Last week I revisited the issue of bullying and offered parents practical tips to support their child through it.
What if your child is the one dishing it out?
What then!?! It can be very shocking for parents when they receive that phone call or email from their child’s school.
Informing you that your son or daughter has been doing something hurtful towards others is never the sort of news parents want to hear.
When we do it’s a wakeup call and it is key that we act fast, dealing with the situation in a serious manner.
Regardless whether the bullying is verbal or physical, if it’s not addressed it can lead to more aggressive antisocial behavior and negatively impact your child’s success in school as well as their ability to form and maintain friendships.
“Knowledge is power” and what parents need in this situation is the power to handle things in a constructive way.
Understanding the various driving forces behind bullying behaviors can help parents gain important knowledge.
Looking at your child’s choices with this insight can help you figure out ways to encourage different, more effective behaviors.
Encouraging kids to stop bullying starts when we as parents:
- let them know that it is unacceptable
- communicate that if it continues it will bring serious consequences at home, school, and in the community
- try our best to understand our child’s behavior as their best attempt to satisfy wants & needs
In many cases, kids bully because they are lacking in particular social and or emotional skills.
- Trouble managing strong emotions like anger, frustration, or insecurity.
- Cooperative ways of working out conflicts and understand differences.
Parents can practice some various strategies which I’ll be sharing below. Before reading through them and taking notes, it’s important to know that none are sure-fire guarantees to success!
We can’t control what our child thinks, feels, or does. As parents we can only gain more effective control over our own behavior.
The strategies are more helpful when we begin using them regularly before we are presented with a very serious situation. Consider it like first aid or emergency training. When we wait to apply what we learn to a REAL emergency our minds often go blank. We often stumble and forget what it was that we were ready to do!
1) Take bullying as serious as you take a heart attack
As a parent you want your kids to clearly understand that you will not tolerate bullying at home or anywhere else.
Come up with some agreements about bullying and stick to them. If you choose to handle any such behavior you’re by taking away privileges, be sure it’s meaningful.
For example, if your child bullies other kids via email, text messages, or a social networking site, dock phone or computer privileges for a period of time. If your child acts aggressively at home, with siblings or others, put a stop to it. Teach more appropriate (and nonviolent) ways to react, like walking away.
2) The best way to combat bullying behaviors is to be teaching the opposite
Teach your child that it is wrong to tease or make fun of differences (e.g., race, religion, appearance, special needs, gender, and economic status) and work to instill a sense of empathy for those who are different.
Working in International schools since moving to Sweden I thoroughly enjoy watching children of dramatically different backgrounds (race, religion, and ethnicity) develop strong & healthy connections.
Consider getting involved together in a community group where your child can interact with kids who are different.
3) Learn as much as possible about your child’s social life
Look for insight into the factors that may be influencing your child’s behavior in the school environment (or wherever the bullying is occurring).
Talk with parents of your child’s friends and peers, teachers, counselors, and the school principal.
Do other kids bully? What about your child’s friends? What kinds of pressures do the kids face at school?
Talk to your kids about those relationships and about the pressures to fit in. Get them involved in activities outside of school so that they meet and develop friendships with other kids.
4) Encourage caring behaviors
Catch your kids treating others good — and when they handle situations in ways that are constructive or positive, take notice and acknowledge them for it. Bullying behaviors are about attempting to control others. The opposite end of the spectrum are what we call (in Reality Therapy) the connecting or caring habits. You can click here to learn more about them.
5) Set a good example
Think carefully about how you talk around your kids and how you handle conflict and problems. If you behave aggressively — toward or in front of your kids — chances are they’ll follow your lead.
Instead, point out positives in others, rather than negatives. And when conflicts arise in your own life, be open about the frustrations you have and how you cope with your feelings. You set the stage for one of the most powerful and influential learning environments….your relationship!
Starting at Home
When looking for the influences on your child’s behavior, look first at what’s happening at home.
Kids who live with yelling, name-calling, putdowns, harsh criticism, or physical anger from a sibling or parent/caregiver may act that out in other settings.
It’s natural — and common — for kids to fight with their siblings at home. And unless there’s a risk of physical violence it’s wise not to get involved. But monitor the name-calling and any physical altercations and be sure to talk to each child regularly about what’s acceptable and what’s not.
It’s important to keep your own behavior in check too. Watch how you talk to your kids, and how you react to your own strong emotions when they’re around.
There will be situations that warrant you to step in and assert your role as parents, letting them know that something they did or said wasn’t ok with you. But take care not to let that slip into name-calling and accusations.
If you’re not pleased with your child’s behavior, stress that it’s the behavior that you’d like your child to change, and you have confidence that he or she can do it.
If your family is going through a stressful life event that you feel may have contributed to your child’s behavior, reach out for help from the resources at school and in your community.
School counselors, pastors, therapists, and possibly your doctor can help.
To help a child stop bullying, talk with teachers, school counselors, and other school staff who can help you identify situations that lead to bullying and provide assistance.
As difficult and frustrating as it can be to help kids stop bullying, remember that bad behavior won’t just stop on its own.
Think about the success and happiness you want your kids to find in school, work, and relationships throughout life, and know that curtailing bullying now is progress toward those goals.
If your child has a history of arguing, defiance, and trouble controlling anger, consider an evaluation with myself.
I offer a free 30 minute consultation that can help you decide if counselling is the right way to go for your child.