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What parents should know

What is bullying?


Bullying is repeated aggression by a person or group against another person. Bullying can be verbal, psychological or physical - this means it can be anything such as name calling, teasing, hitting or picking on someone.  Once-off aggressive behaviour is not the same as bullying. When this behaviour goes on for some time, it is bullying.


What is cyber bullying? 


"Cyberbullying" is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. 


What type of behaviour is not acceptable?


  • Humiliation - including name-calling or teasing about doing well at school 
  • Intimidation - including aggressive body language 
  • Verbal abuse - to someones face or behind their back
  • Physical abuse or threatened abuse - such as hitting, pushing or kicking 
  • Aggressive or obscene language - including sexual references 
  • Offensive jokes - spoken or in writing, by e-mail or text messages
  • Victimisation - picking on someone, including making very personal remarks
  • Exclusion and isolation - deliberately leaving people out of activities 
  • Intrusion - such as interfering with belongings or locker 
  • Repeatedly giving someone the same unfavourable tasks
  • Repeated unreasonable deadlines or tasks 
  • Threats - including demands for money 
  • Attacks on someone's reputation - for example by rumour, gossip, innuendo or ridicule

How can I tell if my child is being bullied? 


You child will probably not tell you if they are being bullied as there is a culture of secrecy around bullying, both for the victim and bystanders. However, you may be able to pick up on signs if your teen shows signs of adolescent behaviour, becomes withdrawn, silent etc. 


You should watch out for the following signs. 


Physical signs:

  • Unexplained bruising, cuts, scratches, sprains or torn clothing
  • Loss of property or damage to personal belongings
  • Hunger or thirst due to loss of lunch money to a bully
  • Frequent minor illnesses, headaches, stomach aches
  • Nervous rashes
  • Not eating
  • Being obsessive about appearance and cleanliness
  • Stammering
  • Asking for extra money or stealing (to pay off a bully)
  • Bedwetting


Emotional and psychological signs:

  • Fearfulness
  • Acute anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Avoiding friends and other children
  • Uncharacteristic bullying of siblings and/or other students
  • Uncharacteristic outbursts of anger
  • Refusal to discuss what is wrong
  • Change of sleeping or eating pattern
  • Becoming withdrawn or moody
  • Dropping usual hobbies and interests
  • Loss of confidence or self-esteem
  • Excessive tearfulness or crying themselves to sleep
  • Nightmares
  • Excessive sensitivity to criticism
  • Seeking to be alone
  • Implied or overt threats of suicide.


Signs related to school:

  • Returning from school in a very bad mood and showing reluctance to talk about it
  • Unwillingness to go to school or asking to be accompanied
  • Changing school route
  • Avoiding certain days or lessons
  • Uncharacteristic nervousness in class
  • Staying close to teachers
  • Punctuality problems
  • Poor concentration and a deterioration in school work
  • Expressions of hopelessness in school work e.g. essays, poems or artwork
  • A reduction in phone calls, friends calling, or invitations to social events
  • Being excluded from groups
  • Not being chosen for sports teams
  • A reluctance to take part in previously enjoyed activities
  • Abusive phone calls
  • Abusive text messages or e-mail.


What do I do if my child is bullied by another child?


Physical pushing, threatening physical abuse and verbal abuse are not acceptable in Irish schools. Bullying sometimes occurs in school and on the way to school. If your child is being bullied by other children or is involved in this type of behaviour, it is a serious matter. No child should have to suffer at the hands of a bully.


Do not confront the other child's parents. Talk with the class teacher or the principal about what is happening and try to resolve the problem this way. If you cannot resolve it at school, you may ask the Department to investigate.


Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour in Primary and Post Primary Schools is a document to help schools to set out their anti-bullying policy. Every school must have a policy that includes a plan to prevent bullying behaviour.


You should also reassure your child that you are there for them and that you will support them and you will do whatever is necessary to stop the bullying. Be sure to reassure them that:


  • It is not their fault
  • It can happen to anyone
  • There is nothing wrong with them 



I think my child might be a bully - what should I do?


If your child is a bully, it is important to recognise this and help them to deal with it. One of the biggest problems faced by schools in tackling bullying is getting the parents to admit that their child is involved in this behaviour.


You can:


  • try to find out if this is a temporary response to a change in the child's life (for example a new baby, a bereavement or stress at home);
  • talk to your child and try to get them to see how the other child feels;
  • stay calm and avoid being aggressive yourself; and
  • talk to the class teacher. You will find that the teacher wants to help. It is important that you and the teacher take the same approach.
  • It's worth considering these longer-term steps as well.


Bullies often suffer from a lack of confidence. Don't compare your child's achievement with others. Praise them whenever they do something helpful or kind.


Teach your child to accept differences in others. If your child always seems to criticise others, you can help by making positive remarks about other children.



How can I make a complaint about a teacher or a school?


It is important that there are good relations between home and school. With mutual respect and goodwill, you and the school can sort out most problems by discussing them. Make every effort to resolve your complaint at school level. 


The Complaints Procedure describes the steps you can take when making complaints against schools and teachers.



How do schools reward and discipline pupils?


Teachers praise children when they work hard and produce good work and homework. Praise helps to motivate children. Each school has a code of discipline and parents are given a copy of this. You are responsible for accepting the school code and making sure your children understand and keep to it.


The teacher or principal will inform you if your child continually breaks the rules. You will have a chance to discuss the issues with them. They will expect you to make sure that your child's behaviour improves. You should try to sort it out with your child first and involve the class teacher if necessary.


For a serious breach of the school rules, the school could decide as a last resort to suspend a child from the school. This is a rare and serious decision. The school must have tried all other options before deciding to suspend.  They will send you notice of the suspension. You can appeal it to the board of management. As a last resort, you can appeal to the Department of Education and Skills.

Take a stand against cyberbullying

Education can help considerably in preventing and dealing with the consequences of cyberbullying. The first place to begin an education campaign is with the kids and teens themselves. Teenagers need to be accountable for their actions and not to stand by and allow bullying (in any form) to be acceptable. You need to teach them not to ignore the pain of others.

You should teach them to “Take 5!” before responding to something they encounter online is a good place to start. Maybe suggest to them to step away from the computer and no one will get hurt.  Encourage them to find ways to help them calm down. This may include doing yoga, or deep-breathing. It may include running, playing catch or shooting hoops. It may involve taking a bath, hugging a stuffed animal or talking on the phone with friends.

Each child can find their own way of finding their center again. And if they do, they will often not become a cyberbully, even an inadvertent cyberbully. Teaching them the consequences of their actions. Since many cyberbullying campaigns include some form of hacking or password or identity theft, serious laws are implicated. Law enforcement, including the police, might get involved in these cases.

For more information and advice on bullying visit