Last week we talked on the blog about what to do if your child is bullied at school. This week, we’ll be looking at the other, perhaps even darker, side of the equation. What do you do if your child is not the victim of bullying, but the perpetrator?
Let’s establish, first of all, that you as a parent understand that bullying is indeed a problem, that kids who are bullied aren’t crybabies, whiners, or snitches. In spite of the recent surge of attention to the topic, spurred by a rash of well-publicized incidents of physical harm, severe emotional distress – even suicides – a surprising number of parents remain resistant to the idea that bullying is more than just kids being kids. This can become a particular problem when it’s your kid doing the bullying, rather than being bullied.
First, to review: bullying is the repeated intentional causing of harm to another, especially if the bully is more popular or physically stronger then her victim. Remember, bullies come in all shapes, sizes, genders and ethnicities, and every subgroup has them. The results of bullying can persist well into adulthood and include depression, self-esteem issues, and a host of additional emotional problems.
Warning Signs That Your Kid May Resort to Bullying
- Low self esteem and a need for control
- High degree of anger about events of one’s life, coupled with
- A low degree of empathy for others’ feelings and life circumstance
- A need to impress her peers
- A sibling (or parent) who bullied
- As a parent, you have difficulty with disciplining and setting boundaries
- Has been a victim of bullying themselves
- She runs with a “bad crowd”
- Your child makes primarily rude comments about their peers
What Can You Do About It As a Parent?
- Remain calm – This is probably the most important action you can take under the circumstances. Losing your temper will certainly not help your child or her victim, or help to defuse the situation, and will more likely make the situation worse.
- Accept the truth of the situation. If you see your child engage in this behavior with you, her siblings or friends, call her out and name it for what it is.
- Does your child have a disability? Children and adolescents with limited social skills often act out with agression.
- Explain to your kid what bullying is and how it can harm others.
- Teach empathy and praise your child when they act with compassion. Model compassionate, empathetic behavior.
- Don’t allow bullying to go on at home. Your child isn’t the boss of you, or their siblings. Make clear the importance of respectful behavior in your family, and that disrespect will not be tolerated.
- Don’t bully your child or your partner yourself. Kids will emulate what they see.
- If the bullying doesn’t stop, seek counselling for your child.
Remember, kids don’t bully for no reason. Your child is probably a good kid who needs help managing her anger or frustration. Take the situation seriously and deal with it with compassion and intelligence and you and your child can get a handle on the situation and ensure that it doesn’t become a long-term pattern of harmful or dangerous behavior.