My child is the playground bully!

publication date: Apr 26, 2007

Probably one of the most difficult situations for parents is to discover that your child has been bullying other kids at school. Whichever way you learn this news don’t panic or over-react. Dr Michelle Elliot, a psychologist who founded KIDSCAPE the charity which teaches children about personal safety, believes that every child has bullied at some stage in their life and that bullies fall into two categories.
 “If your child is a chronic bully whose behaviour is out of control and who is consistently violent then you must seek professional help. However the typical bully is what I call a temporary bully as the bullying has been brought on by some factor in his life  - it might be a new baby, a divorce or a death in the family.”
So what do you do?
First of all, however upset you feel, try to stay calm and not become angry and defensive. Your child needs your help and support not your condemnation at this point.  Then:
  • Try to discover if your child has been the victim of bullying at any time. Many bullies have been previously bullied and have never told anyone.
  • Ask if anything upsetting has happened - sometimes bullying is an attempt to draw attention to another problem that the child has felt unable to discuss.
  • Find out the facts of what has happened.  Make an appointment to see the class teacher or the head to discuss the matter; find out what your child has been accused of and if he/she has behaved like this on other occasions. Listen carefully and, if it helps you, make notes.
  • Try not to be confrontational - it doesn’t help and may make people less inclined to assist you. Once you have all the facts you can talk to your child about the problem and try to sort it out.
  • Whatever the circumstances, you must explain that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable. The child must apologise and should do something to make amends - perhaps replace something that has been taken  or broken for instance.
  • You should also keep in close contact with the school to monitor the situation. Sometimes other children taunt bullies who are trying to reform!

Helping your child:
  • Give plenty of attention and praise for good behaviour.
  • Don’t label him a bully or it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Say you know this behaviour isn't really like him.
  • Don’t make your questioning into the Spanish Inquisition!
  • Watch your own behaviour - make sure your child is not learning bullying at home!

If you need professional help ask your GP for a referral or ask the head teacher to arrange an appointment with the educational psychologist.

KIDSCAPE  - - has a wide range of resources to help both parents and children.