We’ve talked about cyberbullying and ways to keep your child safe but what if it is your child that is the bully? Does it mean that you are a bad parent? Can you fix it and how do you work out if your child really is a bully?
Today is the National Day of Action Against Bullying so it is the perfect time to have a difficult but honest look at how bullying may be fostered in our homes. Here are four ways that we as parents may be inadvertently be raising a bully.
- Gossiping and ‘trash talking’. Our children are like sponges, absorbing everything they hear, see and observe. If they hear you chatting on the phone about what the next-door neighbour has done now or how Aunty Marg’s new hair looks awful – then that is what they will base their behaviour on. Gossiping about others shows your children that you aren’t respecting other people and models that they don’t have to either. It’s good for all of us to be mindful about how we talk about others – even when our children aren’t around. This is especially true in how we treat our spouse and family members. Children will model what they learn from their parents.
- Being too busy. We are all busy but this is all the more reason to intentionally slow down enough to show your children that you love them. Children learn how to love from their parents. Avoid the phrase, “I love you but…” when disciplining your children. It could be that the only time a child hears the words “I love you” is when it is followed by something like, “but I am sick of you tracking mud in through the house”. If you answer every request from your child with, “I’m too busy”, they will learn that they are not valued. Try phrases like, “yes, I’m happy to help you with that as soon as I finish… putting the dinner on/taking my shoes off/helping your sister,” etc. When children don’t feel valued they can turn to bullying others to make themselves feel important.
- Encouraging ruthless competition. We all want our children to be the best they can be and not miss out on any opportunity but often overlook the consequences of emphasising this in an unhealthy way. If we teach our children that they should ‘have the best, be the best and not to worry about the rest’, then they will learn that they are more important than others. This will result in them treating everyone else disrespectfully and they will quickly turn to bullying behaviour to reinforce their need to feel the biggest and best. They have learned that they need to do this in order to gain your love and respect. Encourage your children to do their best but always in the context of treating others with kindness and respect. For example, if three prizes were handed out and your child didn’t receive one, instead of reinforcing their sense of injustice by saying how unfair it is, just explain that it was someone else’s turn and they need to try and be happy for them.
- Surround your children with chaos. Sometimes we can’t help a bit of chaos in the home when someone is gravely ill or during a family split. During these times it is essential we work hard on letting our children know they are loved and safe. Keep routines as much as possible and provide avenues and opportunities for your children to express their emotions safely and appropriately. There is a lot of evidence that children turn to bullying when they feel powerless by circumstances or have anger and frustration without a safe outlet to vent their feelings. If chaos is the norm in your home because you want your child to be the best dancer/actor/ singer/ sportsperson, etc. and spend all your time rushing from one activity to another, then it is time to have a hard look at your life. Are you really doing this for your children and is it really the best thing for them?
We are all guilty of the above behaviours from time to time, but if it is a habit it is time to stop and realise how damaging our actions can be on our children.
We all like to believe the best of our children but if they are exhibiting any of the four patterns of behaviour listed here, then they could be a bully.
- They habitually don’t take responsibility for their actions, they blame others and make excuses.
- They lack empathy and don’t care about the feelings of others.
- They must be in control at all times and boss others to ensure that happens.
- They are proud and arrogant and have contempt for others.
If so, it is not the end of the world. The first change must happen in us, the parents. Go through steps 1 to 4 and reverse them! You may need to apologise to your child for some of the bad examples you have provided or cancel one of the activities they enjoy so home life can be calmer.
Secondly, be attuned particularly to the patterns of behaviour as mentioned above and if you do identify these in your child then address them. Sit down and discuss the situation with your child, listen to their feelings and correct their misconceptions.
Anti-bullying measures at the College
Apart from the usual method of reporting concerns to the teacher, there are other ways in which we work hard to ensure a safe environment here at GCC that I would like to bring to your attention.
During the past week, all the students in the Primary and Middle school have participated in a bullying survey. This is a survey we do on a regular basis and it is anonymous unless the student nominates to identify themselves. The survey explores questions such as;
- Do you feel safe at school?
- Please describe any incidents of physical bullying or persistent name-calling and verbal bullying over the last month?
- Where do you feel the most unsafe at school?
- Any other information the students may want to give related to making the College a “bullying free zone”
Sometimes students do not report bullying incidents for fear that the situation may worsen rather than improve. This is very rarely borne out by the facts of the matter but nevertheless, we have a long-established way of reporting bullying anonymously through Connect. This allows students to report incidents to either Mrs Vreeling or Mr Heyworth via email without identifying the sender.
This report is not just limited to bullying but in fact, any point of concern can be raised here in an anonymous way.
Mike Curtis, Principal