Let’s talk Bullying.
So our last blog was all about self harm. Whilst this was a challenging read it certainly brought up some challenging thoughts and feelings around how we treat ourselves under immense pressure.
Last week also happened to be national Anti-Bullying week. I did of course consider writing a blog on the matter but I found myself thinking it was unhelpful, to only write when it is highlighted in the media as such because then it only feels like words. I think writing this piece last week would have felt tokenistic in its message, kind of like Mental health Awareness days, when we know that mental health is an every day thing not just a gesture one such days.
So Bullying….. How difficult is it as a parent to sit back and not bulldoze the place when it is your child who is being bullied?
Its easy for us to say we understand that it is because the other child is hurting and is trying to communicating a hurt or frustration, that is easy to say when we are not in the midst of it right? Because we would try to be curious and wonder why the young people display that emotion. We try to understand the hurt that would drive a young person to hurt another so cruelly. So lets explore it a little deeper….
The dictionary definition states:
“Bullying – seek to harm, intimidate or coerce (someone perceived as vulnerable)”
It is important to distinguish between that bullying intention/behaviours and natural conflict, argument or disagreement. And the natural ebb and flow of relationships.
How would you describe the difference between bullying and conflict?
Do you think your child understands the difference between them?
One of the expressions we use a lot is ‘get curious’ when it comes to understanding thoughts, beliefs and behaviours of any individual. So, let’s explore that further in the context of bullying.
As with all behaviours there are usually triggers or drivers that lead to an individual demonstrating bullying behaviours. I know it can be difficult if you are the person being bullied or are close to the person being bullied but it can be helpful to press pause and get curious when you are in a calm state.
The person doing the bullying is a person and they have their own needs.
What has happened or what is happening in their life for them to want to behave in this way?
Consider that for a moment, especially if you have been impacted by bullying directly or indirectly.
What could have happened or be happening in that person’s life?
Who are their role models?
Who else influences them?
Could the behaviour they are displaying have been normalised in their own life if they’ve been around people demonstrating domineering behaviour?
In which case are they aware that their behaviour is bullying or that their behaviour is perceived as bullying by others?
What comes up for you now having considered these points and questions?
Equally, it can certainly be the case that the behaviour is intentional and they are aware of their bullying behaviour. Again, if we press pause and get curious what could be behind those deliberate behaviours?
The reality is there can be various underlying reasons. One of most common reasons is fear.
We all have our own human needs and one of the core needs many of us have is ‘significance’. For someone demonstrating bullying behaviour their fears around not being significant can be the underlying reason for their actions.
If their strong need to feel seen, acknowledged and validated is missing in their life then they will seek to meet that need in whatever way they can. They may well have learned that the only way to meet those needs is in negative ways, such as a aggressive and bullying behaviours.
Significance is only one human need. There are others such as ‘connection’ that may also play a part in bullying behaviour.
Again, when you think of bullying in the context of your life or those around you could it be that fear and significance could have been an underlying reason for the behaviours demonstrated?
So again what do we want to Focus on?
Whilst there have been many initiatives around bullying and anti-bullying that have been great to raise awareness and have conversations around bullying. However, we’re also mindful of the saying ‘you get more of what you focus on’. So it’s important we focus on what it is we truly want.
Peaceful (non-aggressive) communication
Communication with compassion and curiosity at the core
Respecting each other
Appreciating difference and what that can bring for us
Ability to emotionally regulate
Kindness, caring and support
What is ‘not bullying’ for you and those you care for?
What is it that you truly want?
Our invitation to you
We invite you to think about the following points and questions.
Seek to understand what’s actually happening
Be careful what we label as bullying until clear that it is
How can you support your child to model assertive (but not aggressive) behaviour? (Are you modelling positive, assertive behaviour as opposed to aggression or passive aggression?)
How can you support your child to identify their values and boundaries? (Help them to navigate what’s important to them and what their own boundaries are. That will help them manage their own expectations and relationships in a way that works for them)
How can you support your child to get their needs met?
(e.g. Significance, Connection, Contribution, Belonging, Being Seen, Soothed, Safe and Secure)
It is important to say that this more compassionate approach of seeking to understand and getting curious around underlying behaviours can be incredibly difficult if it’s your child who is being bullied.
However, through us adults understanding behaviours on a deeper level it can help us to support our children to do the same. It may help them to understand that underneath everything the bullying is not personal to them even although when experiencing bullying behaviours it can feel deeply personal.
What are the signs to look out for?
. Reluctance to go to school or to go on the computer or their phone
. Your child’s mood changes after looking at the computer or phone
. Not going on or talking about social media
. Your child may not want to get on the school bus; or asks you for rides to school every day
. Is frequently sick, with headaches and sleeping problems—and often wants to stay home from school
. You might notice damaged or missing belongings, or that your child keeps losing money or other valuable items
. Unexplained injuries or bruises
. Your child doesn’t seem to be eating their food — they come home unusually hungry, or their lunch comes back home with them
. They might be moody, anxious, depressed, or withdrawn
While exhibiting one or more of these signs might not necessarily mean that your child is being bullied (or cyberbullied), these are important things to pay attention to if you suspect something is going on.
Speaking to your child when your emotions are heightened: if you’re not listening objectively and calmly there’s a good chance it won’t be helpful. Listen well, ask questions to understand (rather than fix) and help them to problem solve the best way to deal with the situation.
Don’t put your cape on: try to refrain from swooping in and taking over. Your child is probably already feeling disempowered as a result of the bullying experience. Ask, “how can I be most helpful to you?”. Then help them with that. Support them to create a strategy that your child feels will be effective.
Be an advocate: try not to minimise the situation either. You don’t want to appear like you’re ‘under reacting’, for example, by telling them they’re being too sensitive.
Have open conversations: share your own experiences if you’ve had any. Empathise through acknowledging their thoughts and feelings. Keep the lines of communication open. Encourage them to talk to other adults.
What can we do to support our young people….
Knowing what to say or what is the right thing to do is always challenging for any parent. Even as i wrote out the Watch points from our workbook I recognised myself in these behaviours. I am a swoop in and fix everything person. So how do we handle what they are going through in the most helpful way for them?
- Recognise how you respond to the word bullying, where does your mind and body go to when they tell you that someone is being mean to them?
- Are you giving them your world view when it comes to how to respond to bullies? For example “Eye for an eye” type response.
- Are we asking our young people how they want us to respond and support them?
- Are we comfortable in reaching out for support for ourselves and our young people?
- Are we really listening to how they feel about it, and about themselves?
Us knowing how we feel and respond to bullying is so important in getting it right for our young people. We want the communication to be open for them to tell us the tough stuff. So we need to be that safe space to come to.
We can often get caught up in our own thoughts we don’t observe their reality of what they are experiencing and how it is impacting them. When we recognise the significance in the relationship we hold with our young people, its often not about us “doing for” it is mostly about us “being with”.
Being with their Anger
Being with their Sadness
Being with their Fear
Being with their LOVE.
So where else can you get support?
Young Minds: www.youngminds.org.uk
Calm harm: Available on Google play or App store
Me Too: Available on Google play or App store
Samaritans: Text 116123
Childline: www.childline.org.uk 08001111
The Mix: 08088084994
Children 1st: Parentline 08000 28 22 33 (Scotland)