The recent government papers of 2013 on bullying and the associated guidelines for schools, states that there must be a programme of support for children affected by bullying. My question is, what are these programmes? Children caught up in bullying at primary school level need intervention and education, not discipline and suspension. Such behaviours at an early age are more learned than intentional. By this I mean, harmful behaviours may not have been addressed in the home or the care environment, they have not been 'called'. So when a child pushes another child to get to the top of the line in a sweet shop and a parent says nothing, the child will not learn this is inappropriate behaviour. Or the child has seen the caregivers speaking to each in a harmful way. It is lack of understanding rather than intention to harm. To understand this will adjust how we deal with situations of 'bullying' at this level and push for a supportive, educational intervention.
So new supports must be educational, they must be supportive and they must engage with both parents and school. A child who is being bullied daily will not benefit greatly from a general talk on bullying. Primarily because the child who is causing the harm is probably sitting very close to them in the classroom. They need the intensive support of other supportive peers and they need real skills.
Supportive programmes such as MyLife assertiveness training (adapted from the long running and hugely successful ZAP training in the UK) takes children out of the school environment, equips them and their parents with skills in a fun and energising manner. Their self esteem is raised and they return to school proud of who they are. Able to maintain eye contact and hold their own space. Able to rebalance a peer to peer dynamic. A child being bullied should not end up in our mental health process requiring weeks of therapy. They have done nothing wrong.
A recent article in the Huffington post talks about the role of assertiveness communication in the fight against bullying. Assertiveness is direct, emotionally honest and shows the child who is bullying that they will stand their ground, they are equal, not weaker, and they will not bow to it. This is the type of support our children need.
Psychologist & Anti-Bullying Specialist