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Bullying

It is normal for children to joke around with their peers and experience conflicts with their peers. Joking around, for example by teasing, is okay as long as everyone is finding it fun and it is bringing people closer together. Conflicts may be upsetting and require a resolution, but they don’t involve ongoing harm or the misuse of power. Bullying isn’t a minor conflict and it isn’t joking around.

Bullying is ‘repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological behaviour that is harmful and involves the misuse of power by an individual or a group towards one or more persons’ (Bullying No Way, 2014). Bullying can happen:

  • Face-to-face (eg. pushing, tripping, hitting, kicking, name-calling, making threats, etc.)
  • At a distance (eg. by spreading rumours, by excluding someone, etc.)
  • Through information and communication technologies (eg. email, social media, chat rooms, SMS, etc.)

Below we have provided information specific to children being bullied and children bullying others.

Children being bullied

Children who are being bullied often hesitate to tell people about it. They may feel like they should able to cope, think that something is wrong with them or fear that telling an adult will make the bullying worse. Children who are being bullied may exhibit some of the following behaviours or characteristics:

  • Refuse to go to school or to participate in their regular activities
  • Perform poorly in school or in their regular activities
  • Seem fearful or anxious (especially regarding school, regular activities or while using information and communication technologies)
  • Are upset or moody
  • Show signs of having experienced physical violence (eg. torn clothing, bruises, cuts, broken personal items, etc.)
  • Aren’t sleeping well
  • Have poor self-esteem
  • Are withdrawn from their friends
  • Avoid using information and communication technology or use it a lot, but are secretive and tense about it

Outcomes for children who are bullied

Young people who are bullied on an on-going basis are at risk of a number of concerns, including: poor self-esteem, anxiety, depression and suicide.

Helping your children when they are being bullied

It can be very upsetting to learn that your child is being bullied. It is very important for you to talk with your child and help him/her to resolve the situation. You can do this by:

  • Talking with your children about what’s happening.
  • Taking their feelings seriously.
  • Making it clear that they are not at fault.
  • Encouraging them that it is okay to talk about it and get help.
  • Contacting their school immediately if their safety is in danger.
  • Identifying some solutions together.
  • Helping your child to develop some simple assertiveness skills and strategies, such as:
    • Saying ‘No!’ firmly
    • Walking away
    • Acting like they aren’t bothered or are unimpressed by what the bully is saying
    • Responding in a routine way (eg. saying okay or whatever) to imply that they aren’t bothered
    • Practise standing and walking in a confident way
  • Intervening if the bullying continues, increases, or puts their safety at risk.
  • Seeking help from a psychologist if you would like your children to learn more complex strategies to help them to overcome the bullying situation.
  • Seeking help from a psychologist if you are concerned about your children’s psychological wellbeing as a result of the bullying.

Assessment

During your first session we meet with you and your child to conduct a clinical interview to identify your child’s underlying social and emotional concerns. If we believe that your child might have a diagnosable disorder, we will suggest that your child undertake an assessment. Then we develop a personalised, evidence-based treatment plan to help your child and your family.

Treatment

First and foremost, in instances of bullying, we must ensure that your child is safe. To do this we have to understand the severity of the bullying and then we help your family to develop a plan to eliminate the risk of harm to your child. Once your child is safe, the aim of our treatment is to reduce the negative impact the bullying is having on your child’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours and to improve your child’s daily functioning and self-esteem. We accomplish this by helping you to understand your child’s thoughts, feelings, and needs, and by providing your child and family with strategies and skills to build your child’s self-esteem, assertiveness skills and resilience.

We use evidence-based cognitive behaviour therapy to treat the impacts of bullying. We use a range of cognitive behavioural therapy techniques, depending on your individual child’s needs, such as:

  • Social skills training
  • Thought-challenging
  • Emotional regulation
  • Problem solving

We also use the following evidence-based therapy techniques:

  • Social skills group programs
  • Resilience group program
  • Mindfulness/relaxation
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy

For more detailed information on what to expect in your sessions with us, please visit our Appointments page.

If you would like help in understanding and helping your child who is being bullied, please contact us to schedule an appointment.


Children bullying other children

Children who bully other children often do so out of sight of adults, but in front of an audience of peers. Children who bully may exhibit some of the following behaviours:

  • Make fun of, tease or imitate others
  • Purposely exclude or ignore people
  • Talk about people behind their backs
  • Don’t show empathy for others
  • Threaten, intimidate, dominate or control others
  • Act aggressively
  • Are angry

Outcomes for children who bully others

Young people who bully others and do not develop alternative skills and strategies often continue to bully as adults through domestic violence (against partners and children) and through workplace bullying and harassment.

Helping your children when they are bullying others

It can be very difficult to learn that your child is bullying other children. It is very important for you to talk with your child and help him/her to resolve the situation. You can do this by:

  • Talking with your children about what’s happening.
  • Trying to understand why your children are behaving this way.
  • Making clear rules and consequences for bullying behaviour.
  • Helping them to understand the harm their bullying behaviours have caused.
  • Helping them to develop emotional recognition, understanding and regulation skills so that they can better manage their own feelings and develop empathy towards others.
  • Helping them to develop social skills so that they can develop positive relationships and appropriately resolve conflict.
  • Seeking help from a psychologist if you would like your children to learn more complex strategies. Intervention can help children who bully to develop new skills, strategies and behaviours so that their needs can be met in ways that don’t involve harming others.
  • Seeking help from a psychologist if you are concerned about your children’s psychological wellbeing.

Assessment

During your first session we meet with you and your child to conduct a clinical interview to identify your child’s underlying social and emotional concerns. If we believe that your child might have a diagnosable disorder, we will suggest that your child undertake an assessment. Following these investigations, we develop a personalised, evidence-based treatment plan to help your child and your family.

Treatment

Children’s behaviours have a purpose. Children who are bullying often have underlying emotional needs that are not being addressed and use bullying behaviours to meet their underlying needs. The aim of our treatment is to address your child’s underlying needs and to reduce their bullying behaviours by providing them with alternative behaviours. We use cognitive behaviour therapy to teach you skills that enable you to recognise your children’s behaviours, understand the reasons for their behaviours and provide you with strategies to meet their underlying needs in alternative ways. We use a range of cognitive behaviour therapy techniques, depending on your individual child’s needs, such as:

  • Behavioural intervention
  • Parenting skills training
  • Thought-challenging
  • Emotional regulation
  • Problem solving
  • Social skills training

We also use the following evidence-based therapy techniques:

  • Social skills group programs

For more detailed information on what to expect in your sessions with us, please visit our Appointments page.

If you would like help in understanding and managing your child’s bullying behaviour, please contact us to schedule an appointment.