask what the school's anti-bullying policy is.
- Discuss what action the teacher will take.
- Arrange to meet again within two weeks to discuss progress.
- If you're unhappy with the way your child's teacher deals with the situation - either at the meeting or after the school has taken action - make an appointment to see the head teacher and go through the same process described above.
Seek outside help from a specialist adviser if the bullying continues after you’ve spoken to the head teacher. Information on this is available from the following websites:
What should I do if my child is a bully?
If you suspect your child is bullying another child or other children, don’t ignore it.
A child who is bullying others often has problems of his or her own. Try to understand what may be causing this behaviour and think about what is going on in your own home. Bullying can be subtle, so watch your child’s behaviour closely.
Consider the following:
- Is your child going through a difficult time?
- Does your child feel overlooked or overshadowed?
- Could your child be copying someone else's behaviour - maybe an adult or older sibling at home?
- Do other members of your family use aggression or force to get what they want?
- Are you allowing your child to use aggression or force to get what they want from other people?
- Make sure your child understands that bullying is unacceptable. Encourage your child to be friendly, understanding and kind to others. Try to bolster friendships by inviting other children over to your home but watch out for any signs of bullying.
How to help your child if they are being bullied
"Your child's school has a duty of care, they spend an average of 11,000 hours of their lives in full time education - it's vital every one of those hours is a safe and happy one, free from bullying."
If your child tells you they are being bullied
- Believe and listen to them
- Praise them for doing the right thing and speaking to you
- Remain calm and focused
Don't take on the problem yourself
Work with the child and the school. The chances are your child has been worrying about this for some time and possibly been reluctant to speak out. Their biggest fear may be that if they speak out the problem will get ten times worse. Don't let them feel that way. Instead of taking over the problem work with them to help them feel like they still have some power and control over what is happening. This will help them develop their problem solving skills and confidence. Tell them 'Let's see what we can do about this'.
Work with the school. Our immediate thoughts can be that the school has failed to keep our child safe and we want something done NOW. Remember to give the school a chance to act on your concerns. Try to avoid heading straight to the school - they are busy places and you may not be able to get an appointment. Ring up and ask to speak to someone and stress your concern. Don't let your own experience of school get in the way of your child's experience. Try not to take your child out of school or keep them off. This can often make it harder to get them back to school and doesn't give the school the chance to sort out the problem.
Other parents. While you may be tempted to speak to the parents of the bully, this isn't always the most helpful plan of action. Try and let the school deal with the situation or if you know the parent and want to speak to them, tread carefully. Certainly don't contact them on social media!!
Speaking to your child
Don't respond with: 'Stop telling tales', 'Ignore it' AND don't think if it as a normal part of growing up. We have the right to feel safe all the time and bullying should not be a barrier to our learning, happiness or success.
Definition of bullying: Discuss your child's perception of what bullying is. Dig out the school's Anti-Bullying Policy online or in the planners/diary. Make sure it is really bullying and not just a one-off.
Get all the facts. Who, when, why? Make some notes. This will be useful when deciding on further action.
Safe places. Draw a map of the school and get your child to label safe places or safe havens where they can go to escape the bullying and, more importantly, to report the bullying. Or get them to draw round their hand and write the names of 5 people on the 5 fingers that they can go to if they have a worry, concern or problem. Make three of them individuals at school and 2 outside of school. Help them realise that there are so many people in life that love, care and support them - from parents, dinner ladies, home school link workers, teachers, police. Highlight these different roles and the part they can play in your child's life.
Monitor the situation
'How was school today?' - granted this will often result in 'OK', but delve further and remain positive. Ask questions such as 'What was the best part of today?; and 'What would have made it even better?'
Class teacher/Home School Link Worker - These days schools will encourage parents that the first point of call is one of the above, not the Head Teacher. A good relationship with one of these adults will help you keep on top of any fears or worries.
'Forget about it'
Once you have investigated and decide on a plan of action try not to continue to worry. Compliment your child on their strengths and successes. Go swimming, do a jigsaw, take them out and take their mind off the situation. Remind them that they succeed in lots of things in life and help them realise they have a lot to be proud of.
Advice for you and your child
First occasion: Encourage them to be assertive, through body language and facial expressions. Practice with them to say 'I'd like you to stop doing that' with eye contact. Urge them not to retaliate verbally or physically as this will likely result in them being punished. Mention the incident to an adult.
Second occasion: Tell your child to remove themselves from the situation, find an adult and report it. Discuss who they sit with or who they hang around with. Does the school need to look at lesson seating plans or staff on duty at lunch time?
Problems on social networks: Save the evidence, report, delete and block. With social networks, it's best to nip the problem in the bud, blocking the individual will stop any further abuse. Official guidelines states schools can and should deal with the issue of cyber-bullying between two pupils so don't be afraid to request this or if it is serious to report it to the police. Help your child look at their Friends list. If you feel this is serious abuse or harassment take it to the police as it is against the law.
Being called a name at school: Discuss the differences between bullying and unkindness. It's important that your child is resilient and able to deal with one-off incidents of name calling. Talk to them about reporting this behaviour as inappropriate rather than bullying. Help them develop a clear idea that bullying is continuous, deliberate and more than someone having a bad day and not thinking twice. It's important we don't label everything in life as bullying.
Feeling left out: Discuss the support networks available to your child. If your child is feeling lonely or left out, speak to them about what clubs at break times they could attend and highlight safe areas in the school and find out which adults they trust and could go to. Get them to list or draw a picture of their friendship groups and help them discover friends they could spend time with.
Physical bullying: Find out exactly when and where this bullying is happening. Remain calm - your child has the right to feel safe and you can now demand that the school investigates this and responds to you ASAP. If you don't feel it is resolved, escalate it, take it higher and if necessary involve the authorities.
If you can't see the form, please click here.