Bullying is rightly an issue of concern to many parents. We do not tolerate bullying of any kind at this school. 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.
(note that we have used 'he' throughout to make it easier to read)
Some useful websites:
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 school, tell the class teacher or the headteacher.
- Our school has a behaviour policy with procedures for dealing with bullying. Find out what the school does in this situation. This is not simply 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 the school. Having informed us about the bullying, work with the teachers on a plan of action. Let your child's teacher know how things are going. Tell them anything you find out about what has happened. Ask 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.
I suspect or discover my child is a bully?
- Remain calm
- Don’t condemn your child, but try to quietly find out what is happening, and why
- Condemn your child’s bullying behaviour, but avoid labelling your child a ‘bully’
- Ask your child if they understand the harm they may be causing, including any possible consequences to themselves.
- Talk to their friends, teachers and anyone else who may be able to give you more information
- Seek help and support to resolve any underlying issue(s)
- Co-operate with the school about their behaviour. Arrange for regular reports to update you on your child’s progress.
- Ensure that your child apologises to everyone who was affected by their behaviour Set positive goals for your child, praise them when they achieve these and reward good behaviour.
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. Schools acting alone cannot guarantee success and it is important that parents and schools work together. Act immediately if you suspect a child is being bullied.
- Be alert to the possibility of bullying and of the warning signs that may indicate that a child is being bullied (Link to examples)
- Listen to the child and ask them what they would like to do
- Reassure the child and be there for them
- Keep a record of things that are giving rise to concern; include dates and times
- Keep the child informed of any action you decide must be taken and explain your reasons for the action
- Don’t show anger; the child might think you are angry with them
- Be pro-active with the school – ask to see their anti-bullying policy
- Act promptly, before the problem gets too big
- Talk to your child about how to be assertive and the difference between assertiveness and aggression.
If another child is being bullied:
If a child tells you about a friend or another child who is being bullied, listen carefully and take this seriously. That child may not be able to say for themselves what is happening. Schools do not have a responsibility for dealing with bullying that happens outside school, even if it is between pupils who go to the same school. If the bullying is happening outside school, consider contacting the family of the child who is bullying and try to find a way to work together to sort it out. It is still important to talk to the teacher though – it might be that they can help (although they are not obliged to) or they might be aware of bullying behaviour that is also going on in school.
When talking to teachers, try to stay calm – the teacher may have no idea that your child is being bullied or may have heard conflicting accounts of an incident. Be specific about what has happened, take a note of what action the school intends to take, ask if there is anything you can do to help, and stay in touch with the school.
If you think your concerns are not being addressed then discuss your concerns with the headteacher or Chair of Governors.