What to do if your Child is the Bully
“My Child IS the Bully”
Just the word Bully brings up such negative images of the little guy being stuffed in a locker or ganged up on after school with no teachers or adults around to intervene. Or, having your lunch stolen or destroyed and being laughed at in front of people. Things we all certainly hope our child doesn’t have to face. Even worse however, is if it is our own child who is torturing someone! It is a very difficult and multi-faceted problem to address and to solve. One of the most important things to figure out is “why” are they being a bully. Also, if they truly are being a bully. The definition of bullying is an imbalance of power being used over a period of time. So first, determine if your child acted like a bully or is actually bullying.
When do Children Start to Bully?
Children typically start to bully at the age of 5 or 6 years old. They are little sponges at this age and learn very quickly that if they can push their way to the front of the line, often other children will not fight back, and they can get their way. Remember, children must be taught everything. Even how to be nice to others. Role playing is a great way to talk about these issues and kids love to pretend so getting them to “play” is usually pretty easy. Pretend to be waiting for the water fountain and someone comes and pushes you out of the way. Or, what would you do if you saw someone do that? Another situation is, “Let’s all stop talking to Sally. She’s stupid.” You can come up with many different scenarios to act out. I suggest to really get into it by dressing up some way, such as the bad guy wears the black hat and the good guy wears the white hat. Maybe you have a bystander that wears a blue hat. Acting out what to do and not to do is an excellent way to teach younger children proper behavior.
Find Out Why?
If your child is bullying others, find out why. Are they wanting attention? Are they afraid if they don’t participate in bullying, they will lose their friends? Do they just want to get their own way without taking turns or sharing? Are they acting out how they have seen others behave? Every child acts out at one time or another. Our job as parents is not just to punish them for bad behavior but make sure we teach them why their behavior was bad.
A little personal story:
When I was in elementary school, I witnessed someone being pushed around and picked on at the playground. I didn’t really do anything, and I actually laughed at the poor kid. My parents got wind of the story and I was promptly taught that I had done the wrong thing and it was my job to help people in those situations, not join in. (That was way back before I started Taekwondo!) I believe most kids who find themselves in a situation like that can learn from their parents and guardians the proper way to act and then make changes accordingly. Once I was made to imagine how the other kid felt, I knew I didn’t want to act that way again. The golden rule, “Do unto others as you would want done to you.”
Make sure part of the lesson is to make amends and apologize to whoever it was that they were picking on or calling names. This teaches taking responsibility for your actions and can be very difficult for children to do. Make them do it anyway. Being able to get away with something is another lesson they learn quickly, as well.
Teenagers who Bully
Teenagers who are bullying need a more serious method of intervention than a simple “teaching moment” exercise. Teens who bully have most likely been doing this for awhile and this is how they communicate and navigate through social settings. If they are truly using their strength or social status to put down others or hurt others physically, a counselor or family therapist is suggested. Getting to the why can be much more difficult and changing behavior patterns can take a long time. This is why teaching children at an early age to not communicate by bullying is so important. As with any negative behavior, early intervention can prevent a lot of woes.
If your child, at any age, is acting out violently and being very physical, you should seek a professional to help you and your child. Resorting to violent behavior, having no concern for others and using violence instead of other means to resolve things is not normal behavior. They could end up hurting someone as well as getting hurt themselves.
If your child is accused of bullying, including a mediator to help guide you and the other child’s family through a resolution is highly suggested. If you and the other parents try to talk about it on your own, it could end up becoming a worse situation for both children. A mediator such as a counselor or teacher can help both families work through the situation and help the children learn how to handle conflict. I know for myself; it would be very difficult to be objective and calm on either side of the issue if my child was involved.
If you are at all not sure what to do, involve help. There are lots people who will know what to do who have worked through these issues many times. If you can’t find help right away, keep looking, someone in your world does understand.
Wishing you a harmonious and happy home!
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I hope this has been helpful and I hope together we can make a better society for our families and future families.