Bullying is unacceptable behaviour, no matter if it happens physically at school, or online through social media. Part of what often makes bullying so bad is that the victims don’t tell their parents about it, and it gets very bad very quickly. In this article we’ll discuss some advice for you if you’re a parent concerned about your child being involved in bullying. You can also find more on how to keep your children safe from cyber bullying here.
Could Your Child Be A Bully?
No parent wants to believe their child is a bully. Believe it or not, being the parent of a bully can be almost as difficult as being the parent of a bully victim.
The fact is that most happy, well-balanced children don’t bully others. Bullies are often cowardly and may be lacking in self-confidence or self-esteem. What makes bullying different from just being mean is that the perpetrator is exerting their power over the victim. They think that by putting someone down, they’ll feel better about themselves, and that they might gain more respect from their peers.
What To Do If Your Child Is A Bully
If you find out your child has been bullying others, the first step (and possibly the most difficult!) is to accept that it’s happening. Not believing it and therefore not taking any action to stop it is just not on.
Your first instinct may be to yell and scream at your child, however often our first instincts as parents don’t exactly result in the most effective responses! Yes, your child needs to be informed in no uncertain terms that bullying is unacceptable in any way, shape or form. But it needs to go further than that.
Bullies Need Help
Bullies are often victims themselves. They may have been bullied by others before, so are now playing the role of the bully to stop themselves from being bullied. They may be desperately trying to get attention. They may be angry, or they may just not have any empathy for people who are different to them.
I don’t know your child, and every child is different. Different bullies may have different reasons for their behaviour. Your job as a parent is to find out their reason, and to help them through it.
Getting to the cause of the behaviour may not be the easiest thing to do, but it’s the only way to make it stop for good which need to happen sooner than later. Unfortunately little bullies turn into big bullies, who find themselves following a path through life that will only eventuate in trouble.
For more help on all aspects of keeping your children safe online, register for my next free information session here
Is Your Child Being Bullied?
It’s important that your children feel they can talk to you openly if they are being bullied. Many children don’t want their parents to know if it’s happening for various reasons – they may not want to upset you, they may not think you’ll be able to help them, or they may even think you’ll make it worse! If it’s happening online, they may fear you’ll remove their electronic devices from them – a fate worse than death!
What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied – Initially
When you become aware that your child is being bullied, it’s important you’re your initial response is appropriate. An initial appropriate response is “just right” – ie not too hot and not too cold.
The ‘Too Hot’ Response
A “too hot” response is where you start threatening to do things like marching into the school to demand an instant response from the principal, calling the local member of parliament, beating up the bully, yelling abuse at the bully’s parents (who may not even be aware it’s happening), and so on – you get the idea. This sort of response is likely to embarrass your child even more and may well make your child regret telling you about the bullying at all.
The ‘Too Cold’ Response
A “too cold” response is one where you almost dismiss the behaviour as nothing to worry about. You tell your child that obviously the bully doesn’t know them very well and just to ignore it. You might also share that message that everyone by now should realise is so untrue, the old “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” rubbish.
Getting It ‘Just Right’
The best initial response to bullying if your child is the victim is just to listen to them and comfort them. Don’t try to talk over the top of them; your child needs to be heard and you need to get as much information out of them as to exactly what’s going on as you can. Give your child a hug, and remind them of all of the wonderful qualities they possess. Talk about the options you have to deal with the bullying calmly, and promise to take action the next day.
Next Steps – Take Positive Action
If the bully is from your child’s school, then obviously the school needs to be made aware of it. They will have an anti-bullying policy, and hopefully they’ll take action to stop the behaviour (starting with calling in the bully and the bully’s parents for a discussion).
If you’re not happy with the school’s response and the bullying is quite bad, you may wish to get the police involved. Having a police officer put the fear of God into a bully may just be enough to make them stop.
If all else fails – you’ve reported the bullying to the school and the police and nothing has helped (which is hopefully unlikely), then it may be best to consider changing schools. Clearly this is a last resort – if anyone needs to change schools it should be the bully, not the victim. Your child hasn’t done anything wrong.
However think of it like this: you can take the high moral ground and refuse to change schools out of principle, or you can remove your child from an unhappy environment and introduce them to a new place where they can make a fresh start and be much happier. Life is short, and if there’s a way you can improve the quality of your child’s school life it’s definitely worth considering that as a serious option.
Bullying Isn’t Easy
Bullying is never easy or pleasant for anyone involved, and most of us would agree that the world would be a much better place if bullying could be stamped out for good. However, people are not perfect. For many life is not easy, and issues from home can easily affect children and make them behave in ways that are not okay.
The most important thing to do as a parent is to support your child, whether they’re a bully or being bullied. Bullies need help in some way to make them change their behaviour. Victims of bullying need to be surrounded by plenty of love and support from those who mean the most to them.