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Cobble Blog

Bullying in the Schoolyard

With the return to school upon us, many families may experience the return of school bullying. We often think of the school holidays as a great time for children because there’s a break in routine, sleep ins, visitors and holidays. I have no doubt that these things are all enjoyed by children, but sometimes we can overlook a big reason why many children like the break – it’s a time where they feel safe and are not exposed to school bullying.

In current times, we hear a lot about cyberbullying, and yes, when used incorrectly, social media can have a huge impact on children’s self-worth. In this article, let's take our focus away from the much-talked-about cyberbullying and turn our attention to bullying in the school grounds. Though, keep in mind that playground bullying often starts or continues on social media.

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Most of us have, at some time in our lives, hurt someone by mistake. We’ve lashed out when under stress and used unkind words to express our emotions. We may have overreacted or blamed others unnecessarily. In these situations, we are usually able to see our error, offer forgiveness and learn from our actions.

Bullying is different. It is a form of aggressive behaviour where someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can be through physical contact, humiliation, social exclusion, verbal threats or more subtle actions like manipulation and blaming. Those being bullied have done nothing to cause the bullying and struggle to defend themselves. In the school situation, those who choose to bully others usually see this inappropriate behaviour as giving them some sort of power and, in their eyes, this heightens their status.

When bullying is not dealt with, we see the victims experiencing harm physically and emotionally, which often leads to other health complications. Although the bullying behaviour is often used to label a group or 'gang', it's typically the leader of the group who is dealing out the nastiness themselves or directing group members to follow their commands of disrespectful behaviour. They tend to recruit a group of followers who appear to enjoy tagging along with the misuse of perceived power. The followers don’t always like or agree with these behaviours, but are too scared to not participate. Many of them possibly landed in the gang because they were threatened if they didn't come onboard. When a person is being threatened, it can appear easier to jump on-board rather than be continually intimidated. As they are drawn into the bullying circle, good healthy relationships between friends are lost and victims are left isolated and afraid.

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Signs that a child is being bullied:

  • Loss of or changes in friends

  • Frequent sickness or faking sickness

  • Changes in sleeping patterns, nightmares

  • Lowered self-worth

  • Changes in eating habits (loss of appetite or comfort eating)

  • Avoiding social or sporting events

  • Loss of personal belongings

  • Torn clothing

  • Unexplained injuries

  • Loss of interest in schoolwork

  • Extra clingy

  • Distant, silent, withdrawn

While the above points may indicate bullying, it is important to remember they may be signs of other significant health issues and should be followed up with a doctor or suitable professional.

Nobody should be bullied, and we need to work together as a team to prevent this from happening. A well-managed and disciplined approach needs to happen to allow all children to feel safe at school. School leaders, parents, community members and students all need to listen to and look out for victims of bullying.

How you can help a victim of schoolyard bullying:

  • Allow the child being bullied to feel comfortable talking to you. Try not to escalate the situation - stay calm and listen.

  • Explain to them what bullying is and that it is not acceptable.

  • Reassure them that this is not their fault - they did nothing to deserve this.

  • Recognise their courage in speaking up and reporting the bullying.

  • Allow them to be involved in the decision-making going forward to end the bullying.

  • Prepare a toolkit of coping strategies until the issue is resolved.

  • Never retaliate against the bully or their family through words or actions.

  • Depending on your relationship with the victim, offer to go with them to report it to a higher level (eg: School Principal).

  • Simply be there as a support person, let them know they are not alone.

  • Reach out for professional support if you have concerns for the child’s health or safety.

 

A counsellor or mental health professional can provide further support and recovery strategies if necessary.

Let's look out for others, come together and stamp out bullying!

Published February 2022.

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Shelley Carolan

Lead Counsellor, Cobble Counselling

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