Managing relationship challenges with a little mediation

It is hard to understand the true impact of bullying unless you have been subjected to it yourself.


If you feel bullied it can create feelings of loneliness, especially if others do not see what is happening. A look, snide comment or remark is all that is needed to bring back negative feelings and emotions, but you know that to others it looks and sounds harmless.

I would always encourage my children to try ignoring or talking about the problem first, but if they find that things are not getting any better, then use the system. Unfortunately this does not always work, especially if your child’s school does not really understand how to tackle the problem. Moving schools is an option but not one I would look to take straight away. Sometimes your child just needs support to get themselves in the right head space.

Bullying is harder to tackle than general peer pressure, as it is personal in nature, and latches onto and exploits a person’s insecurities.


Bullying can take many different forms.

Physical bullying is easier to sanction, due to its more visible effects. Any unwanted physical contact is assault, a criminal matter which may be better addressed by police. Children who do lash out, or get into fights, are often mirroring behaviour they have seen somewhere, or been subjected to at home. By involving statutory agencies, help and support can be provided to the family to address anger management or other issues they may be struggling with.


Mental/psychological bullying is harder to deal with as it causes hidden wounds. A look which one person may just shrug off could cut like a knife of ice in the one being bullied. The best way of strengthening our children against this is to work on self-esteem through the use of positive self-talk.


Explaining to your child how bullying works can help. Pre-teens may not be bullying others consciously, they may just lack the full set of social skills needed to relay their message in a kind way.


How do you tell someone you just do not want to hang around with them anymore without hurting their feelings?

THINK by Alan Redpath Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

It can be really hard for our children to know how to deal with a ‘cling on,’ a person who they just do not feel connected to, but who will not go away. Ignoring the person, or picking on them in some way, will usually drive them off, which equals success in the eyes of those trying to get rid, but for the child who feels they have no friends, it can be a sole crushing experience. In these types of situations there are often hidden stories, but children don’t have the knowledge or experience to look for them. Using mediation is a great tool to help these stories to be shared and for relationships to be renegotiated.


I was in a situation like above, I admit that my group were not nice to the other girl, because we wanted her to go and mix with other people. It was not until later on that we learnt that the person’s parents were going through a break up at the time, which was why the girl was not allowed to join in with weekend events, and why they were more clingy than usual.


When a child is trying to comprehend a traumatic experience they will look for support wherever they can find it. Unfortunately, other 12-year-olds are not usually in a position to provide sound parenting advice!

If a child is bullying others then it is a potential insight into their problems. If a child does not trust other people, they are going to struggle to get on with others throughout their lives. They would truly benefit from being asked the question ‘how come?’


The bully may not have the answer but it would show them that others recognise that they may have challenges that they are trying to deal with. A child who feels neglected, has been sexually abused or lives with parents who are abusive and violent, needs more love than most others. However, when they are choosing to pick on your child, it is not going to be easy to be understanding.


BEATING BULLIES ONE STEP AT A TIME


Level 1: Focus on your child, give them your time and attention, rather than worry about sorting out the other person.


Step 1: Regular conversations



Talk to your child EVEY DAY, discuss what is going well and not so well. Encourage them to talk about any situations which have caused them feelings of surprise or discomfort recently, especially if caused by another person.


Don’t judge them when they share, just listen. You can ask them ‘Who come?’ if you want to explore their response, but at this stage don’t look to give advice.



Step 2: Discuss different scenarios

Talk about different scenarios and situations they may find themselves in and discuss possible responses and outcomes. The aim is to build your child’s emotional toolbox. With coaching your child should be able to sort out their own issues.

e.g.

“If you were to be offered drugs, what do you think you would say?”

“Do you think you would give the same answer if they were bigger than you, and threatened a friend?”

“What do you think you could do instead?”


Step 3: Targeted conversations



If you identify an issue which could be bothering more than just your child, or a group seems to be involved, then the school or other parents may be able to help address it. A talk given to the whole school may increase the awareness of the impact of certain behaviours on others. Making other parents aware of your child’s sensibilities means they can discuss things with their children if needed.

At this level you are not looking to label, just indicate a warning that behaviours are having a wider impact than others may realise.





Level 2: If your usually confident and talkative child is not themselves, then others may need to be involved.

At this level there is a need to raise awareness in others that there is a relationship problem which needs addressing.


Step 1: Call an informal meeting

Talk to those who work with your child, see if they can arrange for mediation, so the two children can sort the issue out themselves, with guidance. When you only hear from


one side you can find yourself making assumptions. Our children do not always treat everyone else fairly or even nicely, and before any issue can be properly addressed it is good practice to find out the other side of the story. Maybe the other child felt they had a good reason to act the way they did. It is very easy as a parent to become defensive when you feel your child is being labelled in a negative way, therefore it is important to be clear that there is no blame being apportioned at this time. This is about raising awareness of the issue and giving an opportunity for everyone to address it in an adult way. Once a situation is out in the open things can quieten down on their own; however, remember to talk to your child about what to do in the future if things continue.



If you find it hard to remain impartial then it would pay to use a mediator, or other person you trust.


Step 2: Targeted intervention

Training may be needed to address the problem, especially if the issue is being caused by inability rather than intent. Some children lack social skills and knowledge because they have not been properly t


aught. Schools are starting to recognise the importance of teaching emotional literacy along with other everyday subjects.

Maybe the parent of the other child is not aware of their child’s actions. Especially if the poor behaviour has been taking place over social media.



LEVEL 3: This level of intervention is disruptive and tends to force people to take sides, the fact that a problem exists becomes common knowledge. There is a demand for action to be taken.




Step 1: Make a formal complaint

This is where most disciplinary procedures begin. At this point schools find themselves working with policies which are focused on finding out who is at fault. This puts both sides on the defensive, reducing willingness to accept any other outcome than the one they are fighting for.




Step 2: Take control

You may decide to move your child to another school, as you cannot control the actions of another. If there is a child who is not getting the support and help they need to change, then this may be the only option. Like moving jobs, you need to do the best for your child and the family.



The mediation process can be used with your own children.

The rules

Take turns to talk – listen when others are talking



Tell me what happened – not what you think of the other person

The promises

I won’t take sides – I will be fair

I won’t tell you what to do – I will help you find your own solutions

The process

Take it in turns to ask each person the questions below, in order. Repeating back to them what they said, so the other person hears it.


Can you tell me your side of the story?

How do you feel about the probl


em?

What can you do to help solve the problem?


If there is some finger pointing in their answers, ignore it, and focus on the core message you need the other side to hear. If they get too far off track, just remind them of the rules. If they can’t agree on what happened, move on to how they feel about the situation, and get them to agree on a way to help


them feel better about each other, rather than try and solve the original ‘he, said, she said’, issue.

e.g.

Simon can you tell me your side of the story?

“We were playing ball when Paul threw it really hard and it went over the neighbours fence. Then he told me to get it, and I said no”


So you were playing ball, and it went over the fence into the neighbours garden?

“Yes”



Paul can you tell me your side of the story?

“We were playing ball, and I did throw it over the fence, but only because Simon had thrown it really hard at me and I was throwing it hard back and he stepped to the side so it went over.”


So the ball went into the neighbours garden.

“Yes”


Simon, how do you feel about the problem?

“I feel annoyed that we can’t play anymore, because the ball has gone, and I think Paul should go get it, as he threw it.”


Ok, so you are feeling annoyed and disappointed because you can’t keep playing?

‘Yes”




Paul, how do you feel about the problem?

“I’m annoyed too, if Simon hadn’t thrown it so hard and moved at the last minute, it wouldn’t have gone over.”


So you are feeling annoyed too.



“Yes”


So you are both feeling annoyed and possibly disappointed because the game is currently over, what do you think you can do to help solve this problem?

“Simone should go get the ball”

“Paul should go get the ball”


Ok, so you both agree that someone needs to ask for the ball back, but I think we need some more ideas.

“We could both go and ask for the ball back.”

“I guess we could go together.”



So you both agree to going together to get the ball back?

“Yes”

“Yes”



Thank you both for being willing to talk about the problem and for coming up with a sensible solution. I’m proud of you both.




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