It’s Part 2 of our school related #LifeSchool (Part 1 is here, and Renting #LifeSchool is here for housing issues), and this time I’ll tackle tips on dealing with every parent’s worst nightmare- bullying.
IS IT BULLYING OR JUST A LITTLE TEASING?
All school’s now have Bullying policies in place- gone are the days of being picked on day in and day out and being told to toughen up by a disinterested teacher- but sometimes we can be too quick to worry that what our child is experiencing is at the worst end of the school spectrum.
We’ve all done it- the minute we have tears at home regards a school incident, bullying is such a buzzword that we immediately worry that a gang of tiny terrors are scaring our cherub to distraction.
However, sometimes it can be a simple case of teasing which has been taken the wrong way by our child. I should know, if Mini gets tagged during “it” and can’t catch someone, she immediately feels victimised. Don’t let your child’s anxiety cause anxiety to you.
First things first, sit them down, ask them exactly what has happened, and what situation they were in at the time. Then, reassure them that everyone finds school hard sometimes, and perhaps what they feel is a massive upset is worth taking a deep breath over and not worrying too much about. Use positives from their everyday, their friendship groups, clubs, or good work they have been praised for recently.
To a child, any form of slight can seem like the end of the world, as they are growing and learning who they are and what their place is in the world. Our job is not to get upset with them, but to always be positive.
APPROACHING THE SCHOOL- BE POLITE, BUT FIRM
If it turns out to be more serious than a simple case of falling out at lunchtime over a game, and it is more of an ongoing, targeted situation, it’s time to get smart.
Make a note of names, times and incidents. Has your child come home with a physical mark? Log it, and photograph it.
It seems extreme, but in the current climate, school’s hands are tied with regards removing problem children. The more evidence you can bring them of the effects this child or children’s behavior is having, the better it will be.
Speak with other parents in the class, don’t be OTT but just calmly ask as to how their child is getting on and had they mentioned any problems in class or at lunchtime. Some parent’s can be nervous of speaking out about bullying, hoping it will resolve itself, or their child may not have mentioned it due to being upset by it. By asking after their child’s well being, you may expose a wider issue within a year group or school.
This happened recently to Mini with a boy and his sister, who it turned out were well known to other parent’s for being a little too fond of pushing, shoving and punching. Knowing that it was far from just Mini experiencing issues certainly helped me when speaking to the school.
If you can see a pattern emerging, for instance, is this bullying happening at Lunchtime, or during a certain class, and if so, who over sees the children at that time, make sure to point this out to the school. In our case, we found most of the incidents happened at Lunchtime, so we were able to mention that in class, Mini’s teacher is great, but the lunch time staff were falling short. That way, you can compliment where the school are doing well, whilst pointing out where they are weak.
It may be the case that you are approached by a fellow parent who is experiencing a troubling amount of worry over bullying. A great idea in this case is to support each other and encourage them to keep the same incidents log as you, and then go together to the school- if they can see that more than one of you has a specific concern about a child’s behavior, it’s harder to fob you off!
FOBBED OFF BY THE SCHOOL? THERE’S OTHER’S YOU CAN CONTACT
Just like any other situation where you feel your first point of contact has fallen short, when faced with a disinterested or slow to act school you can always go to someone higher up.
Do you know who your Parent Governors are? Parent Governors are there to represent the interests of the parents at the school and can, where possible, attend a meeting with you regards school issues. If you can, speak with them first, and they may be happy to bring up your concern at their next meeting.
If this doesn’t work, the Local Authority are available just by calling up the local council that controls your school.
They will ask if you have made a complaint to the school, and, if you have followed my advice above and the school has done little or nothing, will raise this issue for you. They will want to know why the school has ignored your concerns, or what action they have taken, whether it’s successful or not.
They have the power to over ride the school, so this is another place where detailed logs of incidents, photos of marks and names of who you have reported them to are handy to have.
Or, before this, do you know the pupil’s parents? Its not the 70s, so don’t go pulling hair and recreating a boxing match on the jungle gym, perhaps, calmly, speak with them about the issue. Some parent’s will be mortified and deal with their child’s behavior at home, simply by taking them aside and making them aware of it.
REMEMBER- BULLIES HAVE NEEDS TOO
It can be hard to, when your child is coming home bruised emotionally and even physically, but do avoid talking to the child who is at fault.
Understand though, that there are reasons why this child behaves how they do. Are they victimised at home so come to school angry and resentful? Yes, they shouldn’t take it out on your child, but imagine how hard it must be to feel small at home.
One bully at our last school, when asked why he was so rotten to his entire class to the point of having no friends, told his Headteacher it was due to him never having a nice coat, or parent’s who came to watch him in the class assembly. A simple case of jealousy brought on by his surroundings meant his year group were routinely terrorised.
Of course, some children are just inclined to be the bossy boots and have no reason to be nasty, but remember, just like your child is finding their feet, so is this child, and hopefully, with time and the intervention of the school, they can find a way of standing out that doesn’t entail punching, kicking and generally being mean to everyone in their eye line.
Try and reinforce positiveness at home, and let them know that it will pass. Teach them to be more proactive in standing up for themselves and advise them to try and avoid the child involved where possible. I have always taught Mini and Littlest that you should never hit someone back, but that rather they should walk away, calmly and not show fear, as usually this is exactly what the bully will want to achieve.
Always tell them to tell a teacher or adult straight away, again, in a calm measured way, as it may not seem like it to your child but school’s do log incidents and do, when necessary, speak to the parent’s involved.
CHILD ACCUSED OF BULLYING? WHAT TO DO NEXT
Of course, you can be told your child is bullying, and that creates problems of it’s own.
Its not nice to hear, but you’re not with them all day at school so there may be issues you aren’t aware of.
Set aside some quiet time with the child, and ask them how school is. Keep calm, it can be tempting to get cross due to embarrassment, but this is exactly the opposite of what the child needs.
Get their side- are they fairly being called a bully, or is it a case of a misunderstanding? Are they being pressured to misbehave by other children?
Ask them why they feel their behavior is fine, and make them aware of the upset they have caused the other child. They may not even be aware that they have caused upset.
Be supportive if there is something worrying them which is at the heart of them acting out. Ask the school for support where possible, and, if they have been falsely accused, stand up for them.
Understand that children lack self awareness, but with guidance, even the most naughty of children can improve- after all, bullies are seldom the happiest child and miss out on activities as a result of their unpopularity.
IT GETS BETTER IN TIME!
I like to think school is preparation for life, and not just in an academic sense. I was bullied at a time when the word was seldom used, and, if anything, my years of school based hell has made me determined never to be treated that way again. I have grown from it and your child can too, with the right intervention from you as their parent.
If they are having a tough time at school, don’t dwell on it at home, and don’t use it as an excuse for bad behavior at home. Don’t let them miss school as that will only put them at a disadvantage educationally.
Try and make them more positive and happy- invite friends for tea, or make time for lots of hugs after school.