If your child’s school calls you and tells you that your child is bullying other kids, if other parents are complaining to you that your child is bullying their child, or if you notice that your child is constantly getting into fights … take a deep breath and admit that your child has a problem.
Many parents will take the stance of denial or feel that others are being mean to their child. It takes a courageous and open parent to realize that their child has a problem and that they need help.
Parents may think there is no problem - that it's just a little teasing, or that it's natural for children to fight with one another. Take all accusations of bullying seriously. What may seem natural to you may be harming others a great deal.
- Take it seriously. Don't treat bullying as a phase your child is going through. There are long-lasting effects on an aggressive child, sometimes even more than the other child who is being hurt. Bullies who grow up as adults with the same behavior can experience many serious problems later in life.
This does not mean that the child who is being bullied will not have long-lasting effects, but through peer, school and parent assistance, as well as possible therapy, the victim can have a more positive outlook on their painful experience and move on, not letting the experience define who they are.
- Communication is key. Talk to your child to find out why he or she is bullying. Often, children bully when they feel sad, angry, lonely, or insecure and many times major changes at home or school may bring on these feelings.
- Teach empathy at home.
- Talk to your child about how it feels to be bullied.
- Ask a teacher or a school counselor if your child is facing any problems at school, such as if your child is struggling with a particular subject or has difficulty making friends. Ask them for advice on how you and your child can work through the problem.
- Ask yourself if someone at home is bullying your child. Often, kids who bully are mistreated themselves by a parent, family member, or another adult.
Sit down and have a conversation with your child. Tell them that the school or other parents have reported their aggressive behavior, that you love them no matter what, that their behavior has to change, and that you support the school’s punishment and will not tolerate this behavior.
Explain that bullying in any form causes pain to others. Let them know that name-calling, teasing, hitting, pushing, starting or spreading rumors, cyberbullying and all other forms of bullying are wrong, and not acceptable behavior.
Let your child know that you will help them to change the behavior and correct the situation. Ask them how they think the bullying could stop. What do they think has to change in order for them to change?
Depending on the age of the child, they may not know any better. Young children, especially, need to be told that hurting another child is not acceptable.
After you have thoroughly discussed this with your child, meet with their teacher. Listen to the teacher's perspective without being judgmental.
Let the teacher know that you are willing to work with the school to help stop your child from bullying. It’s important to tell the teacher if there are any family problems that you might be experiencing.
Additional counseling may be needed for your child. It will help them learn to behave differently, accept responsibility for their actions and teach them how to develop guilt, as well as learn how to form cohesive relationships.
Through behavior modification and cognitive behavior therapy and any other circumstances that may be affecting their child’s behavior, only then can one work towards raising a kinder and more empathetic child.
It is imperative to teach your child to:
- Improve communication with others
- Teach kids how to cope with fears
- How to confront and challenge destructive thoughts
- Improve self-esteem
- Identify positive coping mechanisms
- Change negative thoughts
Additionally, empathy must be taught at home and at school. If a child is not empathetic how can we possibly expect them to care about others and their feelings? Schools should partner in teaching empathy to all students as well.