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No one wants to think their child is a bully. Bullying is mean and smacks of inequality, with the bully usually seen as bigger and strong than their victim. However, bullying is much more nuanced than this with a child who has been bullied in the past sometimes becoming a bully themselves given the opportunity. Bullies often don’t see their actions as being problematic: they may think they are defending themselves or that they are being assertive, as they have been taught. When tackling bullying in under-10s here’s what to look for, and what to do, no matter which side of the equation you find yourself on.
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Tackling Bullying in Under-10s
Is Your Child Unhappy?
Unhappy children can fall into both camps. Sometimes, if they are doing the bullying, they feel bad about their behaviour. Or they have been told it is bad, but they do not understand how. This can be especially egregious if a well-meaning teacher has mistaken their being bullied for ‘just a bit of fun’. And yet comes down on your child for behaving in a similar way. Likewise, if someone is being mean to your child, they can become quiet and withdrawn as they try to process what is going on.
In both cases, make it clear to your child that you are there, ready to listen to them when they are ready to talk. It is important to emphasise that tolerance of difference is essential for a harmonious world. Some people like apples and others like oranges and both of these likes are perfectly fine!
What Does Your Child’s Teacher Say?
Teachers are very good at spotting trouble-makers. And they will often have a handle on a bullying situation before you are really aware there is anything wrong. But sometimes they do miss the signs. Especially if a child is very good at masking their true feelings, feigning happiness in class only to come home and essentially have a breakdown.
What Does Your Child’s School Record Say?
In the UK, every child must have a comprehensive EYFS file that is kept up to date. If you are concerned about your child, ask your child’s teacher to go through their file – with you, for preference – and see if there is any moment that you can pinpoint to say when their changed behaviour occurred. Each child’s file can hold a tremendous amount of data, so it can be hard for school administrators to get a comprehensive picture of the cohort without some digital help: find out about EYFS assessment tracker software here.
What to Look For:
Is Your Child Being Bullied?
- Doesn’t want to go to school
- Unspecified illnesses
- They’re ‘the new kid’
- Withdrawn, no longer chatty
- Changes in friends’ groups
- Trouble sleeping, bad dreams
- Tearful, emotional
- Physical signs: injuries, torn clothing etc
Is Your Child the Bully?
- Aggressive friends’ group
- They defend poor behaviour
- They get into trouble at school
- You find yourself using phrases like ‘high-spirited’ or ‘boisterous’ to explain away complaints
- They are intolerant to difference
Undoubtedly bullying, no matter which side of it you find yourself, is a pernicious and upsetting problem. As mentioned above, ensure that lines of communication remain open. And be prepared to work with the school and your child’s teacher for a fairly long time to resolve all the issues. In conclusion, bullying is not a simple issue and it will not have a simple fix. But tackling bullying in under-10s can be done, with time, patience and the right approach.