Perhaps the biggest strength many parents and caregivers contribute to the school’s culture derives from their passion for their children’s wellbeing. Parents’ and caregivers’ caring for and about their children can translate into constructive energy and tireless drive.
In most cases, parents and caregivers are naturally protective of their children. In a bullying situation, whether their child has been bullied or is engaging in bullying behaviour, such reactions are most likely to surface. When parents’ and caregivers’ motivation to constructively interrupt a situation involving bullying or inequity is paired with openness and receptivity on the part of the teacher or school, the results can be remarkable.
This same energy that stems from caring and protectiveness can become a liability. Parents and caregivers at times find it hard to step back and be objective. They may advocate single-mindedly for their children without taking account of all aspects of an incident and the wellbeing of other children, or the whole classroom or school. They may feel defensive and resist acknowledgement of their children’s responsibility, thereby impeding the school’s ability to help the child take responsibility for their bullying behaviour.
It is possible too that they may lack certain key information and skills related to bullying prevention, as childrearing – in step with our increasingly mediatised and digitalized culture – has become extremely complex. There are more expectations of parents and caregivers, many of whom are functioning in isolation with little support. The dawn of the Internet, along with social media, has had an impact on childrearing, as parents and caregivers can no longer assume that their children are safe as long as they are home in their bedrooms.
Additionally, parents and caregivers are not immune to attitudes and circumstances that characterize and shape our society at large. Stress and lack of time leading to competitiveness, individualism and apathy can have an enormous impact on parents’ and caregivers’ willingness and capacity to participate in shaping school culture, and in supporting their children if they are involved in a situation of bullying or inequity. If they express or manifest bigoted attitudes or behaviours, this can be hurtful to teachers hearing this, and of course extremely detrimental to efforts aimed at developing a safe and inclusive classrooms and schools.