Bullying is such a difficult topic for parents and kids alike. Many parents feel that they need to ‘sort out the bully’ or some even bury their head in the sand and hope the problem goes away. Much of this is due to parents not knowing how to deal with bullying, especially when your child is being accused of bullying.
Your child being bullied is one of the most worrying aspects of bringing up kids. It’s a very real issue and can be very difficult for parents to deal with. There are many possible forms of bullying and sometimes your children might not even be aware that they are being bullied.
One of the best things you can do is work with you child to develop strategies for them to deal with the issue themselves. By empowering your kids to tackle the issue, you will be arming your child with invaluable skills, not only for life, but also for preventing them from being bullied in the future.
We’ve put together some of the most effective tips that you can give to your kids to help them deal with bullying in as positive way as possible:
- Encourage your child to show confidence. Even if they are not confident on the inside, they can pretend. This is something you could role play with your child to let them see how it feels to portray confidence.
- Don’t fight back/name call the bully, this might well have the opposite effect and put your child in even more danger.
- Walk away but don’t run. Your child can just say “leave me alone” and walk away and find an adult. Don’t run as this may just encourage the bully to chase your child.
- Let you child know that it’s very important that they tell you what’s happened. This can be difficult for your child, especially if they have been warned not to tell anyone.
- Ask what they want to do about the situation and how they would like it handled. This will encourage them to think about how they have the ability to overcome the situation, but with your support.
- Encourage your child to make friends. Children who have friends are less likely to be singled out by bullies. Introduce them to new activities where they can make new friends and build positive peer relationships.
- Teach them what bullying actually is. Let them know the different types of bullying and not to accept it, even if it’s their friends who are bullying others.
These are just some tips that can discuss with your child. The big thing is to have the discussion, even if you don’t think it’s a major issue. If your child has awareness of what bullying is they will see it and with open communication will be more likely to speak to you about what might be going on for them.
(Check out www.webmd.com for more information and useful tips)
What if your child is the bully?
I think it is fair to say that parents worry about their child being bullied BUT when parents discover that their child is the “bully” they are often shocked and defensive.
So my first point here is to control your own reactions. If a parent, the school or a youth club contacts you to say that your child is bullying another child you need to stay calm and listen to what they have to say. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. You need to let them know that you are open to working with them to find a solution.
Take it seriously. You may not want to believe it. You may not want to believe that your child could behave in that way. But you need to deal with it.
Take a balanced approach. Sometimes parents will be embarrassed. Others might even be faintly proud that their child is a strong and dominant character. Both reactions are normal human reactions but either way, you still need to deal with this situation.
Listen to what is being said, gather the information and prepare yourself to talk to your child about it.
Talk to your child and be ready to listen.
Ask them about bullying, find out if they truly understand what they are doing:
- Talk to them about what bullying is: being nasty, excluding others from games, laughing at people for being clever (or not clever) or for looking different, sharing negative messages on social media, not standing up for others, making others feel worthless.
- Sometimes, by having this conversation you will discover that a child doesn’t understand what they are doing. But they will recognise their behaviour through the conversation and will be genuinely remorseful at the notion of hurting others.
The next step is to ask them about the incidents that were mentioned to you.
- Again, you need to control your reactions. Don’t get angry. Don’t drag them down to the Garda Station to scare them. But you do need them to understand that this is serious. Remind them that you still love them but that you are going to work together to fix this.
- Keep listening to them. If this behaviour is totally out of character you might find that they are doing it as a reaction to something that happened to them. Perhaps they experienced bullying in the past and this is their new defence mechanism.
- Role play the situation with them as it might have happened in the past so that they act out the incident. Now that you understand the incident, reverse roles where your child is the victim of bullying. Talk to them about how it feels to have been on the receiving end. Then role play it with a different ending, without the negative behaviour and ask your child to explain how they might handle it differently in future.
- Make it clear that you will be returning to talk to your child about this again to see how they are getting on and remind them that they can come and talk to you about it any time.
- Don’t label your child a “bully”. This can have lifelong implications. Let them know that just because they have bullied in the past does not mean that they will be a bully forever and that they have the power to control how they behave.
Bullying is a worry for everyone and we need to take positive action for our kids whether they are being bullied or are the bully.