School bullying is a type of bullying that occurs either inside or outside of school. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or emotional and is usually repeated over a period of time.

In schools, bullying occurs in all areas. It can occur in nearly any part in or around the school building, though it more often occurs during school breaks, in hallways, bathrooms, on school buses and waiting for buses, classes that require group work and/or after school activities.


Bullying in school sometimes consists of a group of learners taking advantage of or isolating one learner in particular and gaining the loyalty of bystanders who want to avoid becoming the next victim.

The following tips can help parents understand the problems their children may face when harassed at school. Parents and educators must stay vigilant, look for these warning signs, and attempt to address problems quickly. Learners must feel safe at school; parents and other adults can help learners who suffer at the hands of bullies.


Warning signs of being bullied

These are some of the warning signs victims of bullying might display.

  • Sudden decreased interest in school (wants to stay at home);
  • Sudden loss of interest in favourite school activities;
  • Sudden decrease in quality of school work;
  • Wants the parent to take her to school instead of riding the bus;
  • Seems happy on weekends, but unhappy, preoccupied, or tense on Sundays;
  • Suddenly prefers the company of adults;
  • Frequent illnesses such as headaches and stomach aches;
  • Sleep issues such as nightmares and sleeplessness;
  • Comes home with unexplained scratches, bruises, and torn clothing;
  • Talks about avoiding certain areas of the school or neighbourhood;
  • Suddenly becomes moody, irritable, or angry and starts bullying others (e.g., siblings, children in neighbourhood)
  • Seeks the wrong friends in the wrong places (e.g., drug users, gangs, etc)
  • Talks about being sad, anxious, depressed, or having panic attacks;
  • Wants to stay home on weekends;
  • Talks about suicide.


What parents can do!

Remember: For behaviour to be labelled as bullying, it has to be persistent (repeated over time) and intentionally designed to hurt or frighten your child. Remember the bully has power and control over your child!

  • Assure children that you will immediately investigate and report the situation with the school principal or senior teacher;
  • Check if your child needs to avoid certain areas on school property at certain times;
  • Suggest that your school increases supervision in the high-risk areas where the child has to go or more closely monitor the child’s interactions with other learners;
  • Encourage your child to talk to an adult, such as a supportive teacher, every day to provide an update on the mistreatment;
  • Stay calm;
  • Be sensitive to the fact that your child may feel embarrassed and ashamed;
  • Find out what happened, who was involved, and when and where it happened, and keep a record of this information;
  • Express confidence that you, the adults at school, and your child will be able to find a solution.
  • Ask your child to express his/ her thoughts and feelings about what happened;
  • Explain that bullies seek to hurt and control. So your child must not let them know he is hurt by their behaviour.
  • Let your child know that it is normal to feel hurt, fear, and anger;
  • Avoid being a “fix-it” dad or mom by calling the bully’s parents. Most of the time, this action is not effective. However, not all parents of bullies respond in a protective manner.
  • Don’t tell your child to retaliate. It’s against the rules, and retaliation frequently makes the bullying worse and more persistent.
  • Don’t tell your child to ignore the bully. Most of the time, ignoring doesn’t work;
  • Teach your child to be assertive, but not aggressive;
  • Don’t promise that you will not tell anyone;.
  • Ask for a copy of the school’s policy.
  • Involve your child in activities inside and outside school. Involvement in activities he or she enjoys increases the chances of high-quality friendships;
  • Monitor your child’s whereabouts and his friendships;
  • Watch for signs of depression and anxiety in your child, and do not hesitate to seek professional counselling;
  • Don’t give up.


What schools can do

Strategies to combat bullying in schools.

  • Make sure an adult knows what is happening to their children;
  • Enforce anti bully laws as part of the Code of Conduct for learners;
  • Make it clear that bullying is never acceptable;
  • Recognize that bullying can occur at all levels within the school;
  • Hold a school conference day or forum devoted to bullying/victim problems;
  • Increase adult supervision in the schoolyard, halls and toilets;
  • Emphasize caring, respect and safety.
  • Emphasize consequences of hurting others;
  • Enforce consistent and immediate consequences for aggressive behaviours;
  • Improve communication among school administrators, teachers, parents and learners;
  • Have a school problem box where learners can report problems, concerns and offer suggestions;
  • Help bullies with anger control and the development of empathy;
  • Encourage positive peer relations;
  • Offer a variety of extra-curricular activities which appeal to a range of interests;
  • Keep in mind the range of possible causes: e.g., medical, psychological, developmental, family problems,etc.

Source: Department of Basic Education

The topic of homework often comes up in my office and in general parents and children are equal in expressing their dislike for this after-school activity.  Teachers argue that the purpose of homework is to reinforce what has already been taught in class and that it gives the child an opportunity to consolidate the information on their  own without the assistance of a teacher or their peers.

Most studies suggest that there is a positive correlation between the amount of time spent on homework and children’s later achievement in tests BUT  these positive effects are mostly seen in High School children.  There seems to be very little correlation between homework and achievement in tests for Primary School children.  Why is that?  Well, most probably because younger children still have poorly developed study skills and find it difficult to tune out distractions at home.  These findings suggest that, even though Primary School children  might not benefit directly in tests, a little bit of homework each day might help them form good study habits.  It helps to foster responsibility and independent learning in children and also serves to give parents an idea what work their child has been doing in class.

However, homework becomes problematic when it:

  • Becomes boring – simply repeating the same work over and over should be avoided.  Teachers should aim to specifically include some interesting items and parents can also help keep homework interesting by providing novel ways in which to complete tasks – for instance, have your child practice drawing his spelling words in sand or mud.
  • Denies children the opportunity to take part in leisure activities.  It is important to strike a healthy balance and parents should avoid focusing solely on academic pursuits.   Leisure activities provide children with physical exercise, gives them an opportunity to practice their socialisation skills and teaches them important life skills.
  • Parents get too involved in homework and put pressure on children to achieve.


How much homework should your child do?

The general rule of thumb is to add 10 minutes of homework for each Grade level.  Thus a Grade 1 child shouldn’t do more than 10-minutes of homework a day, while a Grade 12 student should do a maximum of 2 hours of homework a day.  Studies show that if students go past this prescribed maximum they get burned out and their achievement goes down.

This doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but the problem is that homework is not the only thing that happens after school.  When we take into account things like sports activities, religious obligations, extra-murals activities as well as the time needed to bath children, prepare and eat dinner and have enough time to wind down before bedtime –  the growing amount of time needed for homework as the child gets older becomes difficult to manage.

Some teachers like to give homework assignments at the beginning of the week – this way a child can complete the assignments at his own pace, spending more time on the things he finds difficult and working through easy items more quickly.

You can help your child by following these homework tips for parents:

  • Discuss your expectations with your child and explain to them why it is important for them to do their homework.
  • Make sure your child is focused and that there are no other distractions vying for his attention.
  • Set a time-limit for homework – this also helps children remain more motivated and teaches them to work within a specific time frame
  • Monitor your child, but don’t micromanage his work.
  • Rethink your child’s after-school schedule and cancel or re-schedule any activities that you put you under too much time pressure.
  • Intervene before frustration builds up and your child has a “melt down”.
  • If the work is truly too much or too difficult, consider sending a note to the teacher asking for further instruction or individual help after class.

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