Bullying in schools is a global challenge that impacts children, families and our education systems. While schools are predominantly responsible for addressing bullying, parents play an integral role in ensuring educators create a safe and caring school for everyone.
Parents also can empower their children with information, tools and strategies for dealing with bullying. It is naïve to believe that any school is free from bullies, so it’s essential to prepare our children to effectively address bullying.
As a starting point, parents can teach our children how to:
- be compassionate and kind to others
- get along with everyone
- deal with anger, frustration and stress
- stand up for themselves appropriately and effectively
These skills create a foundation for the future, helping kids learn leadership skills and develop a moral compass. Kids that learn these skills from an early age are better equipped for the many challenges they face at school and in life.
It goes without saying that parents are responsible from on-going monitoring and supervising of our children’s activities both inside and outside of school. Create an open dialogue with children, encouraging them to talk about what is happening at school, in their social media, on the bus, etc. When something goes wrong at school, children need to know they can turn to you for guidance and support.
Children are often reluctant to report bullying, or may not even recognize it. They commonly believe that if they report it:
- the bullying will get worse, in part of because their parents’ involvement
- the bully will retaliate
- they will be labelled as a snitch
- they will not be protected, no matter what parents do
- the bullying is their fault
Help children understand the importance of reporting bullying. Reporting is done to help keep someone safe. Explain the difference between “ratting” and “telling”. Tattling (also referred to as snitching or ratting) is reporting someone else's behaviour in order to get them in trouble. Telling is reporting the bully in order to help someone – themselves or someone else. Stress that reporting a bully is “telling” and the right thing to do.
Listening when children report bullying
Children will report bullying when they know you will listen and help. Carefully listen to your child to determine how best to respond. Consider the following questions:
- Is my child at risk of harm and, therefore needs my help/protection?
- What are all the facts and the school policies on bullying/harassment?
- Where can I go for help?
Determine your next steps
Parents must intervene when our children face safety risks or can’t function at school. The school has the primary responsibility to act on your child's safety concerns. Parents should ensure they have all the facts in order to determine the most effective intervention strategy. Your strategy will depend on whether your child is a victim or bystander. This article doesn’t address what parents can do if their child is the alleged bully or a victim of cyber bullying.
If your child is the victim
If you believe your child is in real danger (i.e. violence, threats, mobbing), make a report directly to your local police. It helps to have a written record of the incidents and your actions to solve the problem.
If there is no present danger, work with your child to find ways to deal with the problem. Remember, standing up to or directly confronting a bully may make things worse. Talk to your child about how the incident could be reported. Involve your child in the process and listen to their concerns.
Regardless, it is important to report it as soon as possible. Your child's teacher, guidance counsellor and/or principal should be able to work with you. Depending on the school policies, you may request:
- An immediate investigation and information about the process
- Protecting your child’s identity
- A plan of action to prevent further bullying/retribution
- Counselling for your child
- A transfer
When your child is the bystander
Students are often reluctant and fearful to step in when they see someone else being bullied. They legitimately worry the bully with turn on them if they get involved. Teach your children that bullying affects all kids at school. It is up to everyone to create safety at school. Silence only makes the problem worse. Encourage your children to report bullying and practice skills that will help them develop the confidence to speak up.
When a bystander reports bullying, make sure the same safeguards are in place for your child as for the victim. Parents may request the same actions as those described above for reporting a bully when your child is the victim.
Parents can take an active role in ensuring your children understand bullying, are comfortable speaking to you about their school challenges, appreciate the importance of reporting bullying and know that you will listen and guide them in positively resolving a bully problem. Be part of the movement to stop bullying in our children’s schools!