Back to school no fun for bullied

School will shortly be back, and there will be many children who won't be looking forward to it, parenting columnist Ian Munro writes.

It won't be because the lazy summer days are ending but because they know it means having to face up to the bullies yet again through 40 weeks of class, breaks and getting to and from school.

It can be so terrifying that some victims take their own lives to escape it.

There can be a tendency for some authorities to put bullying in the too-hard basket and to fob off complaints with comments such as "toughen up, if you expect to survive in the real world''.

Breaking someone down through bullying is exactly the wrong way to help them "toughen up''.

It can, instead, cement in a victim mentality where people come to expect to be bullied even as adults.

Some children are told, and come to believe, that they have to deal with the bullying by themselves because, when authorities take action, it only makes matters worse.

Without any skills to do so most can't and, if no-one takes action, then bullying continues unchecked and can become ingrained.

Victims will often believe, and are often told, that when they complain they are causing trouble.

This suits both the authorities and the bullies as it diverts the focus from the actions of the bully to the actions of the complaining victim.

Boys, in particular, will attempt to portray their bullying as a bit of fun but, if it is fun, it's very one-sided, only being fun for the bully.

Telling on the bully can also be seen as a major sin. This "manly'' stance of not telling tales is used by bullies to protect themselves.

However, anyone who decides to tell is taking a stand for themselves and other victims of the bully and should be applauded.

But it does also require the authorities to act on that report and to do so speedily and resoundingly. If they don't, they become complicit in the bullying themselves.

Bullying only occurs where it's tolerated, so:

• Listen to your child and don't shrug it off.

• Document specific examples.

• Don't tell them to ignore it or to fight back.

• Help them practise responses such as "whatever'', "cut it out'' and "if you say so'', said with as little emotion and as confidently as possible.

• Get in touch with the school as soon as you become aware of it.

Schools are required to provide a safe physical and emotional environment.

You can expect your school to:

• Have a bullying prevention policy and procedures for dealing with bullying and for providing support.

• Investigate and provide feedback.respond in an appropriate way.

• Protect your child from any negative consequences.


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