Bullying is different to teasing, but teasing can escalate into bullying. Most children experience and engage in some form of teasing, casual name-calling, a hit on the arm, or a bit of rough and tumble and still feel confident in who they are.

What is bullying?

It’s when the teasing, punching or name-calling isn’t funny anymore that bullying happens. When it’s used to intimidate and isolate another child. It’s when a bully with peer group support attacks the very basis of a child’s self-esteem until a child is powerless, feeling there is no support from adults, the school and friends.

A child becomes a victim, develops low self-esteem, depression and can show behaviours ranging from withdrawal, aggression, missing school and a feeling of worthlessness.

Related: Would you invade your child’s privacy to prevent online bullying?

Signs of bullying

Parents should lookout for:

  • a fall in school grades
  • dropping out of activities
  • friends not coming over
  • developing headaches and similar
  • trying to miss school
  • getting into trouble at school
  • change in activities
  • changes in emotions such as anger, crying, silence
  • spending a lot of time alone

Bullying is about isolating, victimising and destroying children’s belief in themselves. But it is important to realise bullies are not usually evil monsters. Often bullying occurs because children do not understand the impact on the victim, they are having fun, they are in a group or they feel good about their own power.

Strategies parents can take to help prevent bullying

1. Make time for positive experiences with your child

Go for a walk together. Kick a ball around. Read a book with them. Listen and share the incidents of the day. It creates self-worth in the child and they feel valued by their parents. It also makes the family feel like a safe place where kids will be heard.

2. Before bed, have special parent-child time

Make it a time and place to bond, talk and deal with concerns.

3. Encourage friendships with other children

Invite kids over for play dates and similar. In that way, your child has a support team and supports others.

Related: Cyberbullying: Help for your child

4. Let your child join a team activity

Activities such as a sport, debating or Lego club creates supporters, friends and community for the child.

5. Encourage sibling support

Where there’s no siblings, a cousin is equally effective.

6. Where a child has an interest . . .

. . . such as photography, drawing or karate, develop, encourage and praise achievements. This builds their self-esteem.

7. Discuss strategies to deal with teasing

Ignore it, laugh, answer back and make a joke so it does not escalate.

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