A child’s experience will be directly affected by the response they get from the adult. We need to listen and get it right. It’s about the personal touch, and we should always be mindful of this.
When a child or young person tells you they are being bullied, whether it’s happening face to face or online, your reaction is vitally important. Children and young people will have often been through a lot of upset before they actually tell someone, and their experience will be directly affected by the response they get. It’s not just about the environment, the anti-bullying policy, or the measures that are in place to deal with bullying, we need to listen and get our responses right. It’s about the personal touch, and we should always be mindful of this.
Our responses must be child-centred and underpinned by the values of fairness, equality and inclusion. We should ask ourselves; Is this fair and equal? Is what I am doing ensuring marginalised children are represented, included and not ignored? Am I meeting my needs as an adult or responding to what this child needs now? These are all questions that will help us frame an effective response. Every situation is unique so we need to have a way of thinking about bullying that let’s us consider different responses, rather than one fixed way of doing things.
Listen - what do they want you to do?Children and young people often feel that bullying has ‘taken something away from them’, what we define as their ‘agency’. The role of the adult helping is to work with them to help restore their feeling of being in control of themselves and their ability to affect what happens. Your challenge lies in how you work with them to acknowledge what has been happening and to help them regain their sense of self, balance and control. Once they have told you their story you need to find out what they need you to do. Many young people will tell you that they don’t want you to do anything, but if they feel they have some sort of control over the situation then they are more likely to admit that they want the bullying to stop. To help make this happen, it is vital that their views are taken into account when planning how to deal with the allegations. Keep them involved at all times and update them on progress. Tell them that you are really glad they came to you to talk about the bullying and that you are always there to listen. Promise to check back to make sure that whatever agreements you have made are happening - and make sure you do it! Bullying can have long-term impacts on children and young people. You need to be aware that even if the behaviour stops, the impact can still be felt and the process of moving on from what may have been a traumatic event will need ongoing monitoring and support. There isn’t any single approach when responding to bullying, and what works for one child or situation, may not work for another. Children and young people value choices. If you are unsure of how to respond or are not sure what will work, explore options, ask what they think would happen if you follow a certain course of action, explore alternatives. The more they talk to you, the more their stress levels should reduce and they will feel listened to and included. These are necessary steps to help someone deal with what has happened to them. Don’t get too hung up on whether an incident is bullying or not. The most effective way to structure your response to bullying to is to ask yourself these questions: