Help - My Child Is A Bully!

For every parent of a child who is unlucky enough to be bullied in school, there is a parent whose child is doing the bullying. This fact of life can understandably be very difficult for parents of bullying children to accept.

Parents of school-age children can't be around all the time to correct and guide their kids' behavior. Therefore, if your child bullies, it doesn't mean you haven't done your job as a Mom or Dad. There may be things going on at school that you don't know about and can't control. The important thing is to remain calm and open-minded, and to work with your child to determine:

(a) The reasons for the bullying behavior.

(b) What changes can be made to help your child interact with other kids more positively.

Hearing The Accusation

Parents of children who bully often hear about the bullying from the parent of another child or from a teacher. It's very common, when you feel under attack, or when your child has been criticized, to react defensively and deny the accusations. Take a step back and try to focus on the content of what the teacher or other parent is saying, not on any implications you fear they're making about your child or about your parenting skills. Remember, bullying is a behavior, not a personality trait - and behaviors can be corrected.

Is It True?

Your first task is to establish whether or not the accusations, or your suspicions, are justified - if so, you need to know why your child is bullying and then work out what you can do about it. Remember that other parents are biased in favor of their own children just as you are in favor of yours - so consider enlisting the help of a professional, impartial, third party. For example, your child's teachers, a children's counselor, or a pediatrician. Teachers may have seen examples of the bullying behavior and may even have some theories as to what's causing it.

Signs of bullying behavior that you can look out for include:

Your child spending a lot of time playing with younger, less dominant children

Your child calling other people names, bragging, being defiant and aggressive, or insisting on always having things his own way.

Your child lacking in empathy for other people (not showing sympathy for others when bad things happen to them, or having little understanding of how other people might feel in different situations).

Of course, all children exhibit some of these behaviors from time to time. That's why it's important not to panic and start blaming your child, or someone else's child, for the situation. If you feel ill-equipped to handle things alone, seek support from your child's school. Your pediatrician may be able to advise you about counseling or psychological support.

Finding Out Why

Finding out why your child is bullying may also provide the answers as to how you can stop him. You need to talk with your child in a calm and relaxed way, yet be firm in showing him that bullying behavior is not acceptable.

Children who bully usually have worries and insecurities of their own, which they then take out on other people. Ask your child:

Does he like the other children at school?

What games does he play with other children?

Does he feel good when he's at school/at home?

How does he feel that other children are unhappy because of things he does?

Stopping The Behavior

You will probably need the help of school staff, so talk to them - they are the ones with the experience. Make sure that your child does not see examples of bullying behavior in your home. Work on talking to one another with respect and kindness. Think about whether or not your child is being exposed to violent or aggressive media, such as action movies or TV shows for adults, and if so, stop him watching them. Keep the lines of communication open for your child at all times. Make it clear that he can speak to you about anything that's on his mind, but be very clear that bullying behavior won't be tolerated. Don't leave it to the school to punish your child's bullying- make sure he knows he will also lose privileges at home if he does not change his behavior.