Dealing with bullying is a skill all children need to develop – doing it for them and going into battle on their behalf as an adult (except in serious cases) denies the child the opportunity to practise their skills of communicating, being assertive, negotiating, collaborating, compromising, sharing and finding their own way forward. When approached by a child who says, “Chris is bullying me”, the response should be: “What do you want to do about it?” There are about six options available to any situation involving bullying (and that can be the challenge – deciding which one suits which bullying experience best) which you can discuss and practise with your son or daughter. Emphasise the non-appropriateness of the bullying behaviour, help them to be affronted and not a victim. This way you will empower them to act, rather than freeze them into submission.
1. Ignore it: the bullying might go away or stop of its own accord. It may have been a one off, an unkind remark made by someone who was having a bad day.
2. Ask them to stop: either the next time it happens, look them directly in the eye and say, “Please don’t say that, it is unkind/untrue/nasty etc etc” – or wait until there is a quiet moment and say to them privately, “Yesterday during break you called me Frog Face. I found that really unkind and rude. Please don’t do it again”. Practise with your child until they can say it assertively, meaningfully and confidently.
3. Write a note: If your child finds it too difficult, the offender is not easily spoken to or lives some way away, get them to write a note and check it makes these three major points:
- What happened
- How they felt about it
- What they want to happen now
4. Ask a witness to speak up: Often it is easier for a third party who witnessed the behaviour to have a word with the person doing the bullying. Your son or daughter asks that person to tell the person doing the bullying that their behaviour is unkind and hurtful.
5. Get a teacher to organise a meeting: This is a conversation where both parties are present and both can talk through what happened. It is not an “I’m sorry” situation where one apologises to the other. It is more restorative justice – let each speak their feelings.
6. Formal Complaint: your child does not want to do it themselves and feels it should be referred to the headteacher. Make notes with your child describing the incident(s) and let them take them to the head.
Bullying is behaviour that makes you feel sad, different, left out, angry or bad. It may be unkind, unfair, untrue and nasty. Unfortunately, it may also be true. The person being bullied may have red hair, be bad at football, be quick in class, wear glasses or be fat. However, we live in a society where we believe people should be treated with respect and consideration and that to say hurtful things is not right. So that kind of behaviour needs to be stopped and the person doing it told that it is wrong. So if this is happening to you, it is your right to say ‘please stop that’. Of course this is much more difficult to do than talk about doing. So think about these six possible alternatives:
Can you ignore it?
Can you ask them to stop?
Can you write a note to them asking them to stop?
Can you ask a friend who heard/saw it to ask them to stop?
Can you ask a teacher to organise a meeting with you and them so you can say what you feel and how it hurt/upset you, in a safe place?
Do you want to tell your headteacher so that adults can sort it out for you?
Discuss each of these options with a person you like and trust and practise doing and saying it and work out the possible consequences or fall-out of each one. Most of all, stand tall, think positive and don’t let them get you down!