This is such a sensitive topic that most people are scared to deal with it head-on.

  • Parents whose children are being bullied feel anguish but aren’t sure how to react.
  • Parents whose children are the bullies often aren’t even aware of it.
  • Schools can’t do anything about it unless they know.

Your child has come home complaining about the way they are being treated by another child.  You listen to them and try to work out whether it’s a valid complaint.  The most important thing to remember is that the child needs to feel actively listened to.  If they get an excuse or are fobbed off they may well stop complaining and then you really are in a difficult situation.

We probably would all agree that the we would like to teach our children to work out problems for themselves so you don’t want to jump in immediately and try to ‘fix’ it.  So the first approach should be to coach them.

  • Ask the child what they have done about it and also what they would like you to do about it.
  • Do they have any suggestions for solving the problem?
  • Can they see any reasons why the other child might be behaving in this manner.
  • Have they told an adult within the school environment?  If not, why not?

This is important information to feed back to the school.  They need to know how their teacher’s behaviour affects whether the children feel secure and able to express themselves.

Once you have your information you really must tell the school.  I know that parents often worry about causing offence or looking as if they’re overreacting.  Don’t.  It’s better to let the school know earlier on, before it becomes embedded, than to charge in foaming at the mouth when it’s got out of hand.

  • Email the school to log the reported behaviour.  i.e. my child came home distressed and told me this happened.
  • I have told them to try this tactic….
  • They have/haven’t told x teacher about it and (if they haven’t) why.
  • I just thought I’d keep you informed.

Then continue to monitor the situation.  Each time any ‘event’ takes place you should continue to report it to the school in this fashion.

Why?

A) It provides an audit trail of the efforts you have made to inform the school.

B) It gives the school an idea of what is actually happening and when to look out for trouble (very often bullying happens out of the site-line of any teachers).

C) Your child will know that you take their issues seriously.

D) If your child snaps and retaliates there will be hard evidence that they were driven to it through lack of acceptable intervention.

E)  If the school decides they need to involve the parent of the other child they have hard evidence of the length of time it’s been happening, the style of the bullying and the ways in which you, the parent, have tried to sort it out from your end.  Sometimes parents are not aware that their child has been behaving badly and it can be quite a wake-up call.

If the bullying continues after you’ve made a full and concerted effort to report issues to the school and get them to sort it out, then you have a rightful complaint against the school.

Remember: All schools struggle with this issue because it can be subtle and hard to spot.  It can also be difficult to fix.  There is an element of cognitive dissonance involved in bullying.  Often the  children seem to be friends.   They’ll play together and seemingly have a good relationship.  What’s difficult for teachers to monitor is how much of that behaviour is coerced and it may be just 5 or 10% of the time when the ‘bullying’ is happening; usually when there are no teachers present.  The child finds this hard to understand because they think the person bullying them is their friend and can’t accept they are a frenemy.  The teachers will see the ‘friendship’ and have little idea of the problems which underlie that relationship.

Active involvement:  One of the ways in which you can make a real difference is by turning your child into a bullying monitor.  Talk to them about what bullying actually is, how do they spot it?  Have they ever done it (they all have) and how do they think it makes the other child feel?  What should they do if they see another child being bullied?  What should they do if they think any of their behaviour could be classified as bullying?  All of these discussions add up to opportunities to make their school environment a much happier place for everyone.

Another of the ways is by building up your own child’s assertiveness.  Teach them that their opinions and feelings count and that there are ways of standing up for themselves.  The tone of their voice will have an impact on how seriously they are taken; “no” means “no.”  That it’s OK to get right in another child’s face and say “I said no!”  You can also teach them how to distinguish ‘mean girl’ behaviour; that girls choosing to sit, or play, together and enjoying themselves isn’t something to get upset if your child isn’t included on that occasion.  But if those girls turn around, look at your child then whisper something to each other and laugh, or worse, then it is deliberate and mean and should be called out.

 

 

 

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