I recently asked parents of school aged children to complete a simple survey about my new program, ‘First Aid for Bullying’.  The results have been interesting and have opened my eyes to the different meanings we place on different words and labels. This was highlighted by some of the comments I received from survey responders.

One question was:

When you think of the term ‘First Aid for Bullying’ what immediately comes to mind?

The majority of parents considered ‘First Aid for Bullying’ a great idea. Examples of their comments included:

  • ‘Brilliant idea, a must for all parents’.
  • ‘Protecting the person being bullied and supporting them’.
  • ‘Quick first response – how to start.’
  • ‘Similar to mental health first aid course.’

I shared those meanings. For me ‘First Aid for Bulling’ is about intervention, rather prevention (Unbullyable is a preventative approach to bullying).

Then there were some in between, luke warm responses that I was curious about:

  • ‘Band aid, not fixing it.’
  • ‘Reactive, not pro-active’.
  • ‘Nothing in particular, I don’t really like it actually’.

Ok, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

What really caught my attention were the parents who REALLY didn’t like it!

Some of their comments included:

  • REALLY? sounds a bit ridiculous
  • Helping the bullies actually
  • Makes bullying sound like a short term problem
  • Ridiculous
  • Accepting it’s something we will never stop

While I understand where these responders are coming from, they have still left me wondering. Surely, doing something is better than nothing? Of 159 parents of school aged children in my survey, 31% stated that they would NOT know how to respond to their child being bullied in the first instance. Many children have told me in the first instance, they want their parents to ‘just listen to me’, ‘believe me’ and ‘give me a hug’. Many children did NOT want their parents to do ANYTHING to ‘fix’ the bullying in the first instance. Most children stated they just want a hug and to feel safe and loved.

So yes, if a parent considers First Aid for Bullying ‘Just a band aid approach’ I’m actually happy with that. At least the child will get a band aid, rather than nothing, or something the child actually does not want their parents to do (like get angry). Using the band aid metaphor, putting a band aid on your child’s cut, sends a message to your child – I know you are hurt, you will heal, let me gently help you, you are important enough for me to take the time to care for you.

Bring on the band aids.

I recently coached a 9 year old girl who experienced serious bullying. After she finished her coaching program I asked her: ‘You know when you very first told Mum you were being bullied, what did you want Mum to say?  She shook her head and replied: ‘Not words. Just hugs’.