Bullying involves misusing superior strength or power to intimidate or coerce over time, and typically causes physical or psychological harm. It can happen online (cyber bullying) or in-person, and can involve individuals or groups. One-off conflicts or acts of meanness or aggression, whilst not constituting bullying, do need to be resolved and addressed.
People can be motivated by many factors but children can often be motivated by social status and power. Some may also be experiencing their own trauma and acting to compensate for feelings of powerlessness. In some cases, bullying may be copied if students view the situation as potentially beneficial or if the school does not respond correctly. Bullying can occur in many different contexts and anyone has the potential to bully or be bullied.
Your child may not directly tell you that they are being bullied, and may not be able to identify that their peers are not displaying normal behaviour. There may be signs though, and being in-tune to your child’s behaviour can help you identify and intervene before it causes serious harm.
If your child tells you they’re being bullied, listen calmly and let them tell you the full story. Ensure they know they are not to blame for this behaviour and try to create a plan. Ask them what they would like to do about the situation and how they would like you to help. Make sure they know the correct and sensible way to deal with bullying – starting fights and remaining silent are not helpful. Contact the school and make sure that they are aware of this behaviour, and can act to intervene at their level too. Regularly check in on your child and offer the support they need.
If you suspect they might be bullying others, you should create a safe and open space to talk about this with your child. Figuring out the underlying reason for this behaviour and educating them on the effects of their behaviour, how to treat others with respect and resolve conflicts, and how to take responsibility and repair relationships can help to eliminate this behaviour.
For more details on bullying, including types, facts, and statistics, see: https://bullyingnoway.gov.au/
We’re not words, … we’re people.
Words are how others define us, but we can define ourselves any way we choose. – Shaun David Hutchinson