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A new study published in the journal of Child Abuse and Neglect has suggested that children who have overprotective parents are more likely to be bullied by their peers.

After a thorough review of 70 studies looking at some 200,000 children, Prof Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick also found children who have harsh or negative parents are most likely to be bullied – asserting that bullying really starts in the home.

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Prof Wolke said he was somewhat surprised to discover that children with overprotective parents were at an increased risk of bullying.

“Children need support but some parents try to buffer their children from all negative experiences. In the process, they prevent their children from learning ways of dealing with bullies and make them more vulnerable.”

“Parenting that includes clear rules about behaviour while being supportive and emotionally warm is most likely to prevent victimisation.”

The research also found that children who were bullied by their siblings were more likely to be victims as well. You can read the full article on the BBC website here.

With bullying back in the news, it’s about time for the second instalment in my trilogy of bullying themed posts – you can read the first here: Tips for parents: I think my child is being bullied at school

 Tips for parents: My child is a bully

Firstly, don’t despair. A lot of parents will have to deal with this issue at one time or another so keep calm and try to work through the problem methodically without losing control or giving up on your child. You’ll get there.

Dialogue is important. It’s easy to bury your head in the sand because sometimes we simply don’t want to believe it or feel a strong sense of shame. Listen to what others (parents, teachers, friends) have to say about your child’s behaviour and listen to what your child has to say too – getting to the root cause is key. Your child may themselves be being bullied or their friends could be coercing them. There’s all manner of reasons children start bullying and pinning down the reasons for it is a great first step.

Make them understand the extent of harm caused by bullying – be it emotional, physical or physiological. Get them to empathise with the victim by asking them how they’d feel to be on the receiving end and discuss ways in which they can go about apologising. Be sure to praise your child when they show compassion for others.

Be firm and reinforce the behaviour you expect from your child. Painful as it can be to punish them you must let them know that there will be consequences if the bullying continues and that it won’t be tolerated.

Like with most things, good examples are best set at home. The study shows that children emulate their parents so be a solid role model. Try not gossip or share rude stories about others when at home with your child. Always try to be the model of nonviolent behaviour and project positive traits such as understanding, empathy, restraint and reason. Remember to step back and look objectively at the way you behave and assess whether you’re doing all you can. How are conflicts at home resolved?

If the bullying is prolonged and ongoing you may need to seek professional help aside from that provided by the school. Don’t be afraid to talk to staff at schools however – they often have the best contacts when it comes to getting the right help for our kids, be it counselling  therapy or medical.

If you have had some experience of the issues in this blog please feel free to share your thoughts with us and put forward any tips or strategies to help others cope.

*Bullying was defined as repeated instances over a six-month period, rather than just one-off conflicts in the playground.

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