As a psychologist I often have children and young people come to seek help and guidance for the serious issue of bullying. Bullying, quite simply, is the ongoing and deliberate use of a power differential to intimidate, hurt or cause pain to another individual. 
When a child complains of being bullied, this should be taken seriously by parent/s and carers as in the short term it can create serious anxiety and depression and, in the worst cases, suicidal thinking and behaviours. In the long term it can create genuine pain in an adults concept of themselves, social anxiety and again reinforce, massively, feelings of negative self worth.
So lets get into it … central to this BLOG is the concept of “a policy”.
Interestingly, the popular musical ‘Hamilton’ – a hit with both young people and adults alike – has the storyline of a “policy writer” for ‘The United States Constitution’ by the name of ‘Alexander Hamilton’. The main theme is all about forging a foundation of freedom and liberty by not giving away our ‘one shot at life’.
If you are a young person, parent or carer reading this blog, you have agency to bring change into a situation where bullying is being experienced. This involves a “Bullying Policy” .
Let me explain….
When a client comes into our office, who has been bullied at school, as part of a plan to help empower the individual, we use the following exercise:
- Ask the young person AND their parent/guardian to download the school’s “Bullying Policy”. Schools should have a bullying policy by law and are usually accessible. If not, request a copy.
- Read the policy together – this document will detail what bullying behaviour is and what it is not (it’s a great reference point).
- Now record every incident and situation where the child/ teenager felt like they were bullied or marginalised – in line with the schools bullying policy.
- Now write an email or letter to The Principal or Vice Principal – explaining the bullying that is being experienced and how this does not align with the school’s policy or intentions for students. As psychologists, we enable this process whilst supporting our clients emotions through this whole process.
- The school must begin an investigation. Research suggests that when an investigation is commenced, bullying may be intensified. So be prepared for this and stand your ground, and provide support and encouragement! There is a process that must be followed by the school or group.
- After the investigation is completed by the school, appropriate consequences for behaviour are determined.
- The end result is usually the child or teenager does not have to put up with bullying behaviours any longer. Through this process the client has been empowered with skills that has enabled change.
One of the highlights in working with children and young people is when they discover that they have ‘a voice’ and are empowered to use it. It is transformative for both parents and their children – when they discover that they are not powerless against an organisation and authority figures.
So the point is – this all this begins with a “policy document”. It all this begins with a code of conduct, an OH&S form in the folder, a ‘child safe department’ in a school or community organisation.
This code of conduct and policy document can be the compass in our sea of emotion.
It can literally be the life-raft to save us from an emotional storm within ourselves and with our kids.
These are the documents that keep our kids safe. Let’s use them!
Similarly, these policies can als be used as a plumbline for our own behaviours in the home.
The challenge for all parents, is what do we do – when our own actions are not in line with these guidelines and standards? What about when our behaviour is hurting our kids at home and general family life?
It takes strength to be vulnerable, honest and open with your spouse, a good friend, a counsellor or a mentor – about changes that need to be made within.
Reaching out – getting help – learning skills – has the potential to change the generations.
And its worth the work and transparency.
Like it says in ‘Hamilton’ – we get one shot at life, so lets make it the absolute best for our own children.
The actual Declaration of Independence says:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” In Congress, July 4, 1776.
Policies govern organisations. Make sure you know how to use them – well!
Pastor & Psychologist
B.Sc., M.A. (Psych), Adv Dip Leadership, Cert IV Trainer & Assessor, Cert III Disability Care.
Ian Rumsey is a Pastor and Registered Psychologist (AHPRA) based in the Hills district in Sydney, Australia. He has a Bachelor of Science from Sydney University and a Master of Arts (Psychology) from Sydney University. He has an Advanced Diploma from Hillsong College, a Certificate III in Disability Care and has a Certificate IV Trainer and Assessor. He has over 11,000+ hours of face to face psychology consultations and has been a pastor for over 15+ years. He is the husband of a beautiful wife and is blessed with 3 gorgeous daughters. He is also the director of Next Step Psychology & Counselling (a local & telehealth practice) and author of course (& book) “Defined by Jesus” currently held online at Hillsong Night School.
The views, opinions and content listed in this blog post are that of the guest contributor and do not necessarily represent those of Hillsong Church.