What to do if you find out your child is a bully

Bullying is extremely common in schools, but what happens if your child is the one in the wrong? We explain how you can deal with the news your child’s the bully.

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Most of us don’t think our children could be the ones doing the bullying, so how exactly do you find out?

If a bullying incident happens at school but can be dealt with easily by the teachers, then you won’t be contacted.

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However, if your child’s behaviour continues or escalates, you’ll be contacted by the school and asked to come in for a chat with the teacher. “The teacher or Headteacher will explain to you what’s happening and give you advice on what you can do then to support your child and what the teachers are doing, because even the bully needs support,” says Paula Burgess, Headteacher at Bramley School, Surrey.

Once you’ve been informed about your child’s bullying at school, go home and sit down with your child somewhere quiet where you won’t be interrupted. “Tell your child that you know that they are bullying and that it’s unacceptable behaviour that needs to be changed,” says Richard Piggin, Deputy CEO of Beatbullying.

“Ask your child why they are behaving in this way and show them that you really want to know by listening to them,” advises Richard.

Why do children bully?

There are many different reasons. Some may do it because they are being bullied or harassed in some way themselves, and this could be either at school or at home. Others may think it makes them look popular in front of their peers, while others may bully out of fear that if they don’t, it will happen to them.

“Be prepared to listen to their side of the story without judging,” says Richard. “Be sensitive to the needs and fears of your child. He or she may be afraid of your anger towards the bullying.”

What will your child’s school do?

Every school must have an anti-bullying policy in place, which sets out specific guidelines to follow when it comes to a bullying incident. You can find out more about anti-bullying policies in our guide on what to do if your child is being bullied.

As mentioned before, you’ll be contacted if your child’s school think it’s necessary.

If the anti-bullying policy has been carried out during an incident, but your child continues to bully on a regular basis, then the school may exclude them.

“Ideally, schools hope that because all the strategies are in place against bullying, the child involved will realise that their behaviour is unacceptable and stop doing it. Anyone who continues to fight the rules and cause misery to other people will have to eventually be excluded from school,” explains Paula.

Schools will take bullying very seriously, but will also be on hand to offer as much support and advice as they can for anyone involved.

What kind of support is there for your child?

“The bully needs to understand that it’s not acceptable to bully another person and may need strategies to help them feel better, because quite often, bullying behaviour comes from a child who has low self-esteem,” says Headteacher Paula.

Keep in mind that every child is different, so every incident and solution will be individual too.

“Counselling, most likely from a school counsellor, may be able to offer your child some ways he or she can feel good about themselves. However it’s also up to you to try and boost self-esteem in the home and making sure your child knows that sort of behaviour is not right and that there are other ways of interacting with people,” says Paula.

Should you speak to the other parents involved?

No. Paula advises that you let your child’s school be the ones to sort out any incidents that take place within their grounds.

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For more info on bullying and counselling, Beatbullying– a UK charity that works with children to put a stop to bullying – is a great place to start.

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