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Are bullies a back to school concern?

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

With your children returning to school, what is your main concern?

Is it what class they are in?

Or is it

Who they are in a class with?

I expect that both the above are on your mind, but the second one comes with the additional question, of what do I do if there is a bully in my kid’s class?

Bullying is an emotive word, this is because it can cause mental health issues such as depression, self-harm and at its worst, suicide. The impact of the emotional and psychological turmoil is now recognised and workplaces, as well as schools, are trying to address the problem. The challenge is how to stop, solve and sort out such issues before they turn into a bullying situation.

A lot of schools still focus on who was right and who was wrong, in a falling out situation, whereas our children really need to be taught how to handle relationship challenges, without resorting to pointing the finger. There are not many ‘true’ bullies, but there are a lot of very poorly managed conflict ridden relationships.

The first place your children will learn about conflict management is at home. How you and your partner talk to each other, cope with disagreements and deal with disappointment, will be watched avidly. If you have more than one child then there will be arguments and disagreements. Siblings will do what siblings do, annoy each other. They will give each other the look; walk past each other just that little too close for comfort, say mean things, and are usually happy to get the other into trouble. Conflict is a reality of life, the choice you have is how you react to, and manage it.

Our kids can quickly get into and out of relationship issues. Problems arise when parents get involved, as we think 'parent', want to protect our child from emotional harm, and take sides. What we should do is listen to the problem, provided different points of view, some coaching, and reassurance, and then your child can mend the relationship much more effectively.

What our kids need are strategies and support to cope with peer pressure.

It is no surprise that children can find it hard to say no to their friends, peers, or you?

You spend years telling children what to do, including putting in place sanctions if they say no to doing what is asked. You need to help teach them different ways of saying ‘no,’ in a way that people hear and understand.

How can your child say no, without saying no?

  • Get them to ask for time to consider a person’s suggestion

    • “I’ll let you know tomorrow.”

    • “I don’t want to say something now, and then change my mind later, let me have a think about it.”

  • Talk to their true friends/family, ones they trust others about the idea

    • “Do you think xxx is a good idea?”

    • “If you had the chance to xxx would you?”

  • Blame you, the parents. Let them save face by letting their friends know that the consequences are just not worth it.

    • “I’d love to, but my parents would kill me.”

    • “I want to say yes, but I know my folks would ground me for, like ever, so, sorry it’s a no.”

  • Let them lie if they feel they have to.

    • “Last time I tried that I was really sick, so I don’t want to try it again.”

    • “Sorry, we have a family thing on then.”

As an adult I still wrestle with the feeling that I may be letting someone down, or am offending them if I say no. It is especially hard if the only reason I am saying no is because I just do not want to do it, maybe I am being chicken! It is important to remember that there are many factors in place when you make a decision, you are making it on the information you have at the time. You use your heart and brain to make decisions, and at different times you are guided more by one than the other.

Let your child know that if the other child reacts with anger when they say 'no thanks', then this is not their fault. No one likes being shouted at, or to feel threatened, but this type of response usually means that the other child has not yet learnt how to deal with their disappointment. They may be used to getting their own way, which can cause them to act inappropriately; however, if your child is consistent in their response, then they will move on to another more quickly. If at any time the response is physical, then this is a criminal matter, and as such should be reported.

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