And what to do if it is happening in school
- Make an appointment to meet the teacher or class tutor / guidance counsellor depending on the school level) and the principal, preferably together. This is to formalise things. Follow up with a summary in writing. This will let them know that you are taking this seriously and that you expect the same of them.
- Ask for the school’s bullying policy, in writing. Ask if they have a buddy system. Suggest one if they don’t.
- Keep a written record of everything that your child reports, and photographs (screenshots) if appropriate. Ask your child to do the same if the child is old enough.
- While it can be very useful to approach the bully's parents, be careful. Remember that bullies learned how to bully from role models, but not necessarily a parent. If you are met with a hostile response to a reasonable question then you’ve probably learned something about where the other child learned to bully. So that route may not take you to a happy place.This is where the school might come in. Ideally, each set of parents and child need to meet with the school separately first, and preferably with a skilled counsellor/ therapist present.
- If there are weapons or sexual assault happening then involve the Gardaí.
First, for you and your child to do together:
And now for your child to practice:
Encourage your child to ignore the bully rather than retaliate. (Walk away, don’t answer the phone, don’t reply to that text, screenshot it, then block their number, email, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, whatever). Usually, the bullying tapers off immediately when the bully is ignored because a bully cannot work without a victim.
If your child is willing to actively approach the bully him/herself here is a framework that I’ve given to many kids (and adults actually) that is effective:
- Name what the bully has done. Be specific.(You told Laura that I broke her iPhone when it was you).
- Name how you feel about what they’ve done.(I’m upset by that, and angry. It’s not OK.)
- Name what you want them to do. (I want you to apologise to me and I want you to tell her it was you).
- Name a consequence of their behaviour. This is not a threat, it’s a consequence. The bully will learn what will happen if they choose choice to behave badly.(If you don’t do this I’ll take it further).
Teach your child about posture, eye contact and voicing. You may find that you find that challenging yourself. If that happens please feel OK about asking for help. Parenting will always trigger old hurts. It's normal.
Any effort that your child makes to help themselves should be rewarded. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture, but certainly a special treat.