When Your Child is the Bully – 5 Steps to help your child

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It can hurt a parent or caregiver’s heart deeply to see your child being teased, harassed and terrorized by another child, but one thing that will hurt even more is finding out that your child is the one who is the bully.

A call from the school, another parent, or witnessing the bullying will likely cause a series of emotions: denial, defensiveness, anger, embarrassment, and sadness. All are acceptable, but it’s important to remember that the child is going through some very big emotions and needs help.

Alzein Pediatrics recommends these five steps to help children overcome being the bully, gain empathy and build real relationships with peers.

1. Approach your child without judgement. Have an open and honest conversation with your child. Ask how things are going at school. Inquire about a friendship you noticed has fizzled out. Present the child with the facts of what someone has said or what you observed and ask them to explain their side of the story. Listen with an open mind to understand and make sure you are picking up cues of how they are feeling so you can ask follow-up questions about their feelings.

2. Do a home self-assessment. It’s easy to react to stressful situations at home or to vent the stress of life by forgetting children are watching and learning. How much shouting or yelling happens in the child’s home or at a primary caregiver location? When siblings or parents are criticizing each other or upset, what kind of language is being used? Take an honest assessment of the child’s environments and see what can be improved so the child has kind behavior to model. Reach out for guidance and help.

3. Communicate that bullying is not a strength, but a weakness. Speak openly about how bullying others is a cry for help. It is important to approach this lesson with empathy.

For example, present scenarios of events that have happened to you. Maybe a coworker who was insecure about their performance made it a point to make your work look bad in front of your colleagues. This will show your child a narrative of someone being bullied and how that action is perceived, and hopefully give them language to talk about their own experiences and thought processes.

Monitor real life and online interactions. In today’s culture, parents need both a physical presence and a social media presence. Let your child know that you will be monitoring their cell phone and all social media accounts. It’s important that you are upfront about this. Hacking into accounts will hurt your relationship with your child. 

Whenever possible, make yourself present during your child’s interactions. When they want to go out to the movies or a game with friends, be the driver and sit near them. Require that any gathering of friends happens in your home in a common area where you can see and hear what is said and done.

4. Provide appropriate consequences for bullying. As with all undesirable behaviors, consequences are needed. If bullying is happening at basketball practice, then they can no longer play basketball. If they are a cyber-bully, then phone and internet access is taken away.

 Work with teachers, coaches and other adults. It’s important to have a plan so your child can earn these privileges back through positive behavior.

Remember that if your child is bullying others, it’s a signal that your child is really hurting, needing your love and support more than ever to treat others – and themselves – with kindness.

If you are struggling with helping your child improve their behavior – for whatever the reason – talk to us here at Alzein Pediatrics. We’ll help with local resources, therapy or other recommendations. You can click here to send a message or make an appointment. Together, we can help your child build healthy relationships for a happier future.

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