Bullying is not okay.
Bullying is a common behaviour problem with potentially serious ramifications such as health problems, depression, even suicide. Many schools have anti-bullying programmes and policies but the problem is still widespread.
Your children need to know that it is not okay for other children to hit, exclude or torment them. If a child mentions this kind of treatment, take their complaint seriously.
Telling victims to fight back or stand up for themselves, or “just ignore them and they’ll stop” is not good enough. If the bullying is ongoing, it requires intervention.
What are the signs?
If your child exhibits several of these behaviours, which are symptoms of bullying, then you need to take some action:
- scared to go to school
- feeling ill in the morning
- skipping school
- drop in academic performance
- taking a different route to school or asking you to take them
- going to school early or late
- “losing” belongings
- coming home with damaged property or losing property
- unexplained cuts, bruises or other injuries
- tearful when asked about school or playtime
- starting to bully others
- having nightmares, starting to stammer, become withdrawn or anxious
What can you do to help?
Be careful not to place any blame on your child. Ask her how she has tried to solve the problem and praise any efforts she has made. Encourage her to continue to talk to you – and other designated adults – about the problem. Share stories of other family members — perhaps yourself — having been bullied in the past, so she does not feel alone or that the problem is uniquely hers. Let her know you will help to make her safe.
Ascertain that she has tried to ignore the bully, asked him or her to stop, and walked away whenever the bullying starts.
If the bullying is occurring at school, seek more information from your child’s teacher, principal or counsellor and discuss ways to make your child safe. This may involve intervention, increased supervision or helping your child make more friends if he or she is isolated. Arrange a follow-up appointment to monitor progress.
Encourage good friendships with other children – bullies are more likely to pick on loners.
Changing schools can solve the problem, but sometimes can also transfer the same problem to a new, unfamiliar environment.
Mobile phone and email bullying
Today’s technology can give bullies a degree of anonymity, but parents and victims can take practical steps to prevent or halt this kind of bullying.
If the text or email bullying is threatening or frightening, it is illegal – complain to the police and/or the telephone/Internet provider company. Some calls and messages can be traced. Keep a record of all messages received, including time and date, to pass on to authorities.
Do not reply to abusive or bullying messages. Consider getting a new phone number or email address. Do not give out phone and email addresses too freely.
What if your child is the bully?
Encourage your child to tell you exactly what he or she did. Do not accept excuses or blaming others and remind your child it was their choice to bully. Discuss the way your child’s behaviour may have affected the victim. Talk about other ways your child could have handled the situation. Try to ascertain the reasons behind your child’s behaviour – to gain attention or power, for entertainment, to be left alone – and talk about other ways to achieve that aim. Consider consequences – warning, punishment, apology.
Encourage your child to join with other children to speak up when they see bullying.
Helpful Websites on Bullying
This website lists some sites that you might find useful: http://www.police.govt.nz/about-site/other-sites/no-bully-website