By Michael Knight
Peer Power, Brisbane
One of the most comprehensive studies of bullying within Australian schools surveyed more than 20,000 students to learn about their experiences.
This was done about a decade ago by university researchers but its observations still hold true in school grounds across the country.
The most common form of bullying was verbal ahead of physical and then cyber bullying.
There were some headline numbers: more than a quarter of students from Years 4 to 9 were bullied every few weeks or more during a school term.
The research found that almost three-quarters of those students were able to move on. That left just over one-quarter who couldn’t shrug it off so easily. They needed some help to get through a tough time.
And this figure was interesting: almost nine times out of 10, bystanders observed the bullying. So, there was someone who saw the bullying and may have been able to do something about it.
What we need to do is to teach 100 per cent of students how and when to speak up if they’re one of these bystanders.
In my experience working in schools across Queensland, the most effective antidote is to focus on the solution, not the problem.
The solution here is the creation and fostering of a strong community where positive and courageous lives thrive.
Here are some thoughts:
- Let’s teach our children by role-modelling positive, strong and healthy relationships.
It can simply start with how you engage your child. Instead of asking “how was your day”, try questions like: “Was there a moment today you were able to be courageous; did you find an opportunity to laugh or be creative? What happened?” Try allowing your child to ask the same questions of you. Some people tell me their child would never answer a question like that when it’s asked by their parent. Don’t give up. Find a way. Only you can ever be their parent. Anyone can be their friend.
- Teach healthy boundaries in all types of relationships
Some conflict is nothing more than “friendly fire” when two children are engaged in something like playing handball or playing together or talking together. Let’s teach the difference between banter and intentional harm which then lets the child know when intervention is needed.
- Clarify the difference between when people are being competitive and combative
Being competitive is a helpful skill for real life. Being combative isn’t helpful to anyone. Point this out to your child and discuss with them why this is hurtful and how best to speak up.
- Finally, celebrate the success in others
Much of bullying comes from those who feel inadequate. Therefore, develop the language across life’s disciplines (socially, emotionally, relationally, spiritually) to find and celebrate success in others. It’s a great skill to have.
When parents speak up about positive, healthy communities and families, children will learn what is possible, potential and realistic.
There are some resources that can help. www.rethinkwords.com aims to make young people think before they send any texts or social media messages that may be inappropriate.
Michael Knight is an Adolescentologist with Peer Power which works with students in schools across Queensland and beyond. peerpower.com.au