Bullying is one of those parts of growing up that no one likes to acknowledge, but we all know that its there and will unfortunately remain for as long as groups of people gather together. One of the worst things we can do as adults though, is simply chalk bullying up to a fact of life and remain ignorant to the suffering of young people in our lives.
While bullying has adapted and contextualised over the years, the core elements of what classifies certain words and actions as bullying remains the same. Unwanted aggressive behaviour, observed or perceived power imbalance, and repetition of behaviours or high likelihood of repetition.
Types of Bullying
Name calling, teasing, putting someone down, threatening to cause someone harm.
Poking, hitting, punching, kicking, spitting, tripping or pushing someone, breaking someone’s things, pulling faces or making rude hand signals.\
Lying, spreading rumours, playing horrible jokes, leaving someone out on purpose, embarrassing someone in public.
Using technology to hurt someone else by sending hurtful messages, pictures or comments.
For the Complete 7 Different Types Of Bullying I've created an article here.
More students have experienced bullying than haven’t, with 59% or 2.3 million students nationally saying they have experienced bullying, with one in five experiencing it weekly (20%). Four in five students recognise the seriousness of the issue of bulling, with 80% saying it’s a problem in their school, and 20% saying it is an extremely or very serious problem.
While over the last decade there has been a recognition of the emergence of cyberbullying, of those who have experienced bullying, the most common form is verbal (50%) followed by physical (20%).
While bullying occurs at a frequent rate, the reported numbers appear to only be the tip of the iceberg, as a majority of bullying unfortunately goes unreported. The challenge for schools and parents is to normalise reporting incidents of bullying for students.
Encouraging children to talk about intimidation is not about tattling, it is about our collective responsibility to work toward safe schools, to empower children, and to overcome bullying, as 41% of students who reported being bullied at school indicated that they think the bullying would happen again.
Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school. We cannot console, help, equip, or empower if we do not know what is happening in our kids’ lives. Here are 6 questions you can ask your kids to help facilitate a discussion around bullying;
1. “Highlight/ Lowlight… What were the best and worst things that happened today?”
This is an icebreaker if you can incorporate this question into every end of day conversation with the family. If everybody participates and puts forth a vulnerability about their day, it becomes a lot easier for your children to be vulnerable also.
Listen to your child, don’t lecture. It is important to get in the habit of having open communication. Our children should not be nervous about sharing anything that happens in their lives. Overreacting tells children to hide their real thoughts and feelings. This exercise allows for you to lead by example, in fact, make sure to be truly vulnerable. Telling your children that your lowlight was “being stuck in traffic” doesn’t exactly inspire your children to let you know that their day was filled with relentless bullying.
2. “Bullying must have changed a lot since I was in school, can you describe a typical bully?”
Younger generations love being able to inform older generations from their “in the know” perspective. So all you need to do is set them up, sit back, and let them be the expert and talk you through. Follow up their analysis with questions asking them how they know what they are telling you to be true and if they have any stories or examples.
3. “Have you ever seen other kids getting pushed around at school? What do you do in that situation?”
We’re all familiar with the social save tactic of “I’m asking for a friend”. It’s an easy way to breach a subject without feeling like you’re in the hot seat. In this case, sometimes it’s just easier for your children to talk about the matter of bullying when the attention is directed towards what’s happening with others. However, be sure to follow up with a flip of the script, asking if they ever get pushed around.
4. “Who are the adults you can talk to if you are being bullied?”
Answers may include teachers, bus drivers, coaches, friends’ parents. Follow up with, “Do you ever wish they could help you more?” and “Have you ever had to talk to an adult about bullying?”
5. “What do you think parents or teachers can do to help stop bullying?”
Placing your child in the role of anti-bullying expert. You give them the floor to open up about what they wish authoritative figures would do after acknowledging that bullying has transpired.
This also opens up an avenue to discuss what has and hasn’t happened in the past as a result of reported bullying.
If you haven’t already cottoned on to the theme of this article, communication is key when it comes to supporting your children. You can’t help your children if they’re keeping you in the dark so be sure to keep conversation warm and free of judgement, maybe even share some of your own experiences to help bridge whatever gap they may be feeling.
It is important to have regular dialogue with your children about their behaviour towards others and how they are being treated by their peers.