Thus, expectations of parents are both abundant and diverse. Representations of the parental role are embedded in society and have given rise to judgements that parenting is something that parents either get right or wrong Gillies , and that professionals can monitor this process and intervene if necessary Phoenix and Woollett This has also impacted on how parents perceive themselves. For example, Henderson et al. Consequently, the parental perspective in school bullying situations will be embedded in the broader context of what it means to be a parent.
Secondary schools and community centres which had parenting groups in the North West of England were approached by letter to explain the research and request permission to contact parents about the study.
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The study was also advertised to staff and students at the university where this research was conducted. Where schools and parenting groups expressed an interest in participating, the first author of this paper liaised with a head teacher, teacher or group leader as appropriate. These individuals identified parents whose children had experience of being bullied. A letter from the researchers was sent to the parents to invite them to participate. Where the participants were recruited at the university, the first author communicated with them directly throughout the process. In the case of schools and parenting groups, staff at these institutions made initial contact with the parents.
It is acknowledged that because of this there would have been some bias in the parents that were approached. For example, a head teacher might be more likely to identify parents who they think will give a favourable account of how the school tackled the problem. However, as the findings will show, the parents disclosed negative experiences and views of the school, and felt able to do this because they were assured of their anonymity and that the school would not have access to the recordings or transcripts of the interviews and focus groups.
The process of recruiting parents to this study proved challenging which was demonstrated by the different settings in which parents were contacted and the reliance on schools to help with recruitment. While this may have contributed to a biased sample, it was important to utilise the assistance of teachers to both identify relevant parents and to provide initial communication channels between the parents and the researcher.
Sample sizes in qualitative research are often guided by the concept of data saturation. Saturation is thought to have occurred when analysis does not reveal any new categories in relation to the central issue being researched Chamberlain This approach was applied in this study. Thus, as data were collected a provisional theory that accounted for the data was developed. Subsequent cases were reviewed in relation to this and adjustments were made to the themes as necessary.
Once reviews of additional data from more participants did not change the themes, recruitment stopped. Two of the focus groups took place at the community centre and one took place at a secondary school School 1. Four interviews took place at the university, one took place in School 2 and the other three interviews took place in School 3.
The higher proportion of parents of adolescents occurred because secondary schools were contacted during the recruitment phase as evidence has suggested there is a peak in the prevalence of young people being a victim of bullying in England when in the lower secondary school years Eslea and Rees However, some parents of younger children who were aware of the study for example, through the parenting group expressed a wish to participate, and so they were also included.
A National Epidemic
A qualitative design was used involving a combination of focus groups and interviews. Focus groups were used because they provide a setting that can support and encourage participants to share their views and help them develop their viewpoint through discussion with others Vaughn et al. However, a drawback of focus group research is that some people may be reluctant to share their experiences in a group setting Krueger and Casey Thus, interviews were conducted with parents who preferred this approach.
The focus groups and interviews took place in schools, community centre parenting groups and at the university. Parents were assured that the full discussions would not be shared with anyone including teachers , and only short anonymous quotes would be used in research reports with their permission. Informed consent was obtained from all participants. A schedule of questions was used to help guide the discussion, but a semi-structured format was used so that parents could discuss anything they thought was relevant.
The questions started by asking parents to talk about definitions of bullying and what they thought caused it. The discussions were audio recorded. The focus groups and interviews were transcribed by the first author of this paper. The transcripts were first coded within NVivo. Each transcript was read closely and coded sentence by sentence; nodes were created to represent their content. NVivo was used in the early stages of coding as a tool for organising and managing the data.
Analysis then progressed to higher level interpretation, including the merging of codes into themes. This was done manually by printing out each code node and corresponding text segments. The text linked to each code was reviewed and candidate themes were identified through considering the relationships between codes. This process was guided by the analysis steps outlined by Attride-Stirling and Braun and Clarke Where divergent views or atypical experiences were expressed, they were included in the relevant themes.
All three authors discussed at length the identification and refinement of the sub-themes and themes, interpretations of the data, and how the themes related to existing literature in the field. This process identified a number of themes, which were reviewed in light of the data extracts and the whole data set. Subsequently, some themes were refined by merging them with other overlapping themes. Other themes were modified to account for the data extracts they denoted and ensure the themes were a true representation of these data.
This process facilitated the identification of several sub-themes: There were relationships between the sub-themes, and consequently the arrangement of the themes was considered to explore how they appeared to group together to signal overarching themes. This element of the analysis led to the identification of two main themes: The majority of parents reported that the teachers did not communicate with them and appeared to do very little, thus putting their child at further risk by allowing the bullying to continue.
These concerns meant that parents often felt unable to control the situation and perceived that barriers existed between themselves and the school, contributing to a sense of distrust.
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Some parents did not believe teachers when they said they did not know about the bullying problem and suspected that the teacher had not attempted to tackle the problem because of other priorities. These priorities included adhering to the anti-bullying policy procedures even if the parent thought they were ineffective and only intervening when the bullying became more serious.
Consequently, these motives were then perceived by parents to increase the risk to their child because the bullying was not being addressed, which created a sense of distrust towards the school. It should be noted that because the parents were referring to experiences at different schools, the content of the policies they referred to also varied. Other parents shared her sentiments, tapping into the idea that the anti-bullying policy had two aspects.
One aspect was the anti-bullying policy as a document which outlined what the school would do in an incident of bullying, and the other aspect referred to the actual actions taken by the school when bullying occurred. Three parents, Honor, Kendra and Phoebe, praised the anti-bullying policies that were in place at the schools that their children currently attended.
This discontentment towards the anti-bullying policy contributed to the distrust towards the school because the parents felt the policies were ineffective. They existed because they legally had to, and in a lot of cases the school had referred the parents to the policies as evidence that the school had procedures in place to tackle the bullying.
One parent, Miriam, reported that her concerns were not taken seriously and she thought this was because her daughter was bullied verbally and through social exclusion, rather than being physically bullied. But to me it was a big deal: This gathering and presentation of evidence to the school appeared to serve two purposes: They endeavoured to protect their child from the bullying, but struggled to do this.
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This meant they often felt excluded from the process. The school life is for the teachers, people that work here and the children. Consequently, these parents expressed positive opinions about the school, and had confidence in the staff to effectively tackle bullying incidents:. I was happy with that, my son was happy with that, so I was extremely happy.
Experiences of parent—teacher communication were frequently discussed by parents. For some parents, school procedures made it physically difficult for them to have any form of communication with the teacher for example, having to go through the school receptionist to talk to a teacher on the telephone. However, for most parents in this study the main communication issue occurred because they reported that the teachers did not keep them informed about bullying incidents that had happened to their child and actions taken to tackle the bullying.
In many instances, teachers may well have acted to address the bullying incidences that were reported. However, parents were not made aware of this and so when their child continued to be bullied they took this as an indication that the school had not responded, for example:. All of the parents contacted the school believing the teacher would address the peer victimisation problem. Their comments pointed towards distrust in schools, and this situation was exacerbated by their inability to control what happened to their child at school.
In terms of perceived institutional factors, parents noted that at primary school there were regular opportunities to speak face to face with teachers, for example when taking their children to and from school. The parents in this study endeavoured to help their children. They saw this as a key part of the parental role; something that good parents did. The concept of the good parent emerged through two different strands. Firstly, parents highlighted their role as the protector of their children, and this was linked to distress at being unable to control the situation and thus, being unable to protect their child.
Accordingly, the parents evaluated their own actions within the parental role. The focus groups and interviews showed that the aim of the parent, in whatever action they took to tackle the bullying, was to protect their child. It was talked about as being instinctual and appeared to be a key responsibility in being a good parent:. Some parents became so frustrated and angry by the situation that they developed feelings of aggression and resentment towards the bully. This instinctual response was simultaneously accompanied by an acknowledgment that being aggressive towards the child who was bullying their child was not an appropriate response.
Am I going to kill this kid or this group? Although parents could protect their child at home, they were unable to protect their child outside the home environment and this was especially the case with situations that occurred within the school. For some parents, school appeared to be a very dangerous place to send their child, especially if they perceived the school did not provide any protection for their child.
Pushing and prodding him all the time. How can you send your son on a school bus like that? Consequently, parents faced a paradoxical situation of needing to protect their child, whilst also granting them increasing independence. It should also be noted that this was a particular concern to the parents of secondary school children.
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In most day to day situations parents could control what happened to their child, and in doing so, also help to solve any difficulties their child experienced. And all this stuff seems to go on at school, or on the bus, so what can I do? Parents indicated that their endeavours to protect their child were embedded in a broader context of what it meant to be a good parent. For example, when their child became the victim of bullying, some parents perceived that they were somehow responsible for this situation.
This self-evaluation contributed to them experiencing feelings of self-blame, self-doubt and anger towards themselves. Or what, you know, and in my head I went through the whole thing. Well should we have stayed in London? Should we have done this? So I was angry at myself. Some parents indicated regret for not responding in a particular way to the bullying, or doubted the actions they did take.
For example, Heidi was hesitant about the advice she gave to her daughter to end a friendship with a girl who went through phases of socially excluding her daughter and spreading her secrets. This included their judgements about themselves and other parents in relation to how they raise their children on a day to day basis.
They highlighted examples of how they had been good parents, for example, by punishing bad behaviour. For these parents, protecting their child was instinctual and fundamental to the parental role. However, parents appeared to experience some dissonance by recognising themselves as a good parent on a daily basis, but not being able to fulfil the principal task of a good parent to protect their child. This led to feelings of distress and anger towards the bully, and frustration that they lacked control over the situation.
For parents of adolescents, their automatic response to protect their child clashed with their realisation that their child was growing up and would increasingly face challenging situations which they would not always be able to resolve on behalf of their child. The focus groups and interviews revealed the complex experiences of parents when their children are bullied. The parents in this research explained that they struggled to be good parents and were frustrated by perceived institutional factors as they sought to work with the school to tackle bullying.
So while the school may have been struggling to address the issue of bullying, this was not how it was perceived by parents who felt they were being kept at a distance. This is problematic because evidence has suggested that teachers sometimes avoid interacting with parents who make complaints, and these parents can be perceived by schools as bad parents, when in fact the parents are endeavouring to be the opposite of this. Collectively these issues highlight the risk of an impasse emerging in parent—teacher collaboration in school bullying situations.
The data revealed some differences in the concerns of parents depending on whether their child was in primary or secondary school. Secondary school parents felt that they were more external to the school in comparison to experiences at primary school. Parents of secondary school children also reflected on the difficulties in protecting their child as they progressed through adolescence and the expectation that they would have to support their child to cope with these sorts of problems more independently.
Previous research has also demonstrated that parents often feel that school staff are unable or unwilling to enforce their policies Brown et al. The key difference in their experiences was the level of communication between parents and teachers. Schools can also be intimidating for parents, appearing not to value their input and maintaining control during parent-teacher interactions MacLure and Walker In this study, the parents saw their main role as protecting their child, and they expected teachers to do the same. As shown in Brown et al. Roffey also found that parents believed the parental role was to protect their child, and they expected teachers to do this on their behalf.
Whereas teachers highlighted that it was their responsibility to balance the needs of one child against the needs of other children and deliver good quality education Ribbens McCarthy and Kirkpatrick From this it becomes understandable how the tricky parent-teacher relationships that parents in this study talked about, might have emerged. The concept of the good parent, and what constitutes being a good parent was an important theme in this research.
For the parents in this study, protecting their child was viewed as their main role as a parent; it was instinctual and fundamental to the parental role. Research has suggested that parents, professionals and society position parents in one of two polarised groups: Thus, it is perhaps unsurprising that parents who deemed themselves to have not protected their child came to doubt themselves as being good parents.
In this situation parents can doubt their actions and feel powerless to help their child. Parents in the research by Harcourt et al. According to Treharne and Riggs , p. The themes that emerged in this study parallel the findings of other research in this area and the broader theory of the perceived role of a good parent. In this way, the findings from this research appear to resonate with the experiences of other parents. In cases where teachers assisted with recruitment, some parents may not have been considered, for example those who had tricky relationships with the school or those who found interactions with teachers intimidating.
There will also be bias in the parents who volunteered. This is because the participants shared a common endeavour to protect their child, and this may have contributed to their decision to participate in the study. Moreover, those who had an especially negative experience may have been more motivated to participate in the research to flag up the problems they experienced especially problems in relation to the school.
Accordingly, this sample is unlikely to be representative of all parents of bullied children.
How to bully proof your child
The issue has been encountered in other studies targeted at parents for example, Holt et al. Future research should also examine the experiences of parents whose children engage in bullying behaviours. This paper is not intended to add to the criticism aimed at teachers, but instead highlight the parental perspective and give insight into their responses. Indeed, it is acknowledged that many teachers act strenuously to tackle bullying in their schools. This research emphasises the importance of schools communicating this to parents to prevent them from suspecting indifference in the teachers.
Other studies have highlighted the perils of teachers not relaying their actions to parents. This was an exploratory study and provides direction for areas of future research in this field. It should also be noted that previous research has examined a number of youth characteristics in relation to the prevalence of peer victimisation Hong and Espelage This includes the experiences of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth e. Graham ; Vervoort et al. The findings of this study showed how parents can struggle to view themselves as good parents, especially when they feel frustration towards perceived institutional factors.
Schools will encounter numerous challenges addressing the issue of bullying, but this is not how it is perceived by the parents who feel they are being excluded from the process. This can result in parents being viewed by the school as bad parents when in fact their intentions are to be good parents. Therefore, schools need to enter into an alliance with parents if they are to develop a truly effective strategy. Similarly, parents do not always see the work that is being done by teachers to tackle the problem and can incorrectly deduce that no action has been taken.
Thus, it is important that anti-bullying policies include clear information about how parents can contact the school, and when and how teachers will communicate with them. Crucially, both parties need to endeavour to meet their responsibilities stated in the policy. This is likely to be more feasible for parents if they have had an opportunity to contribute to the content of the anti-bullying policy including what they see as their responsibilities, their preferred method s of communication and advice for how to help their child. We would like to thank all of the parents and carers who took part in this study and shared their experiences.
We would also like to thank the schools and parenting centres that facilitated this work. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal of Child and Family Studies. J Child Fam Stud. Published online Apr Rebecca Hale , 1 Claire L. Fox , 2 and Michael Murray 2. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4. Abstract Bullying at school can be a distressing experience for children. Parent, School, Bullying, Peer victimisation, Teachers.
Introduction In bullying research, the lived experiences of parents have typically been overlooked. Method Participants Secondary schools and community centres which had parenting groups in the North West of England were approached by letter to explain the research and request permission to contact parents about the study.
Table 1 Overview of participants. The group leader invited parents who she knew had experiences of their child being bullied Lucy Female, adolescent; Male, adolescent Olivia Female, adolescent Ruby Female, adolescent Focus group 2 Community centre, parenting group. The group leader invited parents who she knew had experiences of their child being bullied Anna Female, adolescent Dee Male, adolescent Ellie Male, pre-school Hollie Male, child Sarah Male, adolescent Focus group 3 School 1.
It encourages physicians to raise awareness in their local schools and to provide screening and counseling for child victims and their families. There's a fine line between thoughtless or selfish actions and true bullying among young children. Most experts agree that a child crosses the threshold if his actions are intentional and if they occur habitually.
Why do some kids choose to inflict physical or emotional pain on others? The Anger Management Workbook , which is designed to help counselors who work with aggressive kids. Preschoolers are still mastering basic social skills and figuring out how to manage their own emotions, so their overly assertive actions may simply be a way of testing the boundaries of what?
At this age, a kid acts less deliberately and is more likely to torment whichever child is around her at the moment. By kindergarten , children begin to grasp the concept of social power among their peers, notes Elizabeth K. That's when aggressive kids start to actively target others whom they see as vulnerable -- whether it's because they're shy, sensitive, small, or simply different. Teachers tend to respond differently to a bully depending on his age. In preschool , they make an effort to instill kinder, gentler behavior. But by elementary school , their emphasis shifts toward protecting the victims.
However, this overlooks the fact that it's not too late to reform a budding bully, says Dr. While teachers do their best to control bullying, they can't always be there to witness or prevent it. School administrators may not even be aware that bullying is occurring. Victims tend to keep quiet because they fear they might be treated even worse if they tattle. And in some cases, principals simply don't know how to deal with the problem. A recent national poll from the University of Michigan C.
Mott Children's Hospital found that only 38 percent of parents would award their child's elementary school with an "A" grade when it comes to preventing bullying and violence; 16 percent rated their school a "C"; 6 percent a "D"; and 5 percent gave it a failing mark. Ultimately, it's up to you to help your young child deal with a bully.
Be on the lookout for signs that something is bothering her, and gently encourage her to tell you about problems she's had with other kids. Then be ready to take the appropriate action. When your child is the one teasing and threatening, you need to take action right away -- not just for the sake of the victims but to nip this behavior in the bud.
If you're unsure, watch for these warning signs:. If one or more of the above fits your child, have him practice techniques, such as taking deep breaths or counting to ten, to help control his negative emotions. When you see your child acting in a hurtful way, tell him to stop, remove him from the situation, and then talk about what he can do instead next time. However, if your efforts don't make a dent in his behavior, ask your doctor to recommend an appropriate mental-health professional. Parents may receive compensation when you click through and purchase from links contained on this website.
How to Deal With Bullies. Mean kids aren't just a middle-school problem. The trouble has trickled to the youngest grades. Learn how to spot it—and how to protect your child. How to Deal with Bullies. A National Epidemic Overall, bullying in schools has become a national epidemic. How A Bully Is Born There's a fine line between thoughtless or selfish actions and true bullying among young children.
The Right Steps to Deal with Bullying Ultimately, it's up to you to help your young child deal with a bully. Talk to your child's teacher. If the harassment is happening at preschool or kindergarten , make administrators aware of the problem right away. Many schools have a specific protocol for intervening. When you report an incident, be specific about what happened and who was involved.
Contact the offender's parents. This is the right approach only for persistent acts of intimidation, and when you feel these parents will be receptive to working in a cooperative manner with you. Call or e-mail them in a non-confrontational way, making it clear that your goal is to resolve the matter together.
You might say something like, "I'm phoning because my daughter has come home from school feeling upset every day this week. She tells me that Suzy has called her names and excluded her from games at the playground. I don't know whether Suzy has mentioned any of this, but I'd like us to help them get along better. Do you have any suggestions? No matter how your child is being targeted, fighting back usually isn't the best solution. Rather, teach him to walk away and seek help from a teacher or a supervising adult.
To avoid being harassed on the school bus, suggest that he sit next to friends, since a bully is less likely to pick on a kid in a group.