In this blog I am going to describe a 10-step plan to tackle bullying.
1. Work Closely with your Child’s School Sooner Rather than Later
The sooner you can start working with the school to stop your child being bullied the better. This may seem like an obvious thing to say but bullying is often a contentious issue and in the short term it can feel easier to put off dealing with it in the hope that the problem resolves itself. This rarely happens, so in the interest of your child’s self-esteem, confidence and enjoyment of school and learning arrange to meet with their teacher as soon as you become aware that there is a problem.
2. Short, Medium and Long-term plan
Make sure that your meeting with the teacher is not a ‘one off’. Bullying is not a problem that can be resolved with one conversation, either with the teacher or the children involved. A clear and consistently implemented plan of action is needed for the short, medium and longer term and arrangements need to be made to review this on a regular basis to ensure that it is effective.
3. Be a Team
Make sure that your child knows that they are not dealing with the bullying on their own but that this is a problem that the whole family and their teachers are going to tackle together. Knowing that they are part of a team will help your child feel safe, secure and confident to go into school. Back this up with daily Pow Wows to review how the day has been and to deal with any ‘incidents’.
4. Role Play
During your daily Pow Wows review incidents of bullying, work together to devise alternative strategies that your child could have used and then role play these, with you playing your child’s part first and your child playing the part of the bully. Then swap parts so that your child can rehearse the strategies. This approach will help your child to build up a set of skills for dealing with tricky interpersonal interactions both now and in the future.
5. Plan B
During your daily Pow Wows help your child to start developing Plan Bs in order to create some distance between themselves and child that is bullying them, this is especially important if this child is part of their friendship group. For example, help them to think about other children they could play with at playtime or other interests that they could develop in order to broaden their friendship group.
6. Understand Why Another Child Might Bully Them
Children have a tendency to personalise what goes on in their environment e.g. ‘I am bullied because I am not very nice’. It is an important life lesson to learn that what other people say and do tells us something about them and not an awful lot about us at all. This is because we are all so internally focused. Help your child to understand that when people are unkind to others it is because they do not feel very happy in themselves, think with them about the possibility that maybe the child that is bullying them is struggling with something difficult outside of school and that when they come to school they bring that negative energy with them. This of course does not make the unkindness ok, but it will help your child to understand that what is going on is not a reflection on them and their value, an awareness of this fact will help to protect their self-esteem.
7. Don’t Be Discouraged
Don’t be discouraged if your child isn’t instantly positive or even reassured by these techniques. It is hard to be positive when we are feeling anxious and sad. Allow them to freely express their thoughts about your suggestions however pessimistic and persevere with calmness and consistency. Your child is listening and learning, even if they are unable to come up with any of their own ideas and appears to be dismissing every suggestion you make.
8. Secret Code
Some children feel unable to tell a teacher when a bullying incident occurs. This is understandable as you need to feel safe and confident to communicate and if you are being bullied these are the last things you are feeling. It is however far more effective if teachers can deal with an incident as soon as it occurs so create a secret code that your child can use to allow the nominated teacher know that there is a problem. For example, they could carry a small object from home in their pocket and leave it on the teacher’s desk when they have been bullied.
9. Life Lesson
Being bullied is an extremely unpleasant experience and you wouldn’t wish it on anyone, particularly a child. However, it is possible to turn a negative experience that sits uncomfortably in your child’s past into something that teaches them some valuable skills for life. Bear this in mind when you see your child struggling day to day with this problem and use it to keep yourself calm and confident that together you will be able to resolve things.
10. Look After Yourself
I hinted in No 9 that as the parent your attitude towards bullying, especially your confidence that together you, your child and their school can resolve it, is incredibly important. You are the single most important influence on your child and the development of their self-esteem and confidence. To be a positive influence you must make sure that you identify your own feelings about bullying and whatever issues from your past it raises and deal with them away from your child.
For additional support and advice contact a member of our experienced team of Clinical and Counselling Psychologist at The British CBT & Counselling Service.