It’s important to remember that the behaviour is not considered bullying if it’s an isolated incident. Bullying behaviour involves repeated attempts to cause distress, humiliation or isolation.
The distress and humiliation caused can be so great that the target refuses to even discuss the issue. They feel embarrassed, isolated, overwhelmed, apprehensive, and often disgusted with themselves.
Help the target:
-Open up to you
-Understand it’s not their fault
-Understand you will listen to their wishes
-Build up their self-esteem and personal power
You may find you need to make a number of attempts to open communication about the situation. Do not force the issue. Unless you feel that the child is in impending physical danger, it’s vital they feel they have some control over the information they provide to you.
Once the child starts to open up:
-Document incidents in detail.
-Dates, locations, times, who was notified, witnesses, etc.
-The effects on the child with each incident.
Categorise the bullying so you can start to identify the bully’s strategy. Focus on the behaviour, not the individual.
Once you have accurate facts:
-Enlist the experts as required
-Senior teaching staff
Be clear and specific when enlisting help from others. Use examples.
With your team:
-Develop a strategy.
-Avoiding the bully
-Increasing the target’s self-esteem and confidence
-Practicing positive and firm assertive techniques to deflect the bully and show strength.
-Give the target phrases to use that help them articulate that the bullying behaviour is recognised and won’t be tolerated.
This strategy is only applicable to the target’s behaviour. A separate strategy for managing and improving the bully’s behaviour is also required. Evidence is key. The more accurate the documentation, the less denials and excuses the bully can make.
Where bullying exists, it affects everyone. Pretending it isn’t happening or brushing it off as part of growing up will support a destructive environment and negatively impact on everyone involved.
Read the previous articles in our bullying series, Managing the schoolyard bully, The effects of bullying and Exploring the mind of a bully
Darren Stevenson – founder and MD of Extend Before and After School Care – has 25 years of experience as an educator in Australia and the UK, having served in five schools.