Many parents worry about bullying during their child’s years at school. In any situation where a group of people are expected to spend long periods of time in each other’s company, it is inevitable that they won’t always get along.

Many parents worry about bullying during their child’s years at school. In any situation where a group of people are expected to spend long periods of time in each other’s company, it is inevitable that they won’t always get along.

Most children will experience a mixture of positive and negative feelings towards their peers throughout their primary education. It’s unlikely that they will enjoy the company of everyone in their class and while they should recognise that they do not need to be friends with everyone, it is an important life skill to be able to work alongside people you might not always agree with.

Disagreement and ‘falling out’ are part of life, and sometimes this means someone’s feelings are hurt. Learning how to deal with this is part of growing up and both schools and parents can help teach the skills children need to make this process less painful.

Defining ‘bullying’

Bullying is not the same as ‘falling out’ or being unintentionally hurt through teasing, disagreements or accidental actions.

The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) defines bullying as:

‘The repetitive, intentional hurting of one person by another(s), where the relationship involves an imbalance of power.’

Sometimes it can be difficult to judge whether something is bullying or not, but a good school will do everything they can to spot signs of bullying early on and stop it from taking place.

Your child’s school will have their own definition of bullying and it’s important that your child understands this (although they may not know the exact words) This definition should have been shared with parents and with other people in the school community such as governors.

If you suspect your child is being bullied it might be helpful to ask the following questions:

  •     Has this happened before?
  •     If it has happened before, how often does it happen?
  •     Do you think the person intended to hurt you?

Causes of bullying

There are many causes of bullying. It can stem from prejudice related to a person’s appearance, religious beliefs or culture but is often because the bully hasn’t experienced care, love and kindness themselves, so has feelings of anger or frustration. These feelings can sometimes be expressed by treating others in a hostile way. People who feel inadequate or rejected sometimes bully others to make themselves feel powerful to compensate for these feelings.
Whatever the causes however, bullying is never acceptable and must be dealt with. Schools are required to record and report incidents of racist bullying. A racist incident is defined as any situation perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.

Types of bullying

There are many different types of bullying, including:

  •     Physical bullying
  •     Verbal bullying
  •     Cyber bullying
  •     Psychological bullying and excluding people

All these types of bullying can be equally upsetting for the child but different skills might be employed to deal with each different type of bullying. More information about this can be seen in the ‘dealing with bullying in the long term’ section.  

Spotting signs of bullying in your child

You know your child better than anyone, so you are likely to know if something isn’t quite right with them. Signs to look for are:

  •     Moodiness
  •     Being unusually quiet
  •     Tearfulness
  •     Complaints of illness, such as stomach upsets or headaches
  •     Aggressiveness
  •     Significant changes in their personality
  •     Insomnia
  •     Changes in eating habits

Talking about your child’s school day is an important part of family life. It allows your child to express their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses. It helps with family communication and gives you the opportunity to support your child if they are having any difficulties in school, and you’re more likely to spot signs of bullying early.

Dealing with bullying in the short term

While every parent wants to protect their child, and will understandably be distressed if they suspect their child is being bullied, it is important to stay calm to assess the situation. By staying calm your child will be reassured that things can be resolved. If incidents of bullying are handled well it can help children to develop confidence, honesty, kindness and empathy.

Your child’s teacher will normally be the first person you should talk to. It is always best to make an appointment to discuss your concerns after school so that both you, and the teacher, are not rushed and can talk openly. It might help to prepare for this meeting by writing down the details of any incidents your child has reported. However it is equally important to try and remain objective. Remember your child’s teacher is trying their best to balance the needs of around 30 children in their class, and it is not always able to see everything that takes place during the school day.

If you are unhappy with the way in which the class teacher handles the situation and the bullying continues, you may wish to arrange a meeting with the Headteacher.  Every school should have an Anti-Bullying Policy which sets out how they will deal with any occurrences of bullying, and you are entitled to ask for a copy of this.

If you and your child feel you need more support than the school has offered, the Anti Bullying Alliance has an extensive website with advice and support www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/

Kidscape also offers a helpline for parents of children who have been bullied, and are a good source of support. Tel: 02077303300