Category Archives: bullying

BULLYING SERIES – How to stop bullying – what you can do about it.



What is bullying?

Many of us have probably experienced bullying in some form, either as a child or in our adult years. Unfortunately, it is also highly likely that our children will experience some form of bullying, or even be involved in bullying behaviour. While we may not be able to protect our children from all bullying, it is important to note that, whilst prevalent, bullying is not a natural part of growing up and it should not be ignored (Elliot, 1997). As parents we can support our children to be aware of bullying, develop the skills to manage difficult situations, and know when and how to ask for help (Markham, 2017).

So what is bullying? Bullying is defined as the (often repeated) use of aggression that is intended to cause harm, distress and/or fear to another person of less power (Berry, 2013; Elliot, 1997; Kids Help Line, 2016). It can take many forms including physical aggression, verbal attacks, damage to property, humiliation, exclusion, spreading rumours, and many more (Cross et al, 2009; Rocker, 2010). Cyber bullying is also becoming more common amongst youth with the constant access to technology. Please note in this blog series we will not be directly focusing on cyber-bullying.

There have been general differences found between genders and bullying behaviour, with boys more likely to be physical in their aggression, and girls more likely to use verbal, emotional, and social means to hurt (Kids Help Line, 2016). Bullying is different to teasing which involves both parties having fun and stops when either person wants it to (Elliot, 1997; SWLSB, na). Bullying is learnt (SWLSB, na). It is deliberate, intended to harm, involves an imbalance of power, and is either repeated or threatened to be repeated (Kids Help Line, 2016; SWLSB, na).

According to Kids Help Line (2016), a national helpline for kids in Australia, bullying is the sixth most common reason children and adolescents seek support. If you are concerned about your child being bullied, or involved in bullying behaviours, contact our psychologists for a free phone consultation on (07) 3062 4535.

How common is bullying in Australia?

Research suggests that one in four children in Australia will experience bullying at some time in their schooling, with the highest incidences being between grades 4 to 9 (Berry, 2013; Cross et al., 2009). These numbers do not include cyber-bullying which is becoming more common also. It is not unusual for kids to be involved in bullying, either as the bully or the bullied, as young as preschool (Markham, 2017).

Boys tend to bully or be bullied by other boys, and likewise for girls. However, research in Australia suggests that one in four girls and one in three boys is bullied by both sexes (Cross, et al., 2009).The type of bullying tends to become more covert and secretive, as children get older, particularly amongst girls, with hurtful teasing being the most common form, followed by hurtful lies being told about them, and exclusion (Cross, et al., 2009).

According to surveys of Australian school children, ten to 15% of children between grades 4 and 9 had bullied other children, and almost half of these kids had been both bullied and engaged in bullying behaviours by grade nine (Cross, et al., 2009). Children noted that the reasons for bullying others was due to differences such as looks, cultural identity, and sexuality (Berry, 2013). However, many children also suggested bullying occurred because the bully didn’t like their peer, found bullying fun, liked to feel powerful and popular (Cross, et al., 2009). So bullying, it seems, is something our children are highly likely to come across during their school years, for reasons that may not be immediately apparent.

Who is involved with bullying?

Three key roles have been identified as playing out in bullying situations (Kids Help Line, 2016; SWLSB, na). Understanding these roles and the behaviours associated with each can help us tackle bullying with our children. The three roles are:

  • The bully
  • The bullied
  • Bystanders

So let’s look first at the child/youth who bullies…

When our child is bullied by others, we question why kids would do such a thing. Unfortunately the reasons are endless, ranging from “it’s fun” through peer pressure to significant mental and emotional difficulties (Elliot, 1997; Kids Help Line, 2016; Markham, 2017).

Research suggests there are general bully types (Collins, 2017; SWLSB, na; Rigby, 2008) such as:

  1. The “lone bully” who wants to control, and exert power over others with little empathy for those they target. They may have a sense of entitlement, or be jealous of their targets and lack a sense of their own self worth.
  2. The “bully-victim” who is someone who has been, or is currently being bullied themselves and is then bullying others. These children/youth may be suffering from their own bullying experiences but then take it out on others to regain a sense of control.
  3. The “bully in a group” who bullies others when their peers are observing because it makes them feel powerful, popular, and superior to those being bullied.

However, there are many children and youth who engage in bullying who do not fit neatly into these types. Bullies can be anyone, even our own children.

Signs your child may be bullying others (Myers, 2011; Raising Children Network, 2011):

  • Your child talks about other people in a negative or aggressive way
  • Your child has toys, money, or other things that don’t belong to him
  • Your child is hot-headed, easily frustrated, impulsive, and/or lacks empathy for others.
  • Your child and/or her friends are obsessed with being popular
  • You child frequently gets into trouble for pushing boundaries, being aggressive, or trying to dominate others.
  • Your child doesn’t have good relationships with people at home and/or has been exposed to violence at home.

These signs do not mean your child is definitely bullying others, but may be worth checking out further. If you are concerned about your child being bullied or engaging in bullying behaviours, you can talk with one of our psychologists on (07) 3062 4077.

The bullied

Anyone can be bullied, however research suggests that some people may be at increased risk of bullying due to perceived differences from those who bully. Such differences include anything from physical differences, ethnic differences, academic or sporting ability (either successful or struggling), being new to the area, sexual orientation, not conforming, or even just being in the wrong place at the wrong time (Kids Help Line, 2016; Storey, et al., 2013; SWLSB, na).

Signs your child may be bullied include (Kids Help Line, 2016; Storey, et al., 2013; SWLSB, na):

  • Being unhappy before or after school. Your child may talk about not liking school or kids there or may seem afraid, withdrawn, or tearful.
  • Finding excuses not to go out of the house, e.g. being sick
  • Having unexplained injuries
  • Having unexplained changes in their behaviour
  • Experiencing sudden difficulties going to sleep, having nightmares, and/or bedwetting.
  • Struggling with schoolwork
  • Lacking friends at school
  • Talking about themselves in negative ways
  • Attempting to hurt or kill themselves.

Children who are bullied can experience significant suffering which affects their social, emotional, and educational development (Cross, et al., 2009; Rocker, 2010) so it is important that our children know where and how to get help. If you are concerned about your child being bullied, you can talk with one of our psychologists on (07) 3062 4077.

The bystanders

In bullying situations, there are usually bystanders. A number of types of bystanders have been identified (Kids Help Line, 2016; Storey et al, 2013):

  1. Those who side with the bully and follow the bullying behaviour.
  2. Those who encourage the bully through cheering, laughing, or “egging on” by don’t actually take part in the bullying.
  3. Those who watch or hear about the bullying and feel they should help the victim but do take action.
  4. Those who don’t accept bullying behaviour and take action to support the bullied.
  5. Those who feel indifferent about the situation – neither taking sides or joining in

If your child has witnessed bullying, they may be experiencing the following:

  • Worry about making the situation worse if they intervene
  • Guilt at not helping the bullied
  • Fear they may be bullied if they speak up
  • Fear they could get hurt if they intervene
  • Feeling powerless and upset about what they witnessed
  • Confusion about what to do in similar situations in the future
  • Anger that they have been put in this situation
  • Feeling pressured to participate in the bullying
  • Justifying their inaction by saying “it was none of my business anyway”

Bystanders play a critical role in bullying situations. Research suggests though that when bystanders intervene (either directly or by seeking help from adults), they can stop the bullying in more than half bullying situations, and within ten seconds (Markham, 2017; Storey, et al., 2013).

Bully

Initial reactions from your child or youth when confronted with their bullying behaviours may include denial, justification, minimising the event, crying, anger or blaming the victim (SWLSB, na). The goals of addressing the behaviour with your child are to convey the seriousness of bullying, let the child know it will not be tolerated, encourage your child to take responsibility for his/her actions, and help your child to find other options for behaviour in the future. This needs to be done respectfully and not with the aim of shaming and humiliating child.

  1. Acknowledge that your child is involved in bullying behaviour.
  2. Talk with you child away from others – let them know what you know and ask them to tell you their side of the story. Listen to their perspective, and also be prepared to calmly present the evidence and facts.
  3. Share your concern about the seriousness of bullying and the possible effect on others. Even if this current incident doesn’t seem like a big deal, addressing it as serious now will reduce the chances of the child engaging in similar (potentially more serious) behaviours in future. Ask your child to share what they think they did that was not ok and why. Help your child to identify their part and the ramifications themselves (or with some help) rather than lecturing them.
  4. Firmly insist that the bullying behaviour stops
  5. Problem solve with your child – discuss why the bullying occurred, what they may be able to do to make amends, and what they could do instead in future situations.
  6. Work with other adults, e.g. teachers, as required to address the bullying issue.
  7. Be a good role model for your children and adolescents by being respectful of others around you.

WHAT PARENTS (and teachers) CAN DO TO HELP

Bullying behaviour can be quite complex to address as it is often surrounded by secrecy, shame, and fear. However, adults can help children, both when they are exposed to bullying and proactively by supporting young people to recognise bullying behaviours, feel more empowered to manage difficult situations, not tolerate bullying behaviours, and be confident that they can ask for help and receive it when needed. (Storey et al, 2013).

The bullied

Children and youth who are bullied often feel they are somehow to blame for the behaviours toward them. The aim of helping children in this situation is both focusing on the current situation, and building skills to prevent further victimisation. Friends tend to be the first choice when seeking help for bullying, but parents and school staff were also sought out (CROSS ET AL).

Whilst addressing bullying behaviour when it happens is essential, adults can also be proactive and help our children with prevention skills such as recognising bullying behaviours, knowing how to manage such situations, and knowing who to ask for help should it be needed (EYES ON BULLYING TOOLKIT)

Let’s look at how adults can help children and youth who find themselves in the bullied role:

Let your kids know you care and remain approachable. (KHL)

Bullied

  1. Ask directly – kids often don’t want to or are afraid or ashamed to tell about being bullied (Elliot)
  2. Regularly talk to your child about their school life and about any emerging issues.
  3. Encourage them to talk about any bullying they may be experiencing
  4. Remain calm if they disclose they are being bullied
  5. Believe what your child is telling you and explore how they may be emotionally reacting to the bullying.
  6. Recognise that this is an important issue for them
  7. Tell them that bullying is not acceptable and that it’s not their fault
  8. Help the child or young person understand the power dynamic involved in bullying. Discuss ways to stop giving the bully power, for example, walking or turning away from the bully
  9. Reassure them that you will help to stop the bullying from continuing
  10. Find out what, when and where it happened and if anyone was present. Contact the school and make sure the teacher is aware of the problem and work out with them how to stop the bullying
  11. If the school has no policy on bullying, suggest they need to consider developing one
  12. Discuss with the child any experiences you may have had about being bullied and how you overcame this issue
  13. Boost your child’s confidence by encouraging them to join activities they are good at eg. sport, art, music
  14. Try to get support from other parents who have faced similar problems. (KHL)

 

  1. You are not responsible for a bully’s behavior. It’s not your fault.
  2. Don’t respond to bullies by giving in, getting upset, or fighting back—this will encourage them. Instead, stay calm and be assertive.
  3. Sometimes the best response is no response—just walk away.
  4. Get help from a trusted adult. Adults can help you figure out new ways to respond the next time someone bullies you.

Providing children who are bullied with specific options for responding and an action plan will help them feel less anxious and fearful, and more confident to take action to stop the bullying.(TOOLKIT)

One of the most significant factors which is common to children that both bully and fall victim to bullying, is a reported lack of significant connection and positive feelings towards their school, teachers and peers. Having meaningful and supportive relationships with others in the school appears to build children’s resilience and ability to cope, even when difficulties occur within their school-based relationships.

  1. Friendships play an integral part in bullying experiences. We know that bullies derive reinforcement through onlookers who do not act to stop their bullying behaviour and that children who have at least one meaningful, reciprocated friendship are less likely to be bullied. Selecting, making and maintaining friendships is a skill that needs to be modelled and supported in children, teaching them basic skills such as how to start a conversation through to more complex skills of managing peer conflict and using humour in peer relationships.. (Berry)

School policies that increase the consequences of overt bullying without increasing the consequences of covert bullying unintentionally create fertile ground for the emergence of covert bullying.

Strategies such as supervising students during lunch breaks were seen as more effective amongst primary school staff, whereas secondary staff were slightly more likely to rate strategies incorporating the school health services or the school behaviour management/pastoral care committee as more effective.

Qualitative data from students suggested a variety of actions that they believe teachers could take to reduce covert bullying including helping young people to talk more with their parents and other trusted adults about these issues using strategies such as classroom meetings, an anonymous ‘worry box’, and separating different age groups of students during break times.
(CROSS ET AL)

WHAT PARENTS (and teachers) CAN DO TO HELP

Bullying not only affects the bullied and the bully. Almost all incidents of bullying are witnessed by someone and these bystanders also play a significant role in addressing bullying.

Let’s look at how adults can help children and youth who find themselves in the bystander role:

Bystander

Helping children learn how to help their friends if they see they are being bullied is essential to promote bystander intervention, with strategies such as seeking a teachers support and telling the bully that they are being mean and need to stop, commonly used strategies at the Clinic. (Berry)

Bystanders can stop bullying by helping the bullied, gaining support from other bystanders, or getting help from adults. (TOOLKIT)

1.Your involvement makes a difference.

2.Don’t just stand by and watch quietly.

3.Stand up for the person being bullied. If you feel safe, tell the bully to stop. Use phrases such as “Stop teasing!” “Don’t fight!” “Leave him alone!” and “It’s not funny!”

4.Don’t join in. Don’t laugh at the victim or participate in the teasing, harassing, or fighting. This encourages the bully to continue and can make the situation worse.

5.Help the victim walk away. A victim may be too afraid to leave on his or her own, but will do so with the help of a friend.

6.Encourage other bystanders to help the victim. Tell them not to join in the bullying.

  1. Get help from a trusted adult. Report the bullying.
  2. Afterward, tell the victim you feel bad about what happened. Encourage victims to talk to an adult, and offer to go with them.
  3. Include the victim in activities. Be a good friend. (TOOLKIT)

If your child is a bystander and/or a witness:

  1. If your child is a bystander and/or a witness:
    Discuss with your child about the ways they can make a difference (eg. helping the victim or reporting the bullying to the teacher or school authority)

Partner with the victim and remove her from danger – Go stand with the victim physically, turn the victim away from the bully and walk her off in the other direction — towards adult help. Say “You look upset” or “I’ve been looking for you”or “The teacher sent me to find you.”

Get help – Bullies love an audience. Get the other kids on your side by waving them over to you, yelling, “We need your help.”  Confront the bully: “You’re being mean.”  Then walk away: “C’mon, let’s go!” (AHA PArenting)

  1. Let them know that you’ll support them should they decide to step forward
    3. Give examples of how helpful bystanders have shown courage and made a difference in real-life bullying situations.[16]ls, making it difficult to understand their involvement in bullying. (KHL)
    * Difference between telling and tattling

ADULTS AS BYSTANDERS/WITNESS

How to stop bullying  – When YOU see or hear bullying…

  1. Intervene immediately. When you do nothing, you send the message that bullying is acceptable. If you ignore or minimize the problem, victims will not believe that adults understand or care, or that they can help. If you don’t intervene, children won’t either.
  2. Intervene even if you’re not sure it’s bullying. Observing children’s actions, words, body language, and facial expressions will help you determine if bullying is occurring. Even if it’s not, aggressive behaviors need to be stopped.
  3. Stand between or near the victim and the bully, separating them if necessary, so as to stop the bullying behaviors. Describe the behavior you observed and why it is unacceptable. 4.Respond firmly and appropriately. Remain calm, but convey the seriousness of the situation. Announce that the bullying must stop.
  4. Get help if needed. If the bully is using physical force, or there is more than one bully, you may need to find another adult to help keep children safe and protect yourself.
  5. Do not respond aggressively. Using aggressive behavior sends the wrong message that this is a good way to solve problems. It may also prompt a bully or a bystander to increase his or her bullying behavior or become aggressive toward you.
  6. Avoid lecturing the bully in front of his or her peers. Your goal is to end the behavior, not humiliate or shame the bully. Rather than serving as a deterrent, lecturing and scolding often provide the bully with attention that he or she finds rewarding.
  7. Don’t impose immediate consequences. Allow yourself time to consider the incident and obtain any clarifying information—then decide the best course of action.
  8. Don’t ask children to “work things out” for themselves. Bullying is different from an argument or conflict; it involves a power imbalance that requires adult intervention.
  9. Give praise and show appreciation to helpful bystanders. Children who try to help the victim or stop the bully are key to bullying prevention.
  10. Stick around. Remain in the area until you are sure the behavior has stopped. (TOOLKIT)

References

Sources:

Berry, K. (2013). Bullying in primary school. Quirky Kid. Retrieved from:

https://childpsychologist.com.au/bullying-in-primary-school/

Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. (2009). Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth. Retrieved from: https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/australian_covert_bullying_prevalence_study_executive_summary.pdf

Elliot, M. (1997).  101 ways to deal with bullying. Hodder & Stoughton, London.

Kids Help Line (2016). Dealing With School Related Bullying: An overview for parents. Kids Help Line. Retrieved from: https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/tips/dealing-with-school-related-bullying/

Markham, L. (2017). 11 ways to empower your child against bullying. Aha!Parenting. Retrieved from:

http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/safety/helping-bullied-child?utm_source=Aha%21+Parenting+List&utm_campaign=cf95081351-Weekly_9_25_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_45e38f2e1a-cf95081351-209862557

SWLSB – Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (n.a.). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander: based on the work of Barbara Coloroso. Retrieved from: 2008www.swlauriersb.qc.ca/english/edservices/pedresources/bullying/bully.pdf

 

Rocker, L (2010). Bullying. Quirky Kid. Retrieved from:  https://childpsychologist.com.au/bullying/

Sources:

Berry, K. (2013). Bullying in primary school. Quirky Kid. Retrieved from:

https://childpsychologist.com.au/bullying-in-primary-school/

Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. (2009). Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth. Retrieved from: https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/australian_covert_bullying_prevalence_study_executive_summary.pdf

Markham, L. (2017). 11 ways to empower your child against bullying. Aha!Parenting. Retrieved from:

http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/safety/helping-bullied-child?utm_source=Aha%21+Parenting+List&utm_campaign=cf95081351-Weekly_9_25_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_45e38f2e1a-cf95081351-209862557

 Kids Help Line (2016). Dealing With School Related Bullying: An overview for parents. Kids Help Line. Retrieved from: https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/tips/dealing-with-school-related-bullying/

Markham, L. (2017). 11 ways to empower your child against bullying. Aha!Parenting. Retrieved from:

http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/safety/helping-bullied-child?utm_source=Aha%21+Parenting+List&utm_campaign=cf95081351-Weekly_9_25_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_45e38f2e1a-cf95081351-209862557

Storey, K. Slaby, R., Adler, M., Minotti, J., & Katz, R. (2013). Eyes on bullying toolkit. USA: Education Development Center. Retrieved from: http://www.eyesonbullying.org/pdfs/toolkit.pdf

SWLSB – Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (n.a.). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander: based on the work of Barbara Coloroso. Retrieved from: 2008www.swlauriersb.qc.ca/english/edservices/pedresources/bullying/bully.pdf

Sources:

Collins, A. (2017) What you really need to know about bullying and its lifelong effects. Retreived from: http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/blog/2016/05/16/mhm-what-you-really-need-to-know-about-bullying-and-its-lifelong-effects/

Elliot, M. (1997).  101 ways to deal with bullying. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Kids Help Line (2016). Dealing With School Related Bullying: An overview for parents. Kids Help Line. Retrieved from: https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/tips/dealing-with-school-related-bullying/

Markham, L. (2017). 11 ways to empower your child against bullying. Aha!Parenting. Retrieved from:

http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/safety/helping-bullied-child?utm_source=Aha%21+Parenting+List&utm_campaign=cf95081351-Weekly_9_25_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_45e38f2e1a-cf95081351-209862557

Myers, W. (2011). 7 Signs That Your Kid’s a Bully. Retrieved from:

http://www.everydayhealth.com/kids-health-pictures/7-signs-that-your-kid-is-a-bully.aspx#01

SWLSB – Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (n.a.). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander: based on the work of Barbara Coloroso. Retrieved from: 2008www.swlauriersb.qc.ca/english/edservices/pedresources/bullying/bully.pdf

Raising Children Network (2011). Your child bullying others. Retrieved from:

http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/bullying_-_your_child_bullying.html

Rigby, K. (2008). Children and bullying: How parents and educators can reduce bullying at school. Malden: Blackwell/Wiley.

Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. (2009). Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth. Retrieved from: https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/australian_covert_bullying_prevalence_study_executive_summary.pdf

Kids Help Line (2016). Dealing With School Related Bullying: An overview for parents. Kids Help Line. Retrieved from: https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/tips/dealing-with-school-related-bullying/

Storey, K. Slaby, R., Adler, M., Minotti, J., & Katz, R. (2013). Eyes on bullying toolkit. USA: Education Development Center. Retrieved from: http://www.eyesonbullying.org/pdfs/toolkit.pdf

SWLSB – Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (n.a.). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander: based on the work of Barbara Coloroso. Retrieved from: 2008www.swlauriersb.qc.ca/english/edservices/pedresources/bullying/bully.pdf

Rocker, L (2010). Bullying. Quirky Kid. Retrieved from:  https://childpsychologist.com.au/bullying/

Resources:

Kids Help Line (2016). Dealing With School Related Bullying: An overview for parents. Kids Help Line. Retrieved from: https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/tips/dealing-with-school-related-bullying/

Storey, K. Slaby, R., Adler, M., Minotti, J., & Katz, R. (2013). Eyes on bullying toolkit. USA: Education Development Center. Retrieved from: http://www.eyesonbullying.org/pdfs/toolkit.pdf

SWLSB – Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (n.a.). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander: based on the work of Barbara Coloroso. Retrieved from: 2008www.swlauriersb.qc.ca/english/edservices/pedresources/bullying/bully.pdf