I Think My Child Is A Bully—What Should I Do?
Your gut instinct is right; bullying must be taken seriously. There can be serious short- and long-term consequences for everyone involved, not just the victim of bullying.
The Committee for Children reports that:
- Children who bully are more likely to experience a decline in their peer group status, which becomes more and more important in your child's social development as they enter the teen years; and
- Children who bully and continue this behavior as adults have greater difficulty developing and maintaining positive relationships.
It can be difficult to hear that your child is bullying others, but denial won’t help the situation. The first step is to talk with your child about what you have heard. KidsHealth recommends a few questions to ask your child that might help get the conversation started and help you understand the situation so you can take appropriate action:
- How are things going at school and at home?
- Are you being bullied?
- Do you get along with other kids at school?
- How do you treat other children?
- What do you think about being considered a bully?
Signs that My Child Is a Bully
Given the short- and long-term consequences not only for victims but for the bullies as well, it is important to keep an eye out for signs that your child may be bullying others. The Committee for Children reports that a child who bullies may exhibit some of the following behaviors:
- Frequent name-calling (describing others as ‘wimps’ or ‘jerks’);
- Regular bragging;
- A need to always get his own way;
- Spending a lot of time with younger or less powerful kids;
- A lack of empathy for others; and
- A defiant or hostile attitude (easily takes offense).
Tips to Help Your Child Stop Bullying
- Schedule an appointment to talk with school staff such as your child’s teacher(s) and the school counselor. School staff that work with your child every day may be able to help you understand why your child is bullying and provide you with some tools to work with your child.
- Explain to your child that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. Stop any show of aggression you see, and talk about other ways your child can deal with the situation. Establish appropriate consequences for her actions such as taking away privileges and allowing your child to earn them back with appropriate behavior.
- Examine behavior and interactions in your own home. Is there something at home that is encouraging this type of behavior such as violent media of some kind in the form of video games, television or movies? Are there interactions that may lower your child’s self-esteem such as constant teasing or taunting by a sibling? When you discipline your child, are you focusing on how the behavior is unacceptable rather than your child?
- Talk with your child about who his friends are and what they do together. Peers can be very influential, especially for teens. If your child is hanging around with kids who bully and encourage bullying behavior, you may want talk with him about getting involved in activities that will help him make other friends.
- Talk with the parents of your child’s peers about bullying. Discuss your concerns and what you can do together to change the behavior of your children.
- Model respect, kindness and empathy. You are your child’s role model and she will learn to treat others with respect by watching you.
- Consider talking to your child’s pediatrician about your child’s behavior. They may have some tips and they may be able to refer you to a mental health clinician that will be helpful in understanding and resolving the problem.
- Be realistic. Your child’s behavior will not change over night. When you are talking with your child, try to focus on how the behavior is unacceptable, not your child, and show your support for your child with praise for appropriate behavior.
- Continue to work and communicate with school staff as long as it takes. They should be your allies; working with you to not only put an end to your child’s bullying, but also to prevent any bullying in the school.
Reprinted with the permission of the One Tough Job campaign. © Children's Trust Fund of Massachusetts 2007. All rights reserved.
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