Finding out your child is being bullied is a nasty shock for any parent – and it can be equally upsetting to learn that your child is the one bullying others. Bullying is unacceptable and that needs to be made crystal clear to your child.
In some cases, they may not consider what they’re doing is bullying. They may see it as teasing or giving someone a bit of a hard time, but they need to understand the hurt they’re inflicting. In other cases, they know full well that what they’re doing is making life a total misery for someone else and that behaviour has to stop.
If a complaint is made about their behaviour or you suspect they are being a bully, you need to deal with it straightaway.
Make it clear that bullying can not be tolerated – the behaviour must stop immediately. If it doesn’t, there will be serious consequences. Follow through on that promise, coming up with suitable discipline, such as removing privileges.
Listen to what others – for example, their teachers – have to say about their behaviour, then ask them for their side of the story. Try to work out why they are doing this. Are they being a bully because that’s what their friends do? Are they taking out their frustrations because of the way things are at home? Try to get them to talk to you about what is going on in their head.
Find out if they are picking on another child because that child is different in some way and hammer home the point that it is not acceptable to pick on someone because of their looks, size, colour, behaviour or abilities. Reinforce this message frequently.
Explain that they have hurt someone else and ask them to think about how they would feel if the tables were turned.
Some child behavioural experts recommend role playing as a way of getting your child to understand the repercussions of what they’ve done. If you can get them to play the role of the child they’ve bullied it may open their eyes to the pain they’ve caused. Role playing can also help them to come up with alternative ways of dealing with situations where they would turn to bullying.
Set a good example at home. Don’t gossip or belittle others in front of your kids. Show them you can deal with frustrating situations without turning your anger on other people.
Encourage your child to show compassion for other people and praise them when they do.
Don’t hesitate to talk to your child’s teacher, dean or guidance counsellor about the situation to see if you can work together to sort things out and put an end to it once and for all. Bullying behaviour can be stopped – especially if you can help the bully to see the effect their behaviour has and provide them with ways of coping with situations. This will not only help the kids likely to be on the receiving end of their bad behaviour, but it will help your own child in the long run. A US study found that kids who bully are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol when they are teenagers and adults.
Signs your child could be bullying others include:
Getting into trouble for fighting at school.
Being defiant or confrontational.
Using negative terms to describe other children, such as “stupid” and “ugly”, and saying others deserve bad things to happen to them.
Being easily frustrated when things don’t work out.
Exhibiting dominant and aggressive behaviour.
Hanging out with other kids who display bullying behaviour.
Showing little concern for others who are in bad situations.
What’s behind the attacks?
Children who bully others do so for a variety of reasons, such as:
Using it as a way of expressing anger or frustration over things that are going on in their lives.
Having low self-esteem and wanting to feel stronger and more important.
Wanting to impress their peers and being pressured by their friends into picking on others. They may fear if they don’t join in the bullying, they’ll be targeted themselves.
Not getting enough attention or supervision at home.
Coming from a situation where one parent or a sibling is a bully and they see that behaviour as acceptable.
Needing to feel that they have control over something.
Being a victim of bullying themselves and wanting to hit out at somebody weaker.