How to respond to bullying

What is bullying?

In 2013, Childline received almost 8,000 calls and online contacts about bullying concerns. Bullying is very common. It can happen anywhere, but we don’t always see it or hear about it.

Bullying can include hurting another person’s feelings and undermining their confidence and self-esteem through words, actions or social exclusion. Generally, bullying is a repeated action.

As parents, we should remain vigilant about bullying. Show an interest in your child’s life. Ask how their day went and what they might have done. Talk about their friendships and ask how school is going for them.

If you are the parent of a child being bullied, you are probably feeling a number of things, including anger towards the person hurting your child, frustration at how this could have happened, and perhaps even helplessness if your child is not talking to you about it.

It is very important to let your child know that anyone who bullies you is in the wrong. Bullying continues if we stay silent about it and do not react positively. 

How can children respond to bullying?

Children can respond to bullying positively by:

  • Letting a trusted adult know what is happening.
  • Avoid fighting back physically. You may get hurt or even be considered a bully yourself.
  • Avoid responding to any bullying taunts. Bullies want a reaction, so by not giving them one the situation can be diffused.
  • Be assertive without getting aggressive or violent.

How can parents respond to bullying?

If you think your child is being bullied:

  • Keep calm and trust your instincts.
  • Be patient and wait for your child to feel confident enough to tell you what’s wrong. Let them know you want to listen to what they have to say, and you want to help.
  • Sit down and explore your child’s feelings about the incident. Help your child to develop options.
  • Decide if anyone needs to be contacted about the bullying concerns. You may have to contact the school so they can monitor the situation on school premises.

Bullies need support, too. By bullying others, the bully is letting us know something is not right for them. We should try to help them to express themselves in a more positive way. Everyone needs to be proactive in addressing this type of behaviour – schools, parents, loved ones and friends.

Remember, when we don’t take a positive response to bullying, we end up condoning the behaviour.

This article has been adapted from the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC),