Many parents believe that bullying is simply a normal part of growing up and that it can actually be beneficial because it introduces children to the real world. To a degree there may be some truth in this but the problem is that all too often bullying can be severe and can lead to emotional difficulties for your child, or even to death or suicide. Here therefore are a few ways to tell whether your child is being bullied and some suggestions for what to do about it.
Most children will not simply come out and tell you if they are being bullied and so you are going to have to be on the lookout for the tell-tale signs.
The first sign is often that a child starts to look for excuses or invents ways to get out of going to school or certain activities, again usually, but not always, at school. At first it may be easy to counter this but, as time goes on, it will become clear that going to school or attending certain activities is an increasing problem for your child.
Another sign of bullying is when your child starts to have problems sleeping and concentrating. This can lead on to a child becoming irritable and depressed and even physically ill.
If you do spot the signs then you need to sit down with your child and talk carefully and sympathetically to find out just what is going on and to ascertain the full extent on the problem. Then, and only then, can you begin to deal with it.
Depending upon the severity of the situation and the degree of bullying involved your first line of attack might be to teach your teenager to deal with the problem himself and one of the best ways to do this is simply to avoid the bully altogether. For example, if the bully’s ‘territory’ is a particular corridor then simply get your child to change his route to avoid the bully altogether. This might seem like a strange piece of advice and one that avoids rather than confronts the problem, but it is sound advice for life in general. After all, if it is dangerous for an adult to walk a certain route going home from work because of drunks or muggers, then a perfectly sensible course is simply to go home by another route.
Your child should not however have to change his routine too drastically to avoid the bully and so there may be times when it is more appropriate to teach him to deal with the bully. Most bullies thrive on provoking a reaction and so the next line of defense is not to react when provoked but simply to walk away. The bully may call your child every name under the sun suggesting that he is ‘chicken’ but he will soon stop if he finds himself simply shouting his taunts at your child’s back as he walks away without a comment.
If neither of these tactics works, or the bullying is severe, then it is time to bring in help and that means involving the school. Schools have a responsibility to keep your child safe and, while many schools will adopt the attitude that bullying is a normal part of school life, they certainly have a duty to act to prevent bullying from escalating to the point at which it causes physical or emotional harm to a child in their care. You should therefore make the school aware of your concerns, preferably in writing, and should not only ask them to intervene but to inform you in writing of the steps they intend to take to sort the problem out and to ensure that it does not happen again.
One other very important thing to remember when it comes to helping your child to cope with bullying is that he must clearly understand that it is the bully who is in the wrong and that he is in no way inadequate and has done nothing wrong. Knowing that he is loved and helping him to restore his self-confidence is the key to teaching him to deal with the problem of bullying.