Try 'tough love' parenting to beat bullies, study says

Parenting classes that advocate "tough love" should be run to help cut the number of children who become victims of bullying at school, a major study has suggested.

The classes should encourage families to adopt a "positive" parenting style, with a focus on better communication and establishing a clear set of rules, according to researchers.

The idea has been recommended by academics, who found a link between parenting styles and the likelihood of children being bullied at school.

Children who grow up in overprotective households are more likely to be victimised by bullies because they do not learn how to deal with conflict, the researchers found, after reviewing 70 studies that considered the experiences of more than 200,000 young people.

Children brought up in "harsh" environments, where they are neglected or shouted at, are also more likely to be bullied, according to the academics from the University of Warwick and Kingston University in England.

The parenting style with the best outcomes had an element of "tough love": being warm and involved but also having a clear set of rules.

Dieter Wolke, a psychology professor from the University of Warwick, who led the research, said that schools have an important role to play.

Teachers should work with parents to establish a common set of rules that can be applied in school and at home, so that children learn to deal with conflict without becoming bullies or victims, he said.

"I'm not saying parents are to blame - that's not the case," Professor Wolke said. "What is important is to recognise that bullying is a community problem that involves schools, parents, children and society as a whole.

"Parents need to help children to develop coping strategies, as they cannot sit there on the bench in the school playground with their child."

The researchers called for anti-bullying education to be provided for the parents of children who are in school and for the parents of younger children, so that good practice could be established at an early stage.

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