Bullies cannot be ignored

13th February 1998 at 00:00
The article "When 'bullying' is just learning how to get along" (TES, January 23) appears to endorse the complacent "brush-it-under-the-carpet" attitude to bullying I have seen on your pages before.

There is no such thing as "relatively harmless manipulative behaviour". This is not to "trivialise serious and destructive" bullying, as your contributor argues. Serious aggression, of course, must be dealt with promptly. However, bullying is a continuum from name-calling to serious aggression, none of which is acceptable behaviour for adults. Indeed, for responsible adults to ignore manipulative behaviour enables bullies to set the first foot on the slippery slope.

Children have a right to expect that the adults around them provide a safe and nurturing environment. If "manipulative behaviour" is allowed, in some mistaken view that through it children "learn how to get along", adults will be seen to condone such behaviour. Is it therefore any wonder that bullying is the biggest cause of truancy, as the article suggests?

Families for Freedom is shooting itself in the foot if it thinks that ignoring bullies will make them disappear. This attitude is unfair to the children who are made to suffer bullying, whether physical or psychological, and it is also grossly unfair on those who bully. Child psychologists tell us that children need clear guidelines on what is and is not acceptable behaviour. As professionals (I am an FElecturer and a parent) we all know how much longer it takes to "unlearn" mistakes or unacceptable behaviour.

Before our society's values are lost in a downward spiral of apathy, let us behave as responsible adults should, and give children entrusted to us the guidance they deserve.

C JONES

15 Thorley Gardens Pyrford, Surrey

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