October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

My Child is a Bully

What to Do if Your Child Is the Bully

No parent wants to believe their child is a bully. Regardless, ignoring bullying behavior in your child does them no good and can be as damaging to them in the long term as it is to the victim. You’re responsible for your children’s actions but you’re not necessarily to blame for them. You can help them get past this.

If you’re already worried your child is bullying others then you can look at the clues below to find out for sure. It’s important to understand that bullying is about contempt for others – not just temporary anger. Bullies view their victim as less than human – something not worthy of compassion and respect – as the clues below will hint at.

Is My Child a Bully? The Warning Signs

Check for the four markers of bullying:

  • Imbalance of power between the bully and their target
  • Intent to harm
  • Threat of further aggression
  • Terror (the victim is in fear of another attack)

Also check your child’s attitude for:

  • An attitude of entitlement, that they can do as they please with others
  • Indifference towards the wellbeing of the victim
  • Inability to take responsibility for their actions and constant shifting of the blame to the victim
  • Pleasure in causing pain to their siblings and other children

What to do if Your Child Is the Bully

The steps below are from Barbara Colorosa’s excellent book, “The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander.” If your child is a bully, the steps below will teach you how to stop your child from bullying.

1. Intervene immediately with discipline (NOT punishment)

Discipline doesn’t mean punishing your child, grounding them, sending them to their room or one of the many common forms of punishment parents use.

Discipline means helping your children to develop self-discipline – helping them develop that inner sense of right and wrong – to guide their actions from the inside rather than relying on an adult to tell them what’s right and wrong.

Discipline means:

  1. Showing the bully that what they’ve done is wrong.
  2. Giving the bully ownership of the problem.
  3. Giving them a process for solving the problem and making amends. The bully must decide how to fix what they’ve done and heal the harm that they’ve caused.
  4. Leaving the child’s dignity intact. Their actions were cruel but they are not bad people. Just as they have the ability to be cruel to others, so can they learn to be compassionate and respectful.

After invention from a parent, the child shouldn’t be focused on how unfair the punishment was. The child should be thinking about: why what they did was wrong, how they’re going to fix it, how they’re going to prevent it from happening again and finally how they can help the other person to heal and feel better.

2. Create opportunities to “do good”

Provide your children with opportunities to help others – whether it be through household chores, helping their siblings with school work, volunteering and more. The more often they’re kind to people, the less likely they are to be disrespectful.

3. Nurture empathy

Empathy helps children see from the other person’s perspective, understand what they’re feeling and respond affectively. A bully doesn’t lack empathy, it’s just more buried.

You can help by sharing your own feelings, explaining how they came about, responding empathetically to your child, teaching him morals against hurting others and helping them develop their own ability to take another person’s perspective.

You should also help them recognize and label their own feelings and identify their own thoughts – something that can be difficult for both children and adults.

To help them walk in someone else’s shoes, use questions such as “how do you think they felt when…” or “what do you think the child you bullied would tell you if he could?”, etc.

4. Teach friendship skills – assertive, respectful and non-violent ways to relate to others

5. Closely monitor your child’s TV viewing, computer activities, video game playing and music

If your child is bullying children online, you need to be aware of it. If they’re playing violent video games after school every day that probably won’t be very helpful either.

6. Engage in constructive, communal and entertaining activities as a family

7. Teach your child to “will good”

“Willing good” means speaking and doing what is right even when the burden is heavy. The ultimate test of whether your child has truly learned is whether they would help out a peer who is being taunted by a bully or group of bullies.

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