Is my child a bully?
More and more it seems that newspapers, television reports ,and social media report on the rise of childhood bullying. By definition, bullying is unwanted, aggressive and repeated behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance between children. Bullying can exist at school, camp, church or any place where children congregate in a group setting.
Most experts point to four main types of bullying behavior:
- Verbal Bullying, including teasing, name calling, threats ,and inappropriate comments;
- Social bullying, which includes the purposeful exclusion of a child in games or a group setting; rumors being spread, or purposeful embarrassment;
- Physical bullying, including fighting; hitting, kicking, spitting or destroying someone’s personal property; and
- Cyberbullying, which includes verbal or written harassment that takes place online and quickly shared by others.
Bullying can be a real and serious threat to children and parents and caregivers need to recognize signs and symptoms of bullying to protect their child. But what happens when an adult or caregiver discovers their child is the one doing the bullying?
First of all, child development specialists advise parents and caregivers to not panic. Just because a child exhibits an instance of bullying type behavior doesn’t mean the child is headed for a lifetime of bad behavior. Typically, a child will bully because a) they are trying to maintain a sense of power or popularity or b) they have experienced a sense of deprivation (being picked on themselves, or having bad family relationships, etc.) making them feel entitled to pick on others. Also , some children may learn about bullying behavior by seeing it on TV, in the news, or even by an older brother or sister—not even realizing that such behavior is not acceptable.
If a child has exhibited bullying behaviors, parents and caregivers are advised to do the following:
Talk About What Happened: When talking to a child about bullying behavior, do so in a firm tone, ask the child what happened and why he or she behaved that way. It’s important to fully listen to the child before taking disciplinary action. For young children especially, it’s also important for them to know it’s OK to make a mistake—because they may not even know what they did was bullying. Once you have all the facts, ask the child questions about what they did. “Would you like someone to treat you that way?” or “Is what you did the right thing to do? Did it hurt someone or their feelings?” Do your best to make the child understand that everyone should be treated fairly and with respect.
Accountability: It’s very important to make a child know that he or she is accountable for their bullying behaviors. From being put on restriction to not allowing TV or video game use, a child needs to understand that bad behaviors result in punishment. It’s also a good idea to have your child apologize in person or write a letter of apology to the child who was bullied.
Get Involved: To fully understand what happened in a bullying incident, a parent or guardian should talk with their child’s teachers or administrative staff. And never be embarrassed to think that someone might judge your parental skills by asking for help. Even the most angelic child can exhibit bad behavior and working with school staff and counselors can help prevent future bullying incidents. Also, be sure and follow up to make sure that other incidents do not occur after the initial incident.
Social Skills: Many children bully because they lack the social skills needed to resolve conflict, so parents and guardians need to help a child learn positive ways to interact with others. When a child learns how to handle social situations and conflicts while also making responsible decisions, he or she will feel empowered. One way to help a child interact responsibly with others is through after-school programs and extracurricular activities that reinforce collaboration and positive group dynamics.
To learn more about ways to prevent your child from becoming a bully, visit https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/no-bullying.html.
To help children learn now to identify bullying and how to stand up to it, visit https://www.stopbullying.gov/.
By ABC Quality Team on July 14, 2020