Sticks and Stones

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me”.... Really? I don't think so! Being called names, being teased, having rumours spread about you – these are some of the most hurtful and damaging forms of verbal bullying that children can experience. As well as the pain and embarrassment experienced in the moment, these actions can have severe negative long term effects on a person's confidence and self esteem.

I'm not referring to playful banter or squabbles in the playground. It is inevitable that children will bicker and whilst a fallout in the playground with your best friend can be devastating, for the most part children are not emotionally scarred: it hurts, but they have the ability to get over the experience and move on....more often than not they are BFFs again before the end of the day! Moreover, managing these uncomfortable situations can give children the opportunity to develop the coping skills and resilience that they need to develop healthy relationships and cope with conflict as adults. (GULDBERG)

Snake image

But what if the banter becomes taunting or threatening, or the teasing is cruel and persistent? When does banter become bullying? Bullying is the repetitive and intentional hurting of a person by another person or a group, where there is an imbalance of power in the relationship. (KIDSCAPE) And the statistics are frightening! In 2017 it was reported that bullying / cyberbullying was the top health concern identified by parents for children in a US national poll, with 61% of adults identifying this as a "big problem for children and teens.(MOTT) In the UK, Childline reported that there were over 24,000 counselling sessions with children about bullying in 2016/17 and more than 16,000 young people are absent from school due to bullying. (NSPCC)

So what can we do about it? Sadly there is no easy solution and the reality is that it can be very difficult to stop this type of behaviour. As parents and carers, one of the key preventative measures we can take is to set a good example for our children by showing kindness, modelling respect and talking to our children - studies show that carers, teachers, friends and family members can all help prevent bullying by keeping the lines of communication open, talking to children about bullying, encouraging them to do what they love and encouraging them to get help when they are involved in bullying or know others who need help. Swift intervention is also key – when adults respond quickly and consistently against bullying they send the message that it is not acceptable, and research shows that this can have a positive impact. (STOP BULLYING)

In the UK, schools have a legal responsibility to ensure a behaviour policy is in place and this should includes measures to prevent bullying, so speak with your child's teacher. They may be best placed to offer support and advice to you and your child.

Being bullied can make children wonder why it's happening to them, they may think they have done something wrong or even that they deserve it – but bullying is NEVER their fault! No one should be bullied, no matter who they are, what they look like or how they act. We need to remind our children that bullying always says more about the person doing the bullying than it does about them. (CHILDLINE)