Help your child against bullying

Childhood bullying needs to be treated seriously and not left to the victims to resolve themselves.

If your child is being bullied, it’s important for them to have your support.

The rise of smartphones and social networking has created new ways for bullies to act.

Cyber bullying is a very real and growing problem. For example, a child may post an image on a social channel, but if the image doesn’t get many “likes” the child is then bullied in the playground for their failure.

Social currencies of “likes” and “shares” are now a resource for bullies.

Experts suggest girls tend to bully in indirect ways that can be hard to spot. Boys tend to be more physical.

It’s not easy to tell if a child is being bullied by the way a child reacts. Apart from obvious physical signs of bullying, the things to look for are changes in your child’s social or emotional behaviour.

Physical signs such as bruises, cuts and scratches, torn clothes, poor sleeping, bed-wetting and frequent requests for money.

Changes related to school or preschool, such as not wanting to go, staying close to teachers during breaks, having difficulty asking or answering questions in class, not taking part in activities, sitting alone, and school work and homework deteriorating suddenly.

Emotional clues such as anxiety, nervousness, distress, unhappiness, depression or tears, withdrawal, secretiveness, sudden changes in behaviour, being quick to anger, and unhappiness at the end of weekends and holidays.

Other signs such as your child talking about being teased, taunted, ridiculed, degraded, threatened, dominated, made fun of or laughed at. Your child might be excluded at lunch and recess, lose contact with classmates after school, or be chosen last for teams and games.

Tips for talking with your child about bullying.

  • Listen to your child, help them understand what is going on, and show that you care and will help.
  • Ask your child simple questions, then listen to the answers. Try saying things like, ‘So what happened next?’ and ‘What did you do then?’
  • Stay calm. This is a chance to show your child how to solve problems. If you feel angry or anxious, wait until you feel calm before you discuss it with your child or with others.
  • Summarise the problem. You could say something like, ‘So you were sitting on your own eating your lunch and Sam came up and took your lunch box and threw it across the playground.’
  • Agree that there is a problem. For example, ‘It sounds like you had a really horrible time at lunch today.’
  • Let your child know it’s OK. Help your child to understand that these feelings are normal. For example, ‘No wonder you’re feeling so sad about this.’
  • Praise your child. For example, ‘I am really pleased that you have told me about this.’
  • Make it clear to your child that you will help. For example, ‘It sounds like things haven’t been so good. Are there some things we could do to make it a bit better?’
  • Talk about why people bully. It can help your child to understand some reasons for bullying: ‘Sometimes people can be mean. Why do you think they said those things?’
  • Steer clear of negative comments. These don’t generally help to sort out the issue. So be careful not to say things like, ‘Don’t come to me with your complaints — stand up for yourself’ or ‘You poor thing. Never mind, you can stay home.’
  • You then need to address the issue with the appropriate teacher, so you can work out what to do to not only make your child safe but stop the bullying without leaving your child isolated as a result.

Types of bullying

  • Verbal abuse and teasing
  • Gossiping
  • Being ignored and left out of activities or games
  • Physical abuse such as pushing, hitting and punching
  • Throwing things at the victim
  • Damaging clothes and property
  • Theft of personal items and property
  • Cyber bullying

The Queensland Government provides online resources for parents and teachers.