Talking to Your Child When He (or She) Is the Bully

While the subject of bullied youngsters has made the news in recent years, the discussion of the bullies themselves is rarely brought up. Everyone is focused on protecting the victims of bullying instead of determining why bullies act as they do. Parents of bullies are in a difficult position. While there is plenty of advice out there regarding how to handle situations where your child is being bullied, there is less information for parents of bullies.

Parents of a bully between four and seven years old have the opportunity to shape their child’s personality and behaviors for years to come. It is critical that parents end their child’s bullying ways before they become habitual. As soon as you learn that your child is bullying others, try to put yourself in their shoes. Think of what is going on in his or her life that is causing them to act out in such a negative manner. Perhaps they’re witnessing nasty arguments between you and your spouse and taking their anger out on their peers at school. Or they might not get enough attention and are acting out to feel like they has power, control, i.e. attention in their lives. If we try to look at life from their perspective, we might gain some valuable insight as to why they have become a bully. Then immediately sit them down and ask them why they are treating others so poorly. Since they are so young, they might not be able to fully articulate their emotions and thoughts on the matter. Explain to them that bullying is never acceptable. Communicate to them that you’ve contacted their teacher and requested that the teacher report the next instance of bullying right away.

Those with a child bully between the ages of eight and 12 should be as proactive as possible. As soon as you hear that your child has bullied a peer, you should have a lengthy discussion with them about the issue. Print out some news stories about the horrific results of bullying. Explain to them that some kids have committed suicide as a result of bullying. Then ask them how they would feel if their poor treatment of others led to such a terrible result. Kids between the ages of eight and 12 need to understand that the world does not revolve around them. Ask them to envision what life is like from the perspective of their victims. Ask them to think about how they would feel if they were bullied in a similar manner. If their bullying ways continue, apply some negative reinforcement. Ground them and take away privileges that have value to them. How long? Be reasonable, not unduly harsh or overly reactive because then you become the bully. Don’t hesitate to have a meeting with their teachers with them present in the room to explain that there will be consequences both in and out of the classroom for their bullying.

Parents of a teenage bully should be aware that teen bullying can cause irreparable destruction. Often, teen bullies are the most detrimental because of their physical size, raging hormones and their victims’ sensitivity during this delicate transition period into adulthood. Teens often feel overly emotional when they are going through puberty. If your teen is a bully, they have the potential to ruin a victim’s life. Show them news clippings of teenage bully victims who have committed suicide or entered into deep depression. Ask them why they are bullying, what need is this meeting in their lives. Find out if there is anything you can change about their home life that will make them act in a less aggressive manner. Then communicate that there will be a “zero tolerance” policy with bullying from here on out and hold to that policy. In a future post, we will discuss what that may mean or entail…

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