Bullying is likely to affect your child during some part of their young lives.
In fact, Government-funded research showed that one in four students will encounter bullying during their school years.
Yet the frequency with which bullying occurs doesn’t diminish the significance of its impact.
And as heartbreaking as it can be when your own child is the victim of bullying, learning that they may be the perpetrator can be an even bitterer pill to swallow.
But when it comes to bullying — on whichever side of the coin — it’s important to address the issues at hand, as soon as possible.
So what should we consider when we think our own child may be the bully?
There are a number of hurdles you will have to deal with.
To start with, it’s important to get — and accept — the facts that are available.
If a teacher or impartial caretaker has contacted you with their concerns, they probably have a legitimate reason for doing so.
If another parent contacts you: be open, receptive and non-judgemental.
Ideally, they will behave the same way.
But if they don’t — keep your cool! If your children are at conflict, having the parents arguing too will only exacerbate the situation.
Once you have the facts, you need to discuss the issue with your child.
Keep the following factors in mind when approaching this difficult conversation.
- Stay neutral.
Don’t be judgemental, or show any overt knowledge of the situation.
You want to make them feel comfortable talking with you openly and honestly.
If you act angry, stressed or disappointed, they won’t feel comfortable telling you exactly what has been happening or why.
- Be open and listen.
Encourage your child to talk, but don’t put words into their mouth or thoughts in their head.
In these situations, it is natural to want to believe that your child is wholly innocent.
But this can manifest itself in pre-empting their responses or starting or finishing their sentences…
This will not result in an honest account of the situation, and they will read your anxiousness and feel less comfortable opening up to you.
You don’t just want to know about their behaviour — you also want to understand their motivations.
- Be prepared.
The truth may be hard to hear.
But be ready for it, whether it’s ‘bad’ or ‘good’, and be sure you can offer support to your child either way.
Accepting that they may have been in the wrong will be difficult for them, and they’ll need to know that you are there to support them.
This does not mean fostering acceptance of bad behaviour.
If they have been the perpetrator of bullying, they will need to face the consequences.
This will be challenging, but they will be much more able to learn and grow from the experience if they know you will be there with them through it.
On the other hand, it is also possible that the situation has arisen from a misunderstanding, and your child has not behaved with problematic intentions.
Some children simply have strong personalities that can be read the wrong way, which is why it’s so important to get the facts straight up.
- Be proactive.
As much as you may want to, don’t ignore the situation and hope that it will go away.
Even if your child promises you that they will stop engaging in the problematic behaviour, they still need to face the up to what has already happened, and consider the impact it had on the other kids involved.
If the bullying happened on school grounds, work with their teacher before talking to the other child’s parents to try to resolve the issue.
They will have dealt with countless situations like it before, and will know the best way forward to get the best result for all involved.
Importantly, it’s worth noting that — particularly for primary school children —bullying usually occurs because of an underlying issue.
It’s not simply that bullies are nasty kids.
They may also be mimicking other people’s behaviour, particularly what they have witnessed at home.
So be mindful of how you act and communicate in front of your children, and try to see if there may be a correlation with the ways in which they’re acting out.
If you’re concerned about bullying involving your child, and need help to resolve it, call us for a consultation.