Supporting Children and Young People Involved in Bullying
We now recognise that, for schools to effectively challenge bullying, we need to work with all children / young people and adults. This is because everyone plays a role in any bullying situation and everyone has a responsibility to challenge bullying when it occurs. In this section, we give a breakdown of the different roles children / young people can take within a bullying situation and some simple tips on how to best support each of them.
Supporting children/ young people who bully
Children/ Young people should never be labelled a bully as it can be very hard to leave the label behind and become known as someone more positive– rather we use the term ’children/ young people who use bullying behaviour’. The DCSF prefers the term ‘ringleaders’ to mean children who seem to direct bullying behaviour.
The reasons someone uses bullying behaviour are complex. They can include:
- a need to feel powerful
- a desire for material possessions which they cannot afford/ have
- a victim-bully cycle where a young person is bullied themselves in another context and so presents bullying behaviour at school
- low self-esteem and self-confidence
- mirroring of behaviours and coping methods they see at home
- having a negative reputation which they feel they cannot change
- a need to hide something about themselves and prevent potential questions
Some young people simply do not realise the effects that their behaviour is having on others. Making them clearly aware of this can sometimes have a profound effect.
You need to address the underlying reasons why a young person is behaving in a certain way while emphasising the unacceptability of bullying behaviour.
Do this by making it clear that...
- bullying in any form is unacceptable – Make sure your school has a clear and consistent behaviour policy which is fairly and consistently adhered to.
- you will respond every time. If you let things go sometimes, it becomes impossible for children/ young people to understand when they are then told that they are unacceptable
- everyone is responsible for their own actions and behaviour.
- you are working together with parents and outside agencies to resolve bullying concerns.
Victims / Recipients of bullying behaviour
Children / Young people who have been bullied are likely to need lots of support and encouragement. You should ensure that they are praised for having told an adult what has been happening. Often they will feel disempowered and vulnerable, it is important that you do not compound these feelings by making them even less powerful now that they have told someone. Make sure that you keep them informed about what will happen next and what to do if bullying happens again. Try to involve them in deciding what action is taken or how the situation is resolved if this is at all possible!.
Sometimes children appear to be caught in a cycle of assuming the role of ‘victim’ throughout their time at school. This victim status can often accompany them into adulthood. It is really important that children who are in this position are encouraged into a more positive self-image. You should also try to work on building that child/ young persons’ self-esteem and self-worth.
Associates/ Assistants…are children/ young people who befriend the ring-leader. They do not lead the bullying, but often contribute and support the ring-leader. It is important that these children / young people are encouraged to see how their behaviour is contributing to bullying within a school and that everyone has a responsibility to ensure bullying doesn’t happen and, when it does, it promptly and appropriately responded to.
Reinforces …are children / young people who would say that they do not join in with the bullying but who, by laughing, shouting or cheering, send a positive message to that bullying behaviour is acceptable. Incidents where other children do this can be even more hurtful for children who are bullied as they can begin to feel that everyone is against them, and that there might actually be something wrong with them.
Bystanders …are individuals who do not actively participate or endorse bullying behaviour, but who make up an audience to the bullying behaviour. They do not join in, but, likewise they don’t do anything to help or support the targeted young person.
Defenders … are young people / children who do something when they see a bullying incident. Some may actively get involved and say that they think that bullying is unacceptable, some may get an adult and others may comfort and befriend a child / young person who is experiencing bullying behaviour.