If your child has any form of special need or difficulty then *he is more likely to be bullied than any other child.
This is harsh to read. But true.
What is bullying?
Now take a look at what bullying actually is. This is really hard to comprehend but it is happening.
- Verbal – name calling, insults, teasing
- Social – playing nasty jokes, spreading rumours, excluding socially, mimicking, discouraging others to be friends
- Cyber – sending nasty and untruthful texts, messages, images
- Physical – hitting, pushing, kicking, pinching, damaging property
Why do children bully?
It is worth having some sense of why some children feel the need to be a bully.
They themselves may feel powerless in a difficult home situation. They may have be being bullied themselves and so they are passing it down the pecking order. It is easy to intimidate someone you consider to be weaker.
A bully may have low-self esteem and so the power of leading a gang of bullies is enticing. This makes them feel accepted and gets some admiration or adulation from a group of so-called friends.
A bully may have some difficulty reading emotions and may not have a perception of how the victim feels. They may also have pent-up anger and frustration due to their own difficult circumstances.
None of this excuses bullying behaviour. But it is worth taking time to understand the source of such damaging behaviour.
But I really want to turn my attention to the victim of this. Possibly your child. Your child who already finds life difficult. Finds social situations tricky. Family life is chaotic and challenging. Add into the mix any sort of bullying may make life very hard indeed.
Before I go on, it is worth noting that our children do have arguments, rows and fall out with each other. This is usual behaviour which needs no intervention. Bullying is far more serious and can cause long-term damage.
Spot the signs
Children may withdraw, become moody, or show a change in appetite.
Look out for unexplained cuts, scratches or bruises. They might have missing or damaged clothes or possessions. You child may complain of headaches and tummy aches.
Your child may withdraw from peer groups and will want to be alone more than usual.
Watch to see if your child spends more time online but appears to be sad and anxious afterward. Also take note if your child has trouble sleeping, pleads to stay home from school, or withdraws from activities they once loved.
What to do
Create at atmosphere at home where you talk.
This can be sideways talking (whilst walking or driving) or informally when you’re occupied with another activity (cooking or playing). Or it may suit your child if it’s formally at a table. Whatever suits your child best. Whatever is going on, try and make time everyday to focus on your child in a positive way. If this is a usual practice, then it is during this time that he may come up with a worry or concern.
Avoid closed questions
This means try not to ask questions that will get a one word answer like ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Instead use expressions like; ‘tell me the best thing that happened today’. Or start of with a statement about something you’ve done ‘My lunch was so delicious as I found a creamy cheese. What was your lunch like?’.
These kind of conversations can open up the way for your child to explain something that is not going well for him.
If you really suspect bullying, and your child is not opening up through subversive methods as described above, then it is time to ask directly. Are you be being bullied? Do you feel unhappy? Is there something going on that you’d like to tell me? Although he may resist, you’ve opened up the possibility of him unburdening his worries with you. For the sake of our children’s mental health, we must keep lines of communication open.
If your child lets you know that they’re being bullied the first thing you do is praise them for letting you know. It is a huge thing to admit and it will take a lot of emotional strength. It is vital that the teachers know about this bullying. Even if it cyber bullying which takes place at home, the school will want to know if it is affecting how a child is feeling. Make sure it is taken seriously. Your child will feel a huge sense of relief that you are now battling on his behalf. Email the SENCO so there is a paper trail and ask for a meeting.
Expectations of the school
Schools are busy places with lots going on. But do not be fobbed off. Ask for an investigation to take place. There needs to be a whole school approach to bullying and the consequences. Request if there has been Staff Training and what procedures are out in place. Ask to see the Bullying Policy and investigate if it takes account of special needs. Also, it is worth noting if your child has attempted to report this to his teacher before and what, if anything, was done. If needed, involve the Chair of Governors. The values of kindness and friendship should form part of the curriculum.
Request how much training staff receive concerning your child’s difficulty. Is there specific training on autism, speech and language difficulties, ADHD or dyslexia? If the staff have a better understanding, then perhaps there will better procedures in place to counteract bullying.
Playtimes are unstructured and this may be where bullying takes place. There must be plenty of adults on duty keeping a watchful eye. Your child needs a known adult they can go to. There could be a ‘Circle Of Friends’ or a ‘Buddy Bench’. He could be allowed to bring in activities that he can do during break outside such as colouring. The bully needs to be withdrawn rather the bullied child. Could the school set up a nurture group during lunchtime for the children who find the playground challenging.
Develop their feeling of self-worth
If your child has a great sense of self-worth then the actions of a bully will hurt less. Don’t dismiss the hurtful actions. Acknowledge that bullying is disgusting and unacceptable but give your child a sense of amazing self-love. Read a previous blog Why Our Children Need Fabulous Self-Esteem
Encourage your child to walk tall and not to be intimidated. Role play scenarios to help develop social skills. Use puppets and cartoons. Give your child phrases and tone of voice to use to encourage friendships as well as to stand up to the bully.
*I use the pronoun ‘he’ for ease of reading. But I realise that ‘she’ is equally appropriate.
i hope that all helps. This is a massive problem. And we must take it seriously.