No one wants to admit the possibility that their child is capable of bullying behaviour and most parents will think ‘no way, not my child’. But every child is capable of bullying behaviour and if you find out your child is bullying someone at school, try not to blame yourself and jump on the defense. Instead, realise that how you handle your child’s bullying behaviour is just as critical as your child’s bullying itself. Just take a deep breath, gather details about what exactly transpired and let the school know that you want to work together for a positive outcome.
Sit down with your child, speak in a calm, firm tone and ask them what happened and why they behaved a certain way. Be a good listener and avoid blame. Children and young people need to understand that it’s okay to admit they made a mistake.
Calmly ask questions to help them understand how their behaviour affects others, such as: Do you feel what you did was respectful? ‘Do you realise it hurt someone? Would you want someone to treat you in that way?” Explain the importance of treating people fairly and with kindness and respect.
Help your child understand that they are accountable for their actions. Bullying is unacceptable behaviour and it is important your child understands this. Depending on the circumstances, you can eliminate something your child enjoys so the consequence will be significant, such as, taking away their mobile phone for a period of time, removing or reducing TV or video game time, or preventing participation in a social outing. Talk to them about how it would feel like to be in the other person’s shoes to ensure they fully understand the impact their behaviour has had.
Situations like this work best when school staff see that parents sincerely want to work with them to improve the situation. Although bullying is an emotive issue, try to remain calm and not become angry and defensive. Find out exactly what your child has been doing and for how long. School staff spend a lot of time with their pupils and are often able to see how they interact with their peers, notice patterns in behaviour and recognise classroom dynamics.
Depending on the severity of the bullying issue, the school may issue a sanction against your child, such as:
If the incident involves violence, abuse or demands for money, then the Police may be involved.
Request a copy of the school’s Anti-Bullying Policy as this will explain how the school will deal with the issue and what help will be given.
Work with the school to help your child learn behaviours that are constructive. Find out if counselling or other support is available to help and encourage your child to change their behaviour and stop bullying. Keep in regular contact with the school to ensure your child’s behaviour improves.
There is a lot that a parent can do to help their child stop bullying others. By taking immediate action, you can help your child learn new ways of managing their feelings, peer pressure and conflict with others. Talk to them and try to find out why your child has been bullying others. Try to understand the reason for your child’s behaviour. Maybe they have trouble managing strong emotions such as anger or frustration or has there been a recent change or disruption in your child’s life? Is your child being bullied as well?
It is important that parents raise children who understand that there are all different kinds of people and it is in no way acceptable to isolate or hurt anyone for any reason. Empower your child to build her skills for resolving conflicts and managing situations. Social and emotional learning includes self-awareness, self-management, resilience, social skills and responsible decision-making. Look for after-school programmes and extra-curricular activities that can provide new settings to develop ways to build positive relationships. Improving these skills now, while your child is in school will provide lifelong skills.
Whether your child is being bullied or is bullying someone, connecting with a counsellor may help your child’s healing process. We know the thought of going to a counsellor may worry your child at first. If that happens, talk your child through the different options for resources and remind them that there is nothing wrong with seeking help. In fact, it builds a stronger sense of self.
Through fostering open and honest conversations about bullying behaviour with your child, you will instill confidence in them, empowering them to stand strong for themselves and others and to trust you to help them along the way.
Young children may struggle to talk about emotions and feelings that are part of everyday life. Using books and stories can always help with this. Wonderfully written by Author, Clare Luther and aimed at children aged 3 – 8 years old, Head 2 Heart Books are beautifully illustrated rhyming books that are relatable and well researched. Each story will help children explore their thoughts and feelings, offering them useful ways to think their emotions through and get conversations started.