“Bullying., Nobody wishes his or her child to be bullied. You shouldn’t have to put with it nor should your child”.
Sometimes it’s difficult to spot, because your son or daughter keeps it hidden from you but their distress is total. Bullying can be Physical, Verbal, Racial or Sexual. It happens at any age from pre-school to university. You must stop it early. Bullying can result in depression, low self esteem, shyness, poor academic achievements, isolation and even threatened or attempted suicide. Your child’s quality of life cannot be subject to the whim or brutality of another.
1 Forget the myths about bullying.
“I was bullied at school, it’s character building”- What sort of character do you want your child to become? Low self esteem? Depressed?
“They’ll just have to learn to stand up for themself” – children who tell you they have been bullied have reached the end of their tether. They are desperate for help.
“Tell them to hit back – harder”- In most cases bullies are bigger or tougher than their victims. Your child could get seriously hurt. “Calling names can’t hurt – Bruises from blows heal, name-calling can leave scars for life. “It’s just kids teasing” – Once teasing hurts it’s no longer ‘just fun’ and must stop.
2 Look for possible signs of bullying.
Children may be frightened of walking to or from school. They may try to change the usual route or not want to go on the school bus. They may beg you to drive them to school, be unwilling to go out, feel ill in the mornings or begin to do poorly in their school work. They may come home regularly with clothes or books destroyed or come home hungry (bully has stolen money for food or taken the packed lunch). They may become withdrawn, start stammering, have a lack of confidence or become distressed and anxious. At worse they may attempt or threaten suicide. They may cry themselves to sleep or have their possessions ‘go missing’, ask for money or start stealing money (to pay the bully). They may continually lose their ‘pocket money’ or allowance, have unexplained scratches, bruises or cuts and may begin to bully other children themselves!
They could also become aggressive and unreasonable and give improbable excuses to explain any of the above.
3 How you can Help Your Child
If you are worried ask your child directly. Bullied children are often frightened to tell an adult what is happening, so be prepared for your child to deny at first there is anything wrong.
Encourage your child by saying you are concerned and want to support them. Take what the child says seriously. Don’t promise to keep the bullying a secret but reassure your child that you will help them sort out the problem.
If your child is a perpetual victim and bullied wherever they go, perhaps they don’t know how to talk or play with other children. Help them develop social skills by role-playing. (Pretend you are another child and help your child work out acceptable approaches).
If you discover that your child is being bullied because of an obnoxious habit (picking their nose for example) help them change this behaviour.
Bullying damages self-confidence so rebuild it keep telling your child you love them very much and you are 100% on their side. Reassure them that the bullying is not their fault. Explain that reacting to bullies by crying or getting upset only encourages them. Victims should try not to react to bully’s taunts. If bullies cannot goad their victims into a response they soon get bored.
Practice assertiveness techniques such as saying ‘No’ very firmly and walking away from the bully. It’s hard for a bully to bully, if the victim doesn’t get upset and just walks away. Help your child think up replies to taunts, it helps to have a reply prepared.
Try and minimise the opportunities for bullying i.e. don’t carry valuable possessions, don’t be the last person in the changing rooms, stay with a group even if they are not your friends.
If the bully threatens your child to get money or possessions tell them to give up what the bully wants. Keeping safe is more important than keeping things.
Make time to encourage your child to say how they feel. Praise them frequently. Make opportunities for your child to do well i.e. let them help with house/garden/car and praise them. Give them responsibilities – it helps them feel valued. Sometimes victims become withdrawn so invite other children round. At first just one at a time and arrange outings.
Encourage your child to join groups where there is strong adult supervision.
Encourage them to develop a hobby or sport.
Encourage them to do things they are good at – this will help confidence.
And of course, when they are young read anti-bullying material together, so they can read about themselves in an assertive role, dealing positively with bullying and gaining confidence by knowing the rules they can follow to protect themselves.
4 How to Approach the School.
When you learn that your child is being bullied, keep a diary of incidents and make notes of all injuries with photographs and details of doctor/hospital visits. Additionally keep a note of everyone you speak to about the bullying and keep copies of letters you write. When talking to staff try not to be aggressive, lose your temper, or shout and swear.
5 Progressive Positive Steps To Take Over School Bullying.
Class Teacher- Contact the class teacher and request a meeting and ask for an investigation. Make a follow up appointment a week later to find out the result.
Head Teacher- If your child is still being bullied, go and see the Head Teacher. Write out a short list of points you want answered and ask to see a copy of the school anti-bullying policy.
Board of Governors- If the bullying still continues contact the Board of Governors. Threaten Police involvement if there is no action.
Police- In cases of assault/theft (your child has been attacked, or has his/her property stolen), then report this to the POLICE even if the bully is under 10. Ask the police to make out a charge sheet. Getting the police involved frightens the bully and makes the school react quickly.
Local Government- wherever you live there will be a local authority that licences schools – write to them. Your letter must begin:
“I am writing to make a formal complaint”.
Member of Parliament- If the matter is not dealt with to your satisfaction then contact your local representative. Remember that despite their self-importance these people are paid to help us.
Another School or Home Education- As a last resort move your child to another school or teach them from home.
DO NOT LET THEM FOB YOU OFF with lame excuses.
DO NOT LET THEM BLAME YOUR CHILD – it is not the victims fault if your child’s education is suffering. You have the right to say that you believe the school is failing in it’s duty of care.
KEEP TAKING ACTION UNTIL YOU GET THE JUSTICE YOU DESERVE FOR YOUR CHILD.
6 What Can the School Do?
If the school has an anti-bullying policy they must deal with bullying according to that document. Even if they don’t have such a written policy, all schools are expected to take the problem seriously. They must investigate the incidents and interview bullies and victims SEPERATELY.
They must also interview witnesses then decide the appropriate action along the lines of-
Obtain apology from bully to victim,
Impose sanctions against bully,
Inform bully’s parents,
Insist on return of items taken,
Insist bullies compensate victims,
Hold discussions about bullying,
Provide safe haven for victims during school hours,
Provide support teacher for victim,
Encourage bully to change his/her behaviour,
Hold meetings with victim’s family to report progress,
Inform all members of staff about incident,
Keep a written record of incident and action taken.
7 Community Bullying
Community bullying can be very hard to deal with especially if the bully (ies) parents won’t intervene. Here are some suggestions for dealing with this problem.
Keep a written record of all incidents and all the people you talk to about the situation. Find out who is doing the bullying. If it is children from another school, contact that school and ask them what they intend to do about it.
Try having a quite word with the bully’s parents. (Beware they will go on the defensive). If they are neighbours and don’t respond, complain to Tenants / Residents / Association / Neighbourhood Watch or whatever relevant Association is in your area.
Work closely with your child on one of our Anti Bullying Parent coaching programmes for self-assertiveness, self-image, and Relationships.
Ensure your child maintains their self-defence/martial arts training – not to turn your child into an oriental Mike Tyson but to give them support, more confidence and make some friends. The first thing they may want to do is pack up their training believing they should have sorted it out themselves doing KARATE, not realising that Karate will help in many more ways than fighting.
Talk to youth leaders who may know the children involved. Involve your child in groups that do not involve the bullies, play schemes, youth groups, and sports clubs.
Seek advice from local religious leaders.
Inform police, talk to your Community Officer and ask for help.
Talk to witnesses of the bullying – they may be prepared to back you up.
If possible video or photograph incidents.
Bullies often stop when they think their actions are being recorded.
All physical assaults should be reported to the police. Insist the police make a charge sheet as it makes the victim feel better and deters the attacker. Take pictures of all incidents and keep a record of medical treatment. Assaults are a CRIMINAL offence you can prosecute.
Do not stand for it!
I hope this has given you a greater insight into discovering and dealing with bullying, clarity is power. This letter may seem very hard hitting however remember, the greatest gift you can give your child is the gift of CONFIDENCE. NO ONE has the right to steal that away from your child as without it, there is little they can do.
Try the hardest you can to never let your child stop training in some form of martial arts until they leave school.
If you are worried about bullying and would like to discuss it further, please do not hesitate to call me.
Together, Everyone Achieves More.
Dedicated to your child’s personal development, always.
Please copy this letter and pass it on to anyone you know who has children, thank you.
Steve Rowe 7th Dan
Shi Kon Martial Arts