Bullied at School

What to do if your Child is Being Bullied at School?

4 June 2023
Posted by: Chelsea

The thought that their child is being bullied at school is a frightening one for almost all parents.

Is a Child Being Bullied at School?

There are things you can do though to stop it – and fast.

Symptoms

Many children will be extremely reluctant to tell their parents that they’re being bullied at school. That may be for many reasons including:

  • shame that they’re a victim and seemingly unable to protect themselves;
  • being worried their parents will see them as some sort of ‘failure’ for becoming a victim;
  • a fear of retribution from the bullying child if they ‘tell tales’;
  • peer group ridicule and teachers not believing them.

Fortunately, in pre and primary schools, serious bullying is rare under the age of 7 and often it’s very difficult to be sure it is a systematic thing, as opposed to the everyday scraps that younger children will inevitably get involved in.

However, even though most modern schools have strict zero-tolerance bullying policies in place, this great evil is unlikely to ever go away entirely and may rear its head as children get to the 8-9 age group and approach puberty and their teenage years.

Things to look for in your child as possible symptoms of bullying at school might include:

  • a reluctance to leave for school in the morning and a reticence to discuss the day when they get home;
  • visible unhappiness Monday-Friday;
  • inexplicable bruises, torn clothes, missing money or other possessions, ripped books etc.;
  • a reluctance to get involved in extra-school activities;
  • comments from teachers that your child’s behaviour has changed, with them now being more withdrawn in class.

Origins

There is a vast amount of literature on this subject (being bullied at school) but unfortunately, it is still not clear why some children become attracted to bullying. Some speculative causes have covered:

  • children who live in a household where hierarchical violence (e.g., from older siblings) is commonplace and regarded as ‘normal’;
  • some bullies may be suffering from one of several possible behavioural conditions and ideally, should be helped accordingly;
  • it is recognised that some genetic legacies may predispose children towards violence (e.g., having a short temper or seeking out victims). Such children may also be unable or find it difficult, to demonstrate empathy with others;
  • being brought up in a family culture which has a very different value system towards respect for others.

Much early bullying isn’t systematic or indicative of real malice. It can also arise from children trying to explore the limits of their ability to control what is going on around them. Some perpetrators go through a fairly short-lived bullying phase which they rapidly and spontaneously grow out of.

What can be done

The first thing you must do is discuss your concerns with your child. Remember, there may be many non-bullying problems that might be causing some of the symptoms you’ve noticed.

It’s best to avoid putting words into their mouth. Stay calm and supportive, and ask them some gently probing questions while stressing you’re able to help.

If you feel being bullied at school may be an issue;

  • inform your child that you will have a quiet and private chat with whoever is in charge of their school. Stress this will not be in normal time and there is no chance that other children will see you going in;
  • arrange for that meeting. All schools will be willing to comply with your request for a discussion and at a time where privacy is assured;
  • give the school’s professionals your perceptions and what you have obtained from your child. Ask if they have noticed any behavioural changes at their end;
  • all schools will have an anti-bullying process which they will then invoke. The details of that may vary slightly depending upon the circumstances but you should ensure you’re comfortable with it;
  • be prepared for the school asking questions of you and your child to verify your child’s claims. They must be certain that they’re acting legitimately and in an unbiased fashion – that is not a question of them failing to believe your child’s reports;
  • the school should then make clear to you what steps they have taken to avoid any such repetition.

Never seek to ‘have it out’ directly with the perpetrating child or their parents. Such confrontations can easily spiral out of control. By contrast, teachers have special training to help deal with these situations.

Involving the authorities

It is very rare but in some cases being bullied at school, what your child tells you may require contact with the police or other authorities. That might apply if:

  • the bullying has involved serious physical assault resulting in non-trivial physical injuries;
  • any sort of weapon has been used or threatened;
  • there has been a systematic attempt to coerce your child into committing a crime, such as helping to commit violence on others, stealing money or goods from you or shops etc.;
  • the bullying involves pressure to use drugs;
  • there has been any form of sexual assault.

Your local police community support personnel will be happy to offer advice should any of the above be the situation you’re facing.

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