Whether it’s online, on the phone or in person – if you think your child might be the victim of bullying, here is some guidance from primary school teacher Eleanor Sapienza on how to deal with it…
Eleanor Sapienza on bullying
How do you know if your child’s being bullied – signs, changes in behaviour?
Bullying can be difficult to find out about and hard to define. The best way to tackle it is to develop a culture of conversation with your child and their teacher. Ask your child how their day was, if they start to become unresponsive or secretive ask their teacher for a meeting, either face to face or via phone.
Whoever is picking up your child should ask, wherever possible, how the child’s day has been, if there has been any particular issues that are concerning your child or their teacher, this will create a good relationship between home and school.
Children will often show changes in their behaviour if they are being bullied. They can become withdrawn, nervous, aggressive, violent and avoidant. To try and prevent a situation of bullying progressing to this, it is very important to educate your child that no one has the right to make them feel upset or uncomfortable over and over again and if this is to ever happen they must tell an adult they trust so they can help.
What is bullying?
The dictionary definition of bullying is ‘the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something.’
The way it is often explained to children in schools is a person or a group of people hurting you either on the inside or the outside over and over again. It does not need to be done face to face, bullying through the internet and mobile phones is a huge issue.
If you suspect that your child is being bullied as difficult as it is, it is best to let the school try and deal with it first
Bullying is not a child falling out with their friend or having a stand alone incident in the playground. It is very important that these types of incidents do not get confused with bullying.
Bullying is when unkind acts or words are intentionally being used repeatedly.
It is important to be aware that bullying does not just happen in school, it can happen at friend’s houses, after school clubs, in the park and at home.
Why do children bully other kids?
Bullying can be a learnt behaviour. Children are not born with the knowledge of how to be unkind or how to hit others. Often children observe or receive bullying behaviours in their home. No one explains to them that it is wrong or they can presume they are behaving normally.
Another reason is because of insecurity and by making someone else feel worse they in turn feel better. Jealousy can be another reason or wanting to be accepted by others. Whatever the reason, bullying is wrong and needs to dealt with.
What should you do about it?
If you suspect that your child is being bullied as difficult as it is, it is best to let the school try and deal with it first. If even after this the bullying is continuing then request a meeting with the school and the parents of the other children involved.
The school may not want to do this straight away and may want to speak to both families and their children separately. As frustrating as it can feel, you need to try and be patient as there may be situations that you are not aware of; you could put yourself or the children at further risk.
What if it’s not being dealt with properly?
If you feel it is not being dealt with properly and the problem is either continuing or getting worse then request another meeting with the headteacher and explain why you feel this. If this still isn’t getting you anywhere, approach the Chair of Governors or go through the official complaints procedures.
If it goes on and on, should you ever change schools?
Yes, definitely. If you feel your child’s wellbeing is not being protected, then why would you keep them there? Don’t do this until you feel every other avenue has been exhausted and make it clear to the management that if the problem continues you will be left with no choice but to withdraw your child from their school.
Are some children more likely to be targeted than others?
I think this depends on the culture that is created in a school or children’s facility. I worked in a school where there were two cases of bullying in five years. It was no different to any other inner city London school. However, it had a zero tolerance approach to bullying and was very good at taking the time to explain to children why we are different. However, in a school which is not so inclusive I suspect that more vulnerable children are more likely to be a target.
Children who spend a lot of time unattended on games consoles or playing online games are more likely to be victims of cyber bullying, which is now a huge issue. As is phone bullying. Technology has provided children with fantastic opportunities to communicate and explore the world virtually. However, the anonymity and screen barrier of it can make it even more appealing to some.
Photo credit: Lance Shields