When Your Child is the Bully

Teaching your child not to bully.

None of us wants to learn that our child has been behaving badly. It can be shocking and embarrassing to learn that your child has been acting as a bully, but it’s imperative to address the behavior.

As a parent, it’s your job to:

  • Acknowledge the behavior. Take the bullying seriously. Tell your child you are aware of his/her behavior and that you will not tolerate it.
  • Impose consequences. Whether you remove privileges or impose punishment, devise some sort of behavior modification system to address the problem.
  • Teach your child new strategies for interacting. It’s not enough to address the problem; you must teach your child how to treat others with kindness and respect.
  • Examine the reasons behind the behavior. Bullying occurs for many reasons—bullies may have emotional problems that fuel a desire for control over others, they may have difficulties with anger management, or they may even be victims of abuse or aggression at home. It’s your job to get to the bottom of what fuels their behavior.

Here are some ideas and strategies:

  • Teach your child about differences (race, religion, special needs, etc.) and foster a sense of compassion and acceptance. Consider getting involved in a group where your child will learn to interact with people who have differences. Sometimes engaging in some form of community service helps to teach kids about compassion.
  • Stay involved in your child’s social life. Know their friends. Know their friends’ parents. Build a community. Evaluate which factors in their environment might be influencing their bullying behavior and then work to build a more positive social circle that will influence them to behave well.
  • Get your child involved in activities. Help them discover an interest that excites them—in other words, channel that energy into something positive. This may also serve to help them build relationships with people who share their interests.
  • Seek professional help. The reasons behind your child’s behavior may be complex. Enlist the help of a professional who can help you sort it out and teach your child new strategies.
  • Encourage good behavior. Positive reinforcement is a powerful motivator. Take note of good behavior and praise it.
  • Establish rules at home. Refuse to tolerate aggression at home. If your child acts aggressively toward siblings or friends, put a stop to it immediately.
  • Teach new skills for coping with conflict. Teach your child to walk away or seek mediation with an adult.
  • Build a support team. Communicate with teachers, counselors, and other parents about your zero-tolerance policy for bullying. If you are all on the same page, together you can help your child to stop bullying regardless of the environment or circumstances.
  • Set a good example. It can be humbling to acknowledge our own part in bullying—but kids often mimic behavior they see in adults. How do you handle conflict? How do you talk to your spouse? If you have tendencies toward anger or aggression, work with a professional to change your behavior. The change will benefit you, your child, and your child’s friends.

Nobody wants their child to be the bully or the victim. As parents, we can work together to create a more harmonious community. After all, it really does take a village…

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