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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 5, No. 1 - January/February 2013

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Strategies to Prevent School Bullying

By Susanne Gervay

One in six children is bullied at school. As an educator and author, I often ask groups of children - 'How many of you have seen bullying at school?' Most students will raise their hand. Then I ask - 'Have any of you been bullied?'

There can be up to 50% of students raising their hands. The most controversial question is - 'How many of you have bullied someone else?' Depending on the trust level they have established with me, more than 30% will raise their hands.

The majority of students are exposed to bullying at some level. It may be as a bully, a victim or an onlooker.

Often bullying starts as a game that gets out of control. It can be caused by a joke that goes wrong. It can be based on self-protection, ego, peer pressure - any number of personal and social reasons.

Unresolved bullying at school can have long term effects with victims taking low self-esteem and depression into adulthood; bullies taking aggression into the workplace and personal life; and bystanders experiencing depression, anger and fear. It creates an unsafe world.

How to help your child against school bullying?

Isolation and secrecy are keys to bullying. Ensure that communication is open through developing trust. Make special time for your child when you are not preoccupied and the child is the focus. Go for walks together, share a story at night before bed, cook together or an activity that suits your family.

Parents can make bullying less likely to happen or stop it escalating through:

  • Supporting friendship groups with invitations to play for younger children
  • Making the home available to friends
  • Team activities such as sports, drama groups, community service youth groups such as Life Savers and Cancer Council's Relay for Life.
  • Being aware of changes in your child's behaviour such as sick days, drop in school marks, loss of friends
  • Family & child-parent activities
  • Providing safe times to talk
  • Ensuring children have strong social networks
  • Engaging in story journey so children emotionally relate & gain strategies to counter bullying

Bullying is about isolating, victimising, and destroying a child's belief in themself.

It is important to realise that good kids can bully others. Many kids will bully at some time. Often bullying occurs because children do not understand the impact on the victim, they are having fun, they are in a group, deflected anger, jealousy, peer group influence, feeling good about their own power, leading in the wrong way. There are many reasons a child bullies.

What do you do if you find out that your child is the bully?

If your child is the bully, action depends on the severity of the bullying, the child's personality and relationships in the family and similar factors.

There should be parent-child chats during normal family activities that emotionally engage the child in the impact of their bullying others.

If bullying of another child is severe, then the first priority is to ensure the bullied child is safe and the bullying must be stopped immediately. There can be punishments with withdrawal of privileges. However for your child not be a bully, there needs to be an emotional understanding and belief by the child that bullying of others is wrong and there are consequences for bullying behaviours on the bully.

Suggested actions:

  • Do not make excuses, joke or accept your child bullying another
  • Have a serious talk about the bullying & its impact on the victim
  • Negative consequences for bullying such as withdrawal of privileges
  • Work together to find resolutions
  • Reward your child for positive actions such as apologising, inclusive behaviours, getting other kids who bully a child to stop

The Power of Story to Change the Culture of Bullying

Bullying impacts on not only the bullied and the bully, but all the children. Story journey is a powerful way to emotionally engage school children in the impact of bullying, recognise their own behaviours and determine how they want to act.

About I am Jack

'I Am Jack' was written after Susanne's son was bullied at school. Endorsed by The Alannah & Madeline Foundation, Life Education Australia, Room to Read and many anti school bullying organisations and programmes, it is widely read to empower young people and parents against a culture of bullying.

'I Am Jack' offers insight into how bullying develops and strategies to counter it. For students who watch while others are victimised, it empowers them to act. For bullies it challenges them to consider their behaviours. 'I Am Jack' supports parents as their children's advocates. It re-emphasises to teachers the signs of bullying and strategies to counter it. It opens essential communication and establishes that society can work towards a fair and safe school with the support of family, friends, teachers and the children.

The acclaimed adaptation of 'I Am Jack' by Australia's premiere Monkey Baa Theatre Company will be performed 11-16th March at the Lend Lease Darling Quarter Theatre, Darling Harbour Sydney. P: 02 8624 9341

More Information

Susanne Gervay
Children's author and writer


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