Bullying in Schools
Earlier this week I was interviewed on The AM show about bullying in New Zealand schools. The topic is huge and has widespread implications for not just our tamariki, but our family wellbeing and the culture of our schools. It’s a big topic and 3 minutes barely scratches the surface, so I have written a blog to expand on the topics we touched on during the interview.
If you would like, you can watch the interview here:-http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/shows/2018/04/is-your-child-being-bullied.html
In 2017 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - or the OECD - published a report on student well being. The report highlighted that New Zealand has the second highest rate of student reports of bullying across the 34 countries that took part.
This rate was 26.1 %, meaning over a quarter of our children will experience some degree of physical or psychological bullying during their school years. The OECD average was 18.7%. It is still alarmingly high, but nearly 10% lower than the New Zealand figure. Other first world countries including Canada, the US, Australia and the UK all have lower levels of reported bullying.
This is not just problematic for the person being bullied. Bullying has profound consequences for everybody involved; those who are perpetrators, those who are bullied and those who witness it. Given the current figures, there will be no child in New Zealand who hasn’t been exposed to some element of bullying during their schooling.
So, what is bullying?
Bullying can take on many forms and common examples of bullying include:
Bullying also involves a repetition of the behaviour including threats of repetition that are designed to coerce, dominate or intimidate through fear.
Bullying targets our biggest need as a human, social connection. The impact of bullying damages our self-esteem and stops us from us from reaching our true potential by making us feel worthless and ashamed.
So, why do people bully?
To begin to tackle the issue of bullying it can be helpful to ask why people bully in the first place. Understanding the different circumstances that lead to bullying can help us to create a wide range of strategies to combat it within a school environment.
There are several key reasons that might cause a child to bully another child;
So, what can we do in schools?
The adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is particularly apt for the issue of bullying. A culture shift needs to happen. What we can glean from the OECD report on bullying is that countries that scored the lowest - such as the Netherlands with a figure of 9.3% - also tended to have a greater focus on wellbeing and belonging in schools.
One place we can start to impact our national bullying rate is to look at the culture of our schools. Schools that actively value and model inclusivity, belonging and student wellbeing alongside academics and sporting achievements tend to have lower levels of bullying.
If you are unsure about the culture of your child’s school, ask to see their anti-bullying policy and their wellbeing policy. If you are unhappy with how your school appears to deal with bullying, offer feedback and suggestions to help cultivate a proactive relationship between the school, families and pupils. Chances are if you’re unhappy there will be other families in a similar boat. Often it’s just starting the conversation that is needed.
If you are happy with your schools anti-bullying policy, reinforce the same rules and values at home.
So, What can we do as parents?
I don’t think there is a parent in New Zealand who isn’t worried about bullying. It’s hard enough supporting children with their academic, sporting and social activities without adding the worry of friendship connections and the corrosive threat of bullying. As I have stated, the best approach to bullying is to take preventative measures with your children, rather than waiting until they are involved in bullying.
It is really important to not label a child with either the word bully or victim. It is far more effective to talk about the behaviour not the person. If a child is labelled as something, this then becomes part of who they are rather than what they do and becomes more fixed and more difficult to change. Sometimes the the only difference between bullying or being bullied is a matter of circumstances.
What if your child tells you they are being a target of bullying?
This can be every parent’s worst nightmare, however it’s important to stay calm and reassure your child they have done the right thing by talking with you.
How do you know if your child is being bullied?
Some children may not report that they are being bullied. If you are worried your child is being bullied, signs to look out for include:
What if it is your child is bullying another child?
As I have mentioned, there are also serious implications for those doing the bullying. If your child is bullying another child they will also need a huge amount of love and support.
Remember, it is a difficult issue to navigate with children and as a parent it’s easy to feel out of our depth, or to let our own emotions or concerns impede the process. To help, I’ve listed some excellent resources to help you:-
If you have any concerns or queries, you can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org