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Let's Stop Bullying: Advice for Parents and Families

DescriptionA short pamphlet covering answers to some questions that families often ask about bullying and advice about what to do if a young person is worried about bullying at school.
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateOctober 05, 1999

Let's Stop BULLYING Advice for Parents and Families

This Leaflet:

  • answers some of the questions that families often ask about bullying; and
  • provides advice about what to do if a young person is worried about bullying at school.

What Is Bullying?

Bullying can take many different forms. All of them are wrong. Bullying is not acceptable in any form.

Someone who is being bullied will feel unable to stop it happening. It may be carried out by a group or by one person. It may involve hitting, kicking, threats, name-calling, or less obvious ways such as ignoring or excluding someone, "sending them to Coventry". It is similar to harrassment and other forms of abuse such as racism, and the abuse of children by adults. In some cases, it may involve criminal acts. The person or people doing the bullying may be the same age or older or younger than their victim. Both sexes bully and are bullied.

Children accused of bullying may need help just as much as those being bullied. Their behaviour may be connected to hidden personal and social problems. They may be manipulated by other children, or they may be falsely accused.

It is important to remember these points because bullying happens in so many ways and takes so many forms.

Whatever the type of bullying, always take it seriously. Different types of bullying may require different responses but children may not always understand why this is so. Punishing those who bully may not be the only way of stopping the problem.

Talking about bullying can be a key which unlocks the door to unhappy secrets. Adults who open this door must be prepared to deal with any problems they find.

So What's New?

Bullying is certainly not new, but in the past it was often ignored or dismissed as part of life. In the last few years this way of thinking has changed and more attention has been paid to the rights and responsibilities of adults and children. Important among these are that:

  • everyone has the right to work and to learn in an atmosphere that is free from victimisation and fear;
  • all of us have a responsibility to ensure that we do not abuse or bully others;
  • young people should talk to an adult if they are worried about bullying and have a right to expect that their concerns will be listened to and treated seriously; and
  • we all have a duty to work together to protect vulnerable individuals from bullying and other forms of abuse.

Spotting The Signs

There is no certain way of spotting that a child is being bullied or is bullying others. Things such as a change in attitude, an unexplained illness, not wanting to go to school, bruising or torn clothes may all have a simple explanation, or they may be the result of something more serious.

Children can go to very great lengths to hide from adults the fact that they are being bullied. They may be afraid that they will be seen as cowardly or weak. They may not want to tell tales or "grass" on others in their class. They may even be afraid that talking to an adult will lead to even more problems or more trouble for them or that the adult will be unable or unwilling to help them.

The best advice is to trust your instincts - if you are worried discuss your worries openly and honestly with your child.

Listening To And Talking With Children

Here are some things to remember if you are talking to a member of your family who you think may be being bullied.

  • Be patient - make time to listen to your child.
  • Ask questions but do it sensitively - don't interrogate.
  • Show your child that you care. Be careful not to say or do anything which could make an already anxious or lonely child feel even more alone.
  • Do not take any action before you discuss with your child what you could do, and what he or she could do. It may take a little longer for you to agree the best course of action than if the decision is taken by the adult alone, but this is time well spent. But make sure you do something. If bullying goes on for a long time it can cause serious damage to a child's educational and personal development.
  • Do not make promises you can't keep. It is very important that your child knows that he or she can trust you. For example, if your child is reluctant to talk to you do not promise confidentiality in an effort to make it easier for the child to speak. And remember that if you discover that a child is in serious danger, whether that danger comes from an adult or another child, you must act even if the child wants you to do nothing.
  • Tell your child that he or she has done the right thing by talking about what has happened, that bullying is wrong, and that those who are doing the bullying must change their behaviour.

Talking With Teachers

If someone in your family is being bullied at school the best course is to talk to a teacher. In a primary school this could be your child's class teacher and in a secondary school your child's guidance teacher.

If you can, it is best to go to the school to do this. If you cannot get to the school, you could phone. If you want to go to the school, you should first make an appointment through the headteacher's office. Say if you think the matter is serious or urgent.

If the bullying is serious you may be upset when you speak to the teacher so here is a checklist of things to remember.

  • Speak to the teacher as soon as possible. Say if the bullying
    has been going on for a long time.
  • Do not exaggerate. Be honest and stick to the facts as you know them. Teachers need to know how serious the bullying is if they are to make judgements about the best course of action.
  • Make a note of everything you know about the bullying before you speak to the teacher so that you do not forget to mention any important points.
  • Remember that this may be the first time that the teacher has heard about the bullying and remember that your child may not have told you all the facts.
  • Find out what action the school intends to take.
  • Arrange to contact the school again so that you can discuss any action that has been proposed.
  • After the meeting, you may wish to make a note of anything that has been decided and to give a copy to the teacher.
  • If you are not happy with the action proposed, make an appointment to see the headteacher.

What Else Can Be Done?

Bullying in school can only be solved if parents, teachers and pupils work together to find a solution. However, sometimes parents and pupils are not satisfied with the way that schools deal with their worries. If you are in this situation here are some things you can do.

  • Ask yourself if you have given the school sufficient time to deal with the matter. Bullying can be complex and difficult to solve.
  • Ask to see a copy of the school's anti-bullying policy.
  • Most local authorities have worked with their schools and School Boards to develop an anti-bullying policy and have provided training for teachers. The Scottish Executive Education Department has also sent all Scottish schools 2 support packs called Action Against Bullying and Supporting Schools Against Bullying and a leaflet for pupils called Let's Stop Bullying - Advice for Young People. You can ask to see these.
  • If you are still not satisfied, and if your child's school is under the control of a local authority you should contact your local Council's Education Department. Their address
    is in the telephone directory. It is also given at the back of the updated Parents' Charter. Explain clearly, and preferably in writing, what has happened. If the school is not under local authority control, contact those who run the school.
  • Schools will generally do their best to deal with bullying. However, there may be cases where schools cannot resolve problems. For example, if bullying takes place outside school, it may be difficult for a school to deal with it. In such cases where the school is unable to act, or in cases of serious assault or harassment, then you should contact the police.

Anything Else?

As a last resort you could contact your local Councillor (local authority schools only) or your Member of Parliament.

Some parents have moved their children to other schools because of bullying. If you follow the advice in this leaflet that should not be necessary.

Further Information

There are a number of helpful booklets available. One in particular is entitled Bullying and How to Fight It - A Guide For Families by Andrew Mellor which provides practical advice on how families can tackle the problem. It costs £4.00 (including post & packing) and can be ordered from book shops or from The Scottish Council for Research in Education, 15 St John Street, Edinburgh EH8 8JR.

The Scottish Council for Research in Education also have information about bullying on their website and links to other useful sites. Their internet address is http://www.scre.ac.uk/bully/index.html

Details of other useful sources of information can be obtained from the Scottish Anti-Bullying Network, Moray House Institute of Education, University of Edinburgh, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8AQ (emailabn@mhie.ac.uk). This network has been established by The Scottish Executive to enable teachers, parents and young people to share ideas about how bullying can be tackled. The network operates a telephone information line during school term time, Monday to Friday 9.30am-12.30pm and 2pm-4.30pm on 0131 651 6100.

Parentline Scotland is a free confidential and anonymous national helpline for parents. The service is provided by Children 1st and is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10am-1pm, Tuesday and Thursday 6pm-9pm and Saturday and Sunday 2pm-5pm on 0808 800 2222.

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