You’ve just settled down to a cup of tea before the school pick up run, when that phone call comes one afternoon from the School Office. You know, the one which makes your heart sink and your mind suddenly race a thousand light years ahead. Your daughter was caught picking on someone and bullying her and the Head Teacher needs to see you. Will she spend her life friendless, feared and despised?  Will all the other parents forever brand her as “not suitable”? Then there’s the future. What if she continued? Youth offender units even ASBOs. Your tea is cold by now. You’ve gone into overdrive and you’re thinking irrationally.

STOP!  Dial back a few minutes. Take a deep breath.  She’s eleven. Hardly out of primary school.  This must be solvable.  The lady from the School Office said she’d been caught bullying. There has to be a reason why this happened. Is it your fault? Did you fail to do something? Your polite little girl. They have to be wrong. Don’t they? But if they ARE right you realise that you’re her main hope.  You need to support her yet show her how wrong she is, find out what’s happened and somehow mend it.  You swallow hard and head to the school.

You mentally set the stop watch going. Your battle to change the future for your child starts now.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts.

DO resolve to support the school in their policy on bullying even though your child has started down the path as one of the problems. Show them that you support their zero tolerance by asking to work with them and have follow up meetings.

DON’T go in all guns blazing saying that your child is the victim here and she can’t possibly be a bully. Listen to what they have to say. If there are any doubts then ask if they can investigate more.

DON’T assume the school “has it in for your child” – a common refusing to listen to what really happened because you are in denial and want to blame the school.

DO accept any plan which has been decided upon such as detention or suspension and explain it to your child calmly so that your child knows you won’t tolerate bullying in any form either.

DO talk to your child.  Calmly.  When you get home you might feel like shouting at her and making her feel bad about it but that rarely works in the long term.  It’s a short term victory. For you. She on the other hand will be dreading your reaction.  Above everything she won’t want to disappoint you. And she’ll be scared even if she doesn’t show it.  So BE disappointed, not angry.

DO explain the effect the bullying will have on your daughter’s victim. Even if it’s a minor incident emphasise how being a bully will affect how your child feels in the short and long term about themselves. Explain that she has no right to make anyone else feel bad or be hurt because of her.  That making others happy is much nicer than making them unhappy.  Point out how she will be viewed by others, as not stronger but in fact weaker and won’t be liked.  Show her that you love her but that for her own sake she has to stop.

If you have any instances to hand, give her an example of any bullying you encountered at school.  Hearing about a parent who was bullied themselves or were in fact a bully and hated it can work miracles.

DO support your child and try to find out if there are any underlying problems which has caused this behaviour.  She may have something to tell you that has happened which the school doesn’t know about and needs to, such as a child being constantly mean to your child or bullying her. This might be a cry for help.  Perhaps underlying the bullying is a child who is stressed about something but who is lashing out instead at others.  Try to find out if her self-esteem is low or if she is finding a particular subject difficult.  Bad behaviour can be a cover for fear.

Most of all. DON’T panic.

GUIDE them. (life is a mine field.  You’re experienced, they are not. Take their hands & guide through whatever happens, including any bad behaviour. Once you take the reins and steer them you have a good chance of getting them back on the right path )

RELATE to them. (whatever they are going through support them and understand them)

EDUCATE them. (Children are like sponges.  They absorb everything, including what you tell them. If what you tell them makes more sense than absorbing someone else’s bad behaviour then you’re winning this battle)

ACCEPT them, not their behaviour. (You shouldn’t accept their bad behaviour at all but your child needs you to accept and understand them for who they are so that you can help them change any bad behaviour)

TALK with them (Communicate. Communicate.  Talk WITH them, not AT them. A child who talks with their parents regularly develops confidence and feels secure whatever is happening in their world)

Remember your child always has been and still is GREAT but they are not going to be a bully, not if you have anything to do with it.

Julia Hague

3rd May 2016

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