Bullying is a common enough word these days – but what does it actually mean? Although it is very common and can happen anywhere, we don’t always see or identify bullying soon enough. Generally, bullying refers to hurting another person’s feelings and undermining their confidence and self-esteem through words, actions or social exclusion. More often than not, bullying is a recurring action.
Bullying can take the form of physical or verbal behaviours, or can happen online. Physical bullying includes any physical contact that could hurt or injure a person. Verbal bullying often involves name-calling or making nasty remarks about a person, their friends, or their family. Cyber-bullying happens through texts, social media posts or other forms of digital communication.
As a parent, it is important to let your child know that anyone who bullies others is in the wrong. If a child experiences bullying, whether directly, as a bystander, or participates in bullying others, it is best to talk with a trusted adult, or a service such as Childline.
Should your child talk with you about bullying, it is a good idea to carefully explore their feelings about what happened. You may wish to contact their school about your concerns, so that teachers can help monitor the situation.
If you are the parent or carer of a child who is being bullied, you may be feeling a number of emotions: anger towards the person who is hurting your child, frustration as to how this could have happened, and perhaps even helplessness, particularly if your child does not want to talk with you about what is happening.
With technology developing quickly children are exposed to new forms of communication that can become channels for bullying. It is important that parents and children alike are aware of the risks, and are empowered to keep safe when using the internet or mobile phones.
If a child has been involved in bullying others, it is a signal they are experiencing difficulties in some area. These children and young people need support to express themselves more positively. Schools, parents, loved ones and friends can all help. It is worth bearing in mind that, when we don’t take a positive response to bullying, we end up condoning the behaviour.
Children and young people who belong to minority groups may be more acutely exposed to homophobic, racist, disablist, religious or other kinds of bullying. It is important that all children and young people know that nobody has the right to bully others for any reason and that support is always available for them should they encounter bullying in any form.
If you think your child is being bullied:
- Keep calm and trust your instincts.
- Be patient and wait until your child feels they want to talk with you about what is happening. You can help by letting them know you are there for them, and would like to help.
- Walk your child through the options they have in dealing with the situation.
- Decide if the school or anyone else should be contacted in relation to the bullying concerns.
If you are the parent of a child who is bullying others:
- Keep calm, and remember – this is your child’s way to signal you that they are having a hard time with something.
- Talk to your child about what might be wrong. Explore any worries or needs that might explain their negative bullying behaviours.
- Simply telling your child to stop might not be helpful. Bullying behaviours can sometimes be unintentional and your child may not realise the impact of their actions. Try having a conversation about what bullying is. as
- Building empathy is important. Explore how your child feels after they have bullied someone, and how the other child/children might feel.
- Be a good role model and remind your child that you love them and will be there to support them to change their behaviour.
This article was contributed by IPSCC, a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations.
Any child or young person can contact Childline by calling 1800 66 66 66 (24 hours a day), chatting online at Childline.ie (10am – 4am daily) or texting to 50101 (10am – 4am daily).