Jun 6 2012

Preventing and stopping bullying involves a commitment to creating a safe environment where children can flourish and thrive, socially and academically, without being afraid of their future.

A lot can happen in a day – especially when you have teenagers! Staying close, connected & listening to what is really going on in the heart & mind of my children is one of my top priorities and constant challenges.

So, here is our first ‘Heads Up’ blog, and its on a common problem – ‘Bullying’.

It's written by Ian Rumsey, a psychologist who is on team at The Hillsong Health Centre.


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Bullying is aggressive by definition and is a deliberate and intentional attempt to intimidate or create a “power imbalance”. It is a behaviour that is often repeated and can be physical, verbal or relational in nature. Boys usually bully by physical means while girls often bully by social exclusion.

Preventing and stopping bullying involves a commitment to creating a safe environment where children can flourish and thrive, socially and academically, without being afraid of their future.


Look for signs of bullying

– Children often don’t say that they are being bullied because they are embarrassed about the intimidation and fear it can cause. 
– Signs to look for include: ripped clothing, hesitation about going to school, decreased appetite, nightmares, crying, or general depression and anxiety. 
– If you become aware that your child is being bullied, don’t tell them to “let it go” or “suck it up”. Instead, use “what, how, when” questions, that are open-ended, to find out what you can learn what is really going on at school. You can take the appropriate steps to rectify the situation. 
– The key point is to tell your child not to fight back as this can cause them to be in physical danger (remember that one punch to the skull can be enough to cause concussion, bruising of the brain and even worse outcomes). There is no need for them to be put in danger.

Teach your child how to handle being bullied

– Until something can be done at the school leadership level, work with your child to handle bullying without being crushed or defeated. 
– Practice or “role-play” scenarios at home where your child learns how to ignore a bully and/or develop assertive strategies for coping with bullying. Try to make these light and fun, but also a way to build skills in handling bullies.
– Help your child identify teachers and friends that can help them if they’re worried about being bullied.

Set boundaries with technology

– Learn about cyber bullying and teach your children not to respond or forward threatening emails. 
– Become a “Friend” of your child on Facebook or Myspace and set up proper filters on your child’s computer. 
– Make the family computer the only computer for children, and have it in a public place in the home where it is visible and can be monitored. If you decide to give your child a cell phone think carefully before allowing them to have a camera option (currently there is a common practice of taking inappropriate photos on phone cameras and forwarding them to other students as a bullying technique). 
– Let them know you will be monitoring their text messages. 
– As a parent, you can insist that phones are stored in a public area, such as the kitchen, by a certain time at night to eliminate night time bullying and inappropriate messaging. 
– Parents should report bullying to the school, and follow up with a letter that is copied to the school superintendent if their initial inquiry receives no response.
– Parents should report all threatening messages to the police and should document any text messages, emails or posts on websites.


Report bullying and cyber bullying

– It is important for students to report any bullying to a parent or an adult they trust. 
– Often kids don’t report cyber bullying because they fear their parents will take away their phone or computer. 
– Parents support your child’s reports of bullying and do not take away their phones as a consequence. 
– It is important for kids to remember that bullying is wrong and should be handled by an adult.

Don’t bully back

– It may be difficult to not bully back, but as the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right. 
– Try not to show anger or tears (this can encourage a bully to keep going)
– Either calmly tell the bully to stop bullying or simply walk away.

Avoid being alone

– Whenever possible, avoid situations where there are no other students or teachers. 
– Try to go to the bathroom with a friend or eat lunch in a group. 
– When riding the bus, sit near the front.
– Remember, report bullying of yourself or other students to your teacher, coach, principal and/or parent.

Acknowledgement to:
American Psychological Association website and resource material – apa.org
Australian Psychological Society Website and resources – aps.org.au

Additional Resources:
Australian Government – bullyingnoway.gov.au
APS – psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/bullying
Book – Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope by Olivia Gardner, Emily Buder and Sarah Buder
DVD – “Cyberbully” Starring Emily Osment, Kay Panabaker and Kelly

Ian Rumsey – Psychologist

After moving from a career in the coporate sector, Ian has been involved with Youth Counselling for over ten years and has a passion for teaching Counselling. He has a degree in Science and a Master of Arts in Psychology. Ian also has an Advanced Diploma in Leadership from Hillsong College, a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and a Certificate III in Disability Care. He has been a member of Hillsong Church from 1990 until 2005. For the next seven years he and his wife, Laiza, assisted with a church plant on the Gold Coast. They are now back at Hillsong in Sydney and Ian is working at the Hillsong CityCare Health Centre, Norwest.

The Hillsong CityCare Health Centre has been providing quality health care to our community in Sydney for over 16 years. We believe in caring for the whole person by providing care through a team of highly qualified and professional medical practitioners, psychologists and counsellors.

For more information on services offered ph: 02 8846 4666 or myhillsong.com/citycare/healthcentre