Bullying can take many forms, can affect children in a number of ways, and is much more common than most adults realise. Essentially, bullying involves trying to produce fear, damage someone’s self-image, or make someone do something they don’t want to do, by using threats.
I was bullied at school, but at the time I never realised what it was. As a child all I knew about bullying was that it involved being pushed, hit or kicked. I experienced something called ‘Indirect Bullying’. I was in a group of girls who persistently sniggered behind my back, never waited for me to walk home from school and spread rumours about me. It was a horrible time and I never told a soul. I started to hate going to school. I cried at home a great deal and my school work suffered because I couldn’t concentrate. I built up the strength after a few months to call one of the girls of the group and told her I would no longer call for her in the morning and would be walking to school with a new friend, which is what I did. They all ignored me for months and then eventually it was all forgotten and I found my school life improved greatly and it eventually worked out well. Schools now have more systems in place than years ago so that children have more opportunities to tell school staff about any problems they may experience with bullying.
To begin with, one of the first signs is that the child may be reluctant to attend their school and may become unhappy and distant. They may show a nervous anxiety, lose sleep and be poor eaters. There are three main types of bullying:
|This form of bullying involves||This form of bullying involves||This form of bullying involves|
|Pushing||Insulting behaviour||Spreading nasty stories about someone|
|Shoving||Name calling||Excluding someone from a group|
|Hitting||Making offensive remarks||Spreading nasty rumours about someone|
|Taking belongings||Internet bullying|
There may be physical signs such as bruises or cuts, or the child may be habitually losing money or items of clothing. They may also become slowly depressed and be reluctant to talk; perhaps becoming defensive when asked if there is a problem.
Bullying is often extremely disturbing to the child, and must be stopped straight away. It can make a child’s school work suffer. Why should a child have to go to school and spend five days a week in an environment that they are constantly unhappy with? In the more serious cases, it has been known for a child to take their own life, so schools need to have strict policies and procedures in place to protect pupils.
How can a child be supported if bullying is suspected?
All children have rights, including the right to a positive education within a safe and supportive environment. All staff members in a school should be made aware of the procedures that they should undertake regarding the schools anti-bullying policy. After an incident has been reported, it is beneficial for a trusted adult to talk to the child to assess their feelings. It’s encouraging also to ask the child to write down the incident or incidents if they feel too upset to talk. Being bullied can be a very emotional experience, as the child could be greatly distressed, so they need plenty of time and patience. The child must be ‘believed’ and never be made to feel that their descriptions are in anyway fabricated. “Providing reassurance that it is not their fault; no one deserves to be bullied”. (Kamen, 2011,57)
Appropriate sanctions should be implemented even to the point of exclusion if the bullying behaviour becomes persistent. The bully needs plenty of time to discuss the reasons for their behaviour and it needs to be emphasised that the bullying behaviour is destructive. It is a good idea for all classes within the school to have regular discussions with teachers concerning appropriate behaviour and the results of negative behaviour. Some schools have a system in place where older children are designated as ‘School buddies’. These are children who any pupil can approach with worries about bullying. Some children feel more comfortable talking with other children.
There are organisations in the UK that can provide help to young ones such as ‘Childline’, which states that “We are a free confidential support service who speaks to 1000’s of young people every day – you are not alone. Talk to us – we can help you with whatever you’re going through”. There are telephone numbers to call to speak to a counsellor, and an email option, with support available from other young people on their message boards. The organisation also states that “ many black and ethnic minority children in Britain endure blatant, unrelenting racist harassment and bullying on a daily basis” (Grosvenor, I. Matheson, D. 1999, 78)
Maybe your child’s school has activities that are focused on eradicating bullying. It is a good idea to find out what they do in this regard. If you feel your child’s school work is suffering, or you just have that ‘gut feeling’ that something’s not quite right (as parents we all feel this), be a listening ear to your child and give them support and get it stopped!!!
Kamen. T. (2011) TA’s handbook level 3, London: Hodder Education.
Matheson. D and Grosvenor. I. (1999) An Introduction to the Study of Education, London: David Fulton Publishers.