Kids are often cruel to one another (and sometimes to their parents) and some adults say it's part and parcel of childhood. It's not: bullying is behaviour that in the adult world would often be regarded as criminal, and children who bully others need to be made aware that their behaviour is unacceptable.
What does bullying involve?
- Physical abuse – hitting, pushing, kicking, hair-pulling
- Verbal abuse – spreading untrue stories, calling names, unpleasant teasing
- Emotional abuse – cutting people off, tormenting, humiliating, using homophobic or racist language towards them
- Cyber abuse – cruel and threatening text messaging, sending scary or upsetting photos or posting them on websites, spreading rumours online
- Keep a log of any incidents that happen and make sure that you follow up any meetings with the school with a written letter. That way everyone is clear about exactly what is happening and when it happened. AJ2008
- Form a plan of action that your child agrees with. Children worry a lot that parents contacting the head could make things worse. Maybe start with a few self-help ideas that might be worth trying before getting other adults involved. Pointydog
- Contact the police, even if your child is not keen. My son hated that we contacted the police and was terrified of reprisals, but I was not prepared to sit back and see him come home in such a state every day. Wilts
- Would your child consider taking up a new hobby, such as drama or martial arts? Great for building self-confidence, and for meeting children from other backgrounds ie not just school mates. VioletBaudelaire
Children who are bullied often become anxious, depressed, don't want to go to school, achieve poorly and become socially isolated.
It's a very serious, and unpleasant problem, as one Mumsnetter describes:
"Tuesday night he was hit very hard with his own scooter, pushed to the ground, piled on by three lads and then had his face rubbed in the soil. One lad jumped on his back and simulated sex, saying repeatedly that 'I'm gonna rape you'. Then they pulled his trousers down when he tried to get away. At school, one of the lads makes little comments, winds my son up and he is also 'teased' a lot by other kids." TheMitsubishiWarrioress
Bullying affects children in both primary and secondary school. If you suspect it's happening to your child, you can:
- Talk to your child about it. Make it clear that you take the problem extremely seriously. Don't agree to keep it a secret: explain to your child that bullying is behaviour that would be criminal if it involved grown-ups and that it's crucial to stop it – for other kids as well as for your own.
- Talk to your child's teacher and/or head. Ask to look at your school's anti-bullying policy, and ensure the steps outlined are being followed for your child.
- Help your child devise strategies for how to cope if there's trouble.
- Encourage friendships with other children in your child's class. Have more friends round for tea, do all you can to get your child invited to other houses.
- In extreme cases, don't rule out getting the police involved, especially as serious bullying is likely to be taking place off as well as on school premises. Several Mumsnetters have reported helpful action from the police.
Bullying isn't always someone else's kids – you might find your own child is involved in cruelty to a classmate. If so, act fast – this is totally unacceptable behaviour and your child needs to be clear on that.
Admit, atone, apologise: your child needs to acknowledge what has happened, to understand it has been hurtful and harmful, and to say sorry for it.
Break the pattern: try to work out when bullying happens and what situations provoke your child so you can remove him from them or help him to get through them without resorting to horrible behaviour.
"I was really shocked when I was telephoned by school regarding my daughter and her behaviour. She was part of a group of girls and one of them had been increasingly left out of things or ignored. I think it had started as a bit of fun but had got out of hand. The school had dealt with it and we reinforced the message at home - that the behaviour was unpleasant and unacceptable and there was no excuse and no discussion. She was a bit subdued for a few days, as were the others in the group, but within a week it was all over and they were friends again." MrsWobble
Finally, do keep believing that even though bullying is an awful thing to be dealing with when it affects your family, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"A year later and he has no more problems, is house captain and generally happy at school. There was a lingering issue around a hurtful nickname, which one of them invented, but I asked him yesterday and even that doesn't seem to be a problem now. He doesn't yet seem to have a best friend yet but he does seem happy at school now." Christywhisty