By definition: “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.” Source
As a teacher, bullying concerns me greatly. As a parent, bullying terrifies me. Whilst bullying is not a new phenomenon by any means, the addition of technological tools into the bullying equation acts to provide a veil of perceived anonymity for the bully and an additional layer of attack against victims.
Bullying is not okay at any age, in any circumstances, or in any form. It is not “just a part of growing up” or “boys will be boys” or “girls can be so bitchy.” Children and adolescents do not need to toughen up and should not be expected to sort it out themselves.
Bullying requires adult intervention to make it stop.
If your child comes to you as a victim or as an observer of bullying, it is important to get involved and ACT for the sake of your own child and any others involved.
A.C.T. Ask. Communicate. Take notes.
A is for Ask
Consider – what is the likelihood that your child will come to you with a personal problem?’ If your relationship is good, how do you intend to keep it that way? Especially against the ever increasing influences of school, peers, and eventually, adolescent hormones. Working to keep the lines of communication between you and your child open is an important part of being a parent and one that needs you to keep changing tack as they grow and develop.
Read more: 8 Reasons to Listen to Your Child
It is important that you take your child’s disclosure of bullying seriously. Remain calm (at least on the outside) and ask questions to clarify the nature and extent of the bullying taking place. Ask;
- What sort of bullying is occurring?
Bullying generally falls into one of four categories – physical (damage to person or belongings), verbal (including teasing, name calling or offensive remarks), emotional (exclusion from a group, malicious rumours) or cyber (text message, photo or video, all online methods of communication).
- Ask for the facts: including specific details about dates, times, locations and the names of children involved.
- Ask how your child is feeling about the event/s and (moving forward) what they would like to see happen next.
Whether your child is a victim or a bystander/observer, it is important to involve your child in brainstorming possible solutions and to discuss what you will do next before acting further.
Keep checking in and talking to your child about the bullying situation. Encourage your child’s positive friendships as you do not want them to feel even more isolated or lonely than they already might.
Telling can be empowering for a victim. Depending upon the degree, duration and nature of the bullying and the personality of the child, professional counseling may be advisable to help your child or adolescent to work through their emotions.
C is for Communicate
As I have shared previously, it is important to act assertively but not aggressively, and with a solution-focused approach when tackling sensitive issues, like bullying, with school personnel.
You are your child’s #1 advocate. When reporting bullying to your school, remain calm, fair and respectful, and focus on the outcome that you need for your child. Talk to school staff and keep communicating until you are happy that your child’s right to a safe learning environment is being protected. Start with the classroom teacher but do not be afraid to also make time to speak with the deputy principal/head teacher or school principal if you feel that the situation is not being resolved in an appropriate or timely manner.
The school has a responsibility to take all reports of bullying seriously, responding within a reasonable time frame and in accordance with their policies and procedures for managing bullying, harassment and each child’s right to a safety. Provide the school with time to respond but be active in following up with them. Each school day can feel like a very long time in the life of a child, especially a child being bullied.
Should you feel that the school is not responding to resolve the situation in a timely manner, contact the education authority in your state for further advice and support. Bullying involving physical or sexual abuse should be immediately reported to the police.
T is for Take notes
We think we will remember all of the little details but it is important to note down details of any communications with your child about the bullying incidents. Be as specific as possible in terms of the details regarding;
- When – dates and times
- Where – locations
- Who – names of individuals involved
- What – details of what was said and what happened.
Depending upon the nature of the bullying, it is also important to keep any of the following should they be offensive in nature or contain information perceived as bullying;
- Hand written notes
- Text messages
- Screen shots
- Voice recordings from answering machines or mobile phone messages
This information can help to create a more specific picture of the extent of the bullying and is useful for reporting to school personnel or the authorities. Also take notes of all communications regarding your report of bullying between yourself and the school, noting who you met with, when, and the details of any agreed actions and time frames for completion.
We all pray that our children will not be involved in bullying but with Australian research finding that over one in four elementary and high school aged children have experienced bullying (source), parents must prepare themselves to act. Hopefully it is a preparation we will make but never need.
What advice would you add to this list for parents of children experiencing bullying?
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