HOW TO COPE WITH BULLYING BEHAVIOUR
Ignoring bullying behaviour is sometimes a good strategy because the bully is trying to provoke the other person, but if parents are advising to ignore they first need to:
- Acknowledge how upsetting it is for the person being bullied and do some emotion coaching: “I‘m guessing that when you were not invited to Harry’s birthday party that really upset you and may have left you feeling a bit lonely.”
- Descriptively praise your child for telling someone about it: “It’s mature and brave to talk to me about this.”
- Practise with your child what to do in response to the behaviour, for example what they can say, how they should look (bored, not upset), how they can use body language effectively. Teach your child to stand straight and make eye contact and role play some useful comebacks that won’t exacerbate the problem, such as:
“Whatever” “Uh-huh, ok, yeah right,” roll eyes and walk away. “Really? I didn’t know that” “Oh you think so?” “That’s your opinion but not mine” “Am I supposed to care?” “I guess you think that’s funny?”
Source: The Parent Practice
BUILDING RESILIENCE AT SCHOOL AND AT HOME
We all know the importance of resilience and being able to “bounce back” but how do we help children achieve this? Firstly it’s very important that adults are role models, being able to take life’s ups and downs in their stride, then children will want to show this too. Show them that any mistake isn’t a disaster but can actually build a “bridge to success” next time.
Celebrating success is important; children gain confidence from having achieved but it’s important we don’t go overboard. Humour is also very important. Can children laugh at themselves and not take themselves too seriously? Can we as adults? If the answer is yes then our children are a step closer to becoming more resilient.
Source: Parkgate School
Alleyn’s reckons it does have the right structure in place to recognise behavioural change, and takes a holistic view of student wellbeing. For example, years 7 to 11 are formally taught “learning about learning”, which includes resilience, how to cope with failure and that it’s OK if they don’t understand things right away.
“In year 9, we give comments rather than scores so students don’t obsess about the result. They can learn the score later,” explains Skinnard. “A school must enable kids to feel individually valued and that they can ask any question and not be ridiculed.” Why have our children become so anxious? Is social media at the root of all the wellbeing issues? Skinnard thinks that the recession made some parents panic and become anxious about outcomes, whether it be which university their child gets into or whether it’s the right school earlier in their educational journey. “It’s societal pressure,” he says.
Wimbledon High, an all-girls school, has championed wellbeing and brought over American research psychologist Angela Duckworth from Harvard to teach the girls how to develop “grit”. Grit helps them overcome periods of stress and negative life events when they are prone to lose selfdiscipline.
HOW TO HAVE A FAILURE-FRIENDLY HOME
- Model resilient behaviour Let children see from you the kind of behaviour you want from them. So take risks in your own life, let them know you are doing it, be open with them about the challenges you are facing and the fears you have about trying something new. If you fail at something, tell them – let them see you can deal with failure and move forwards.
- Give them problems to solve Girls especially need to be encouraged in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), and you can help to do this by involving them in mathematical discussions in the supermarket or about pocket money spending and budgeting; or asking them to work out how to use the latest household gadget you have acquired.
- Don’t put ideas into their heads The most frustrating phrases for teachers to hear at parents’ evenings are: “Oh she takes after me – I’m rubbish at languages”; “We’re just not a maths-y family’”; “I always hated science”. These comments will make your child think that their intelligence has already been decided. It gives them an excuse to “opt out”. It isn’t about you. What your child needs to hear is that, whatever their level of achievement in maths, they can improve, their intelligence is flexible and they can forge their own path. Praise them for showing more aptitude for a particular subject than their father, aunt, uncle etc. Giving them confidence and watching them allow themselves to be good at a subject will be a great reward.
- Asking the right questions If your child can ask the right kinds of questions in an effective way they will gain a great deal. Teachers have been known to limit students to two questions each per lesson. It forces them to construct their question in the most effective way they can. You can do this at home with “three-question Thursdays” for example.
- Encourage independent thought Alongside questioning skills come “thinking skills”, ie the ability to think around new problems and come up with ideas and potential solutions. These are often the skills lacking in bright, academic students. Developing this means developing skills that will allow them to converse with anyone about anything; to be delightful dinner guests and eloquent, thoughtful, sparky young adults. Nothing will faze them and their self-esteem and resilience will improve.
Source: Sydenham High School
Sydenham High, another all-girls school, has also been proactive in this area, particularly in advising parents and students how to reduce exam stress. “We all have a duty to break the cycle of anxiety that is plaguing too many teenage lives,” says the school. Sydenham’s strategy is to develop emotional and psychological resilience and wellbeing in the very earliest years of child development. Open and strong parent dialogue and partnership between parents and practitioners to nurture and develop young learners are the absolute minimum requirement.
“CHILDREN CAN ONLY DEAL WITH FAILURE IF THEY’VE DEVELOPED RESILIENCE”
Sydenham launched a “flourish and fly” programme in its junior school last year. Complementing the school’s Personal, Social and Health Education (PHSE) curriculum, it aims to stretch ability, build confidence and develop collaborative working through themed weeks each half term, culminating in a week of special activities and challenges. The school’s Dr Elyse Waites, Head of Biology and Professional Skills Programme Coordinator, is a proponent of building resilience in children, advising parents on how to have a “failure-friendly” home. See panel on page 63.
HANDLING SOCIAL PRESSURES AND BULLYING
If your child is having difficulties in their friendship groups or being bullied, as a parent it can be difficult not to get too involved, especially if you are feeling angry and upset. Whilst listening without offering advice can be incredibly challenging, keeping an open mind and trying to get information from your child’s perspective is more important than trying to solve the problem for them. Communicating clearly and quickly with the school is crucial.
As a school with pupils from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs, Thames Christian College recognises that every child is unique and benefits from being understood, valued and listened to. Forums such as the school’s “thinking breakfast” are used to emphasise the importance of encouraging each other and engaging in discussion. This process builds confidence and enables pupils to acquire the tools to negotiate difficult situations and circumstances successfully, ultimately learning to make the right choices for themselves. The goal is to provide pupils with the resilience and life skills to thrive on their own in the real world.
Source: Thames Christian College
Parent Practice’s Elaine Halligan concurs. “Children can only deal with failure if they’ve developed resilience,” she says. “You must praise your children, specifically validate them.” Dr Waites adds, “Never allowing your children to get something wrong, to fail and to pick themselves back up is doing them a disservice. They must be challenged and encouraged to question the world around them from an early age. They must try new things and be allowed to explore their potential so they can find their passions and make informed choices about their future, be that academic qualifications, further education options or job interviews. Helping to build resilience in a child is the greatest gift you can give.”
REAL PARENTING FOR REAL KIDS
Elaine Halligan, London Director of Parent Practice, says we’re parenting in a generation that has never been so complicated. Her colleague Melissa Hood has written Real Parenting for Real Kids, published by Practical Inspiration Publishing, £16.99.