If your son or daughter is accused of bullying your first reaction may be to assume that someone has been lying or making up false allegations. It can be very upsetting for parents to hear that their child may have done something wrong. However, schools will normally investigate allegations of bullying before they approach the parents of the alleged perpetrators. If your child is accused of bullying behaviour by their school, you should be prepared to take these allegations seriously and work with the school to find a solution.
Listen to Your Child. If your child is accused of bullying then you should be prepared to listen to their side of the story. Ask your child to explain their side of the story but be aware that there are multiple different interpretations. Try to find out why your child may have acted in the manner that they accused of and ask them what they think that they can do to stop this from happening again. Even if you do not believe that your child was directly involved in bullying another child, or if you consider that the “bullying” was unintentional, then you can still work with your child and their school to help to improve the quality of life of the person who is unhappy.
Accept Evidence. Even though it is hard to believe that your child has been aggressive or intimidating towards another child, you must be prepared to accept evidence if it is shown to you. Failing to accept evidence will actually do your child a disservice, because you are preventing them from learning from their mistakes. Stopping bullying behaviour in young children can stop the tendencies from being exacerbated in older children. Even if you struggle to accept that your child was fully responsible, you should try to understand why your child is being accused.
Do Not Take Matters into Your Own Hands. If you know the parents of the child who has accused your child of bullying, you should refrain from taking matters into your own hands. Although it may be tempting to contact the other parents to discuss the allegations, this type of behaviour may be considered to be intimidating. This is especially true if the parents of all of the children involved attempt to have their own independent dialogues. In some extreme cases, groups of parents have ended up ostracising the parents of the child who made the allegation.
Behaviour like this is bullying in its own right and continues the cycle. It also shows children that this kind of behaviour is completely acceptable. When dealing with accusations of bullying, it is essential that you set a good example for your children.
Explaining Bullying Behaviours. Younger children may not fully understand why some behaviour is considered to be bad or thought of as bullying. Explain to your child why their behaviour is inappropriate in the given scenario. Ask them how they would feel if someone was behaving like that towards them. Most children over the age of 4 have developed some degree of empathy and they are able to associate their feelings with the feelings of others. Use their empathy to help them to understand why they need to stop behaving in a bullying manner. There are plenty of great storybooks and fictional characters which can be used to explain the consequences of bullying to children.
Solve the Primary Problem. Many children are involved in bullying because of a “primary problem”. A “primary problem” is something that affects children and causes them to act in an aggressive or intimidating way towards others. This aggression or bullying may manifest itself because the child is struggling to express themselves in another way. Primary problems can include; changes in family circumstances (separation, divorce, bereavement, new step-parent, new sibling), struggling to keep up in school, being afraid of a ringleader, or lack of attention in their home life. Identifying and solving the primary problem can reduce the likelihood that the child will continue to exhibit bullying behaviours.
Work with their School. All schools in the United Kingdom should have their own anti-bullying policy. If your child has been accused of bullying then you may want to see or discuss this policy with them. Be prepared to work with the school to stop your child from bullying. Consider how you might feel if the school was trying to stop people from bullying your child. Offer to meet with the school regularly to discuss whether there have been any developments in the situation. If you have identified a primary problem, you should tell the school so that they can also take steps to support you. It is much easier to solve potential bullying issues if both the school and the parents are prepared to work together.