Bullying can be a traumatic experience and unfortunately continues to happen to many children (and adults!) of all ages. Bullying can have a detrimental effect to children’s mental health & emotional wellbeing & can affect their self-confidence and relationships with other children. Keeping lines of communication open with your child while recognising changes in their behaviour and mood can help you to recognise the signs of bullying early on. 

Bullying and Young Children

It is normal for young children to play happily with or alongside each other most of the time however sometimes young children find it difficult to understand feelings and these can present as temper tantrums towards other children however it is not helpful to label these incidents as bullying. Bullying issues generally present in children from 3 years old – 6 and upwards and often problems begin to present in nursery.

  • If you are worried about your young child’s behaviour speak to your health visitor / GP / childminder / nursery worker / teacher and ask their advice. Sorting out troubles with young children can often prevent bigger problems with older children.
  • Children may behave differently in different settings. Find out if your child’s behaviour changes with different groups of people and try and work out what might be causing that. You could try re-introducing a short daytime nap or having some quiet cuddly time sharing a story to calm your child if they are tired
  • Many children find routines reassuring so let them know who will be collecting them or looking after them each day of the week. Try and keep mealtimes and bedtimes at similar times of the day throughout the week. A calm bedtime routine is particularly helpful.
  • If your child is being picked on by other young children then alert the nursery or playschool. Try not to get angry or upset but show your child how sorting things out calmly can help to get a better result.
  • Talk with your child about their day and about things that have gone well and not so well. By talking calmly you gain your child’s trust and also help their language to develop so that they can learn how to express their frustrations more appropriately and learn how to deal with other children’s behaviour too. Reassure your child that you love them, no matter what happens.

What to do if your child is being bullied in School

If your child is being bullied there are things you can do to help them:

  • Listen to your child without getting angry or upset and hear what your child is actually telling you.
  • Don’t dominate the conversation with your feelings. Ask your child what they want you to do to help support them with this issue, rather than taking over. It is good for your child to feel that they have some control in deciding what to do next, otherwise they become more stressed and upset than they are already.
  • Reassure your child that it’s not their fault; some children will feel that they have brought this on themselves. Explain to them that being bullied isn’t about being weak and being a bully isn’t about being strong. Talk to your child about what exactly is happening and where it is happening and discuss how they can appear more confident. It is common that bullies say and do things to cause a reaction, so if you can encourage your child not to react to situations or appear not to care then it may de-escalate the situation.

Things to avoid

  • Don’t charge off demanding to see the headteacher, the bully or the bully’s parents. This is usually the very reaction children dread and, according to Child Line’s counsellors, can cause bullying to get worse.
  • Never encourage your child to hit or shout names back as this will not solve the problem and potentially only make the situation more inflamed.
  • Don’t make light of the situation. Your child has had to find the courage to tell you how someone else’s behaviour is making them feel and being told to ignore it makes it appear that this behaviour is normal and acceptable.
  • Be honest with your child and explain to them that you may not know what is the best thing to do and want to seek advice. It may be better to ask for support from others such as the school, depending on where the bullying is happening.
  • Don’t be upset if your child talks to other adults and friends about the problem. 

 Inform the school

All schools are legally required to have an anti-bullying policy, however before you go into see the school

  • List all the information about what happened, who was involved, when it occurred, who witnessed it, anything your child did that may have provoked the incident, whether it was a one-off or series of events.
  • Make an appointment with the class teacher or head of year.
  • Aim to work together with the school and make it clear that you are seeking the school’s help in finding a solution.
  • Avoid accusing the school: Remember that teachers are usually the last to find out that bullying is happening at school. The sequence is “friends first, then parents, lastly schools”.
  • Be patient: Allow the school time to deal with the problem. Stay in touch with them and arrange a follow-up meeting to see how the situation is being resolved.

What to do if things don’t improve

  • You and your child should continue to note incidents down and include dates, times, what happened, who did it and who saw it.  Include how the incidents have affected your child and whether your child told anyone at the time of the incident.
  • Continue to inform the school each time incidents occur and note down their responses and actions taken.
  • If your child is hurt, take photographs and see your doctor (and the police if the assault is serious.)
  • Schools have a variety of options for dealing with bullying. These range from a warning, seeing the bully’s parents and detention to internal exclusion within the school, fixed-term exclusion and permanent exclusion.