Childcare Family Parenting

School yard fiends: how to deal with bullies

Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Worried that your child is exposed to bullying? Find out how to brave the challenge.

Physical assault, name-calling, taunting and cyberbullying: school yards can be a cruel place for children of any age. It’s no surprise that many parents feel overwhelmed when they suspect their child is a victim of bullying. What do you do? Who do you call?

Consequently, some resort to ignoring the problem altogether. But this approach may make the situation worse than it needs to be with your child at potentially serious risk of emotional damage. We’ve gathered some of the most useful advice to deal with a child being bullied at school.

Teach your child to speak up

Nobody likes to own up to being bullied. Children often feel ashamed, as though they’re too weak when they’re being victimised. Encourage your children to realise that it’s perfectly alright to speak out and to approach grown-ups when something is out of order. That way, you’ll know immediately when something is the matter that needs to be addressed.

Listen to your children

Just as important as encouraging children to speak up is listening to what they are saying. Be open, supportive but neutral. If you react too strongly they may become afraid that they’re upsetting you with the news. Also, don’t place the responsibility with your child; there’s no excuse for what is happening. Finding reasons why they are bringing it on themselves isn’t helpful.

Be careful when approaching the bully or the bully’s family

It may seem like a logical first step, but do try to avoid fighting your child’s battles for them. While you may stop the short-term effects, solving their problems for them may be detrimental to their self-esteem and teach them the lesson that you’ll always be around when something goes wrong. Instead, encourage dialogue and alternative steps.

Teach your child how to react

The reason bullies target certain children is because they can get a certain reaction from their victims. By teaching your children to be more resilient, not to take everything to heart, or even to react with a witty comeback, you’ll be making your child more bully-proof than with any other method. Consider role-playing to try to create a situation as life-like as possible.

Get third-party support

If things still don’t improve after these steps, consider talking to teachers at the school. Schools have the responsibility to keep bullying from happening, so if the situation can’t be resolved easily, teachers should be the first people to talk to. They might have alternative ways of dealing with the situation and will know both your child and the bully well enough to approach them effectively.

Of course, bullying can exist in many forms and shapes. It can range from light forms that will pass quickly to absolutely horrendous experiences. Each case will need to be addressed in a different way. If you’re unsure, speak to professionals and take other possibilities into account, like teachers or therapists.

Online resources like Bullying UK could also be helpful. The only thing you can be sure in such a situation is this: it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Just remember that you and your children are not alone in the situation.