Anti-Bullying: Change starts with us
Anti-Bullying Week: 11th-15th November 2019
Anti-bullying week is the 11th – 15th November with this year’s theme being “change starts with us”. The Anti-bullying alliance lead this incentive and explained that:
“Whether it is verbal, physical, online or in-person, bullying has a significant impact on a child’s life well in to adulthood. By making small, simple changes, we can break this cycle and create a safe environment for everyone. Because together, we can challenge bullying. Change starts with a conversation. It starts with checking in. It starts with work together.”
It is a collective responsibility to stop bullying – change can start as a small step such as supporting someone who is being bullied to not feel alone or to help them feel empowered.
It can be challenging to know that you have a child that is being bullied or hearing that your child is bullying others, but the fact remains that more than half of all children are involved – either as a perpetrator, victim or witness.
So what can we do to help support and prevent bullying?
- Listen without getting angry or upset. Make every effort to put your own feelings aside, sit down and actually listen to what your child is telling you. Tell them back what you have heard. You may paraphrase or bring out the ‘hot-points’. Ask your child how they want you or someone else to take this forward. You may have ideas or thoughts of what you want to happen but don’t take over or they will feel excluded from the decision making and could end up even more stressed/worried. This could cause them to withdraw and shut down.
- Reassure your child it’s not their fault. There’s still a stigma attached to bullying and some children feel they’ve brought it upon themselves. Remind them that many celebrities have been bullied too. Being bullied isn’t about being weak and being a bully isn’t about being strong.
- Sometimes people say nasty things because they want a certain reaction or to cause upset. What can help is giving out the impression of not being bothered; a protective shield. This is not easy but bullies are more likely to stop. Role-play bullying scenarios and practice responses. Talk about how our voices, bodies and faces send messages of communication just the same way words do.
- Don’t let the bullying dominate their life. Help your child develop new skills in new areas. This might mean encouraging them to join a club or activity like drama or self-defence. This builds confidence, helps keep the problem in perspective and offers a chance to make new friends.
- Ease up on pressure in other less-important areas like nagging about an untidy bedroom, putting the bins out, sullen behaviour.
Things to avoid:
- Don’t charge off demanding to see the head teacher, the bully or the bully’s parents. This is usually the very reaction children dread and can cause bullying to get worse.
- Never tell your child to hit or shout names back. It simply doesn’t solve the problem and, if your child is under-confident (and most bullied children are) then it just adds to their stress and anxiety.
- Never dismiss their experience: If your child has plucked up the courage to tell you about bullying, it’s crushing to be told to “sort it out yourself” or “it’s all part of growing up.”
- Don’t tell them to ignore it – as if it hasn’t happened. This teaches them that bullying has to be tolerated, rather than stopped – and sets them up for further bullying in the future.
Dealing with your feelings
You may feel anger, hurt, guilt, helplessness or fear. Your own memories of being a child may help you empathise and find solutions but they can also get in the way. Think about how you feel before reacting – or you may not be able to help as much as you want.
Be honest. Be prepared to admit that you don’t know something and offer to help find an answer by searching the internet, calling a helpline, asking their school or by visiting the library together.
Doing everyday tasks together provides ideal opportunities to chat casually about bullying but don’t expect a once-only message to stick: Research shows that around 40% of children, whose parents had talked to them about bullying, couldn’t recall what their parents had said.
Don’t be upset if your child wants to talk to other adults and friends about the problem. You, also, may find it helpful to discuss the matter confidentially with your friends – though preferably not with those whose children go to the same school.
Getting support from School
All schools are legally required to have an anti-bullying Policy. Many also offer different forms of peer support where certain children are trained in active listening or mediation skills to help bullied children. In secondary schools they may be called peer mentors, supporters, counsellors, listeners or mediators while in primary schools, they might be called friendship or playground buddies, playtime pals or peacemakers.
- Before you approach the school, list all the facts: what happened, who was involved, when it occurred, who witnessed it, anything your child did that may have provoked the incident, whether it was a one-off or series of events.
- Don’t arrive at the school unexpectedly: Make an appointment with the class teacher or head of year.
- Aim to work together with the school and make it clear that you are seeking the school’s help in finding a solution.
- Avoid accusing the school: Remember that teachers are usually the last to find out that bullying is happening at school. The sequence is “friends first, then parents, lastly schools”.
- Be patient: Allow the school time to deal with the problem but stay in touch with them and arrange a follow up meeting to see how the situation is being resolved.
What to do if things don’t improve
- Keep a bullying diary. Write down every incident as soon as possible after it happens. Include the date, what happened, who did it and who saw it.
- Include the effect on your child, whether your child told anyone and what they said or did and any later effects.
- Tell the school each time. Write down what they say or do and any effect their actions have.
- If your child is hurt, take photographs and see your doctor (and the police if the assault is serious).
- Schools have a variety of options for dealing with bullying. These range from a warning, seeing the bully’s parents and detention to internal exclusion within the school, fixed term exclusion and permanent exclusion.
- If you’re not satisfied with the school’s response, don’t give up or be made to feel like a timewaster or a troublemaker.
- Remember, unless you are home teaching, you face prosecution if you take your child out of school. If your child is too frightened or stressed to go, contact the LEA education welfare officer/social worker and ask them to intervene with the school.
Example Letter to the form teacher or head of year
I am writing to inform you that the bullying has escalated towards my child and would like to know what the next steps are for the bullying to be resolved.
It would be really helpful to arrange a meeting with you to discuss this situation and how we can get the bullying to stop at your earliest convenience.
Letter to the head teacher
I have been dealing with <name> over the bullying of my child <name> by <name>. Despite discussing this with the class teacher/head of year, the bullying is still going on.
Can you please let me know what your next steps will be and how this will be monitored? Can you also confirm whether you will be involving the family of the child who is bullying my child? Would it be possible for you to increase supervision at the time most of the bullying happens <at break/ in the playground/ in the corridor/ in the changing room>.
I would be grateful for a copy of your anti-bullying policy. Please put a copy of my complaint onto <name>’s file together with your written response.
Letter to the chair of governors
(You can get their name from the school office and send the letter to the school address).
I enclose a copy of a letter I sent to the head teacher of <> school on (date). Unfortunately, despite writing to the class teacher/head of year and the head teacher, my child <name> is still being bullied by <name>.
As you will see, I have asked the head what they can introduce to stop the bullying (I am not satisfied with their reply/ the bullying has continued). Please investigate my complaint and tell me what steps the governors intend to take to halt the bullying of my child.
As this matter is unresolved I’d like a copy of <name>’s school record to see what action has been taken on my earlier complaints. I understand that I will be asked to pay for photocopying.
I look forward to receiving your response.