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A Parent's Guide



What is bullying?

How would you know if your child is being bullied?

What can you do if you suspect your child is being bullied?

The School response

Practical advice you can give your child if he or she is bullied

What can you do to prevent your child from being bullied?

Why do children bully?

What can you do if your child is a bully?

What can you expect from the school?









What is bullying?

Bullying can be defined as repeated aggressive behaviour of a verbal, physical or emotional nature. It may be carried out by groups or by an individual and can take place anywhere. It can be hurtful, painful, harmful, distressing and frightening.

Bullying can be . . .


Hitting, pushing, shoving, pinching, tripping, etc.

Interference with a child's possessions, e.g. books, money or lunch

Forcing another child to do something for the bully, such as homework, 'jobs'.




Hurtful, insulting or humiliating remarks about a child's appearance, ability, family, race or religion

Spreading mean, hurtful or untrue gossip or rumours about an individual



Deliberately excluding or isolating a child


Belittling someone's efforts

Ganging up on an individual

All types of bullying are damaging and quite often difficult to detect - particularly verbal and emotional bullying - due to the secrecy upon which it relies. In many cases of bullying, the victim is too frightened to tell. The most successful bullies are those who can keep their victims quiet by threatening or humiliating them.

There are no innocent bystanders when it comes to bullying. As parents, teachers or children we all have a part to play in ensuring that those around us can live a life free from bullying.

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How would you know if your child is being bullied?

The following may be indications that your child is being bullied. It's important to bear in mind, however, that many 'signs' of bullying can also be signs of other difficulties. No one sign on its own should be seen as absolute proof that bullying has occurred. It's important to investigate unexplained changes in your child's behaviour.

If your child is being bullied he or she may . . .

  • Be unusually anxious, nervous or tense

  • Develop sleeping problems, such as nightmares, bed-wetting, sleeplessness

  • Develop eating problems

  • Have unexplained bruises, scratches, etc.

  • Come home regularly with books, clothes or other possessions damaged or missing

  • Constantly ask for or steal money (to pay a bully)

  • Begin to bully others

  • Become reluctant to go to school, to go out to play or to continue with other usual activities

  • Become reluctant to walk to or from school or other activities

  • Show a deterioration in school performance

  • Become isolated or withdrawn

  • Become anxious or evasive when asked if he or she has a problem

  • Children may make excuses for any of the above.

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What can you do if you suspect your child is being bullied?


It's often not easy for children to tell, so it's important to ask your child about bullying. Let them know that they can tell you if they have a problem.



Listen to what your child tells you. If your child feels that he or she is being bullied, acknowledge this.



Discuss the problem with your child and how it might be resolved. Your child should not be encouraged to retaliate as there may be a risk of injury.

Help your child to understand that bullying is wrong and that victims should never blame themselves when bullying takes place.


Get help

Identify the places where the bullying is happening.

If the bullying is school related, talk to the class teacher and/or school principal. It may help to make an appointment. It is important to have your facts straight before raising the issue with the school. If the bullying is related to a club or activity the child attends, talk to the group leader. Explain to the teacher or group leader what has been happening and how your child feels. Discuss with them how you might work together to stop the bullying.

Enlist the help of friends to support your child - invite friends in to play or to go on family outings.

Talk to other parents/guardians. Discuss with them how you could work together to support each other and your children.

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The School Response

The prevention of bullying should be part of a written Code of Behaviour and Discipline in all primary and post primary schools.

A school policy to counteract bullying behaviour should ensure that…

  • Your child's complaint is investigated and recorded

  • The situation is monitored over a reasonable time

  • Your child is supported in school

  • The incident is treated in a confidential way

  • You are kept informed about progress

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Practical advice you can give your child if he or she is bullied

Tell your child to...       

  • Avoid situations where he or she may be alone with the bully

  • Avoid situations where he or she may be confronted by the bully

  • Walk away smartly if you see him/them approaching.

  • Tell a parent or teacher about any bullying - even if the bullying is against someone else

  • Remember the Stay Safe rules: Say 'No' - get away and tell an adult who can help.

  • Teaching your child the following self help strategies would be useful in situations where contact with the bully is unavoidable.

  • Not crying or showing temper - this is frequently what the bully wants to see

  • Standing up straight and trying to look confident

  • Speaking firmly, clearly and slowly

  • Looking the bully in the eye and saying 'No'.

  • Developing a response to nicknames at home, such as laughing off slagging or casual taunts can be very helpful

Most children, with a little help, overcome this problem quickly

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What can you do to prevent your child from being bullied?

It's important for your child to learn that he or she has a right to say 'no' and to tell of any situation that they find uncomfortable or threatening.

A child needs to have good self-esteem and confidence to say 'no' and to tell. The more confident your child is, the less likely he or she will become a victim of abuse. You can build up your child's self-esteem and confidence in the way that you praise, encourage, talking with and listen to your child.

Provide opportunities to talk over little difficulties, problems or fears with your child. Listen to what he or she is saying to you.

Let your child know that he or she can tell you if they have a problem.

Remember - if your children can't come to you with their little problems, they're less likely to come to you with their bigger ones.

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Why do children bully?

There are many reasons why children bully. It may occur because of something else in the child's life, such as a new baby, a death in the family, a sudden illness or problems at home or at school.

Children who bully have often been bullied themselves. Some bullies suffer from a lack of self-confidence and have low self-esteem. Some may be attention-seekers, trying to impress others by their bullying behaviour. Children who are under pressure to succeed at all costs may try to bully their way to success.

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What can you do if your child is a bully?

Talk to your child and try to find out what the problem is. Children who are prepared to admit being involved, will find it much easier to get the problem solved and change their behaviour. They should be encouraged to do this.

Don't punish bullying by being a bully yourself. Hitting or shouting at the child will make the situation worse. It is important that the child feels that your support will help solve the problem.

Children who bully are often ashamed when the truth is discovered and will need reassurance that you will help re-establish their standing with others in a way that creates good will all round.

Some young people may not realise that they are bullying. Others deliberately set out to hurt. Let the child know that it's wrong to bully. Explain how the victim feels. Try to get your child to understand the victim's point of view

Contact your child's teacher/principal and let them know about the problem. Parents and teachers working together can help the child. Other people who care for your child may also be able to help with this problem.

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What can you expect from your school?

The school policy to counteract bullying behaviour should outline how incidents of bullying are dealt with. It should ensure…

  • A fair hearing for your child

  • Clear information about the nature of the incidents

Information about what will happen next. You or your child may have to sign an agreement or sanctions may be imposed

  • Confidentiality

  • A system of support for the bully

  • The situation will be monitored and feedback provided to parents.

The Department of Education and Science has issued guidelines on bullying to all schools.

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