While all parents hope their son or daughter turns out to be an uplifting influence, some get a harsh reality check when they discover that instead of being kind to others, their children are bullies.
Receiving such news about your child might be disconcerting and it’s normal to be in denial or to get defensive. You might feel embarrassed, ashamed and mortified about your child’s behavior and even question your parenting skills.
Finding out that your kid is a bully doesn’t automatically mean that you failed as a parent. However, it likely means that there are other things going on in your kid’s life that are causing them to lash out at others.
Bullying has far-reaching effects for both the victim and the aggressor. While we usually focus on the victim, this behavior also gives insight into the bully’s mental health. If your child is a bully, it could be a sign that they are under serious distress such as depression or anxiety or they may have difficulty regulating their emotions and behavior.
Bullies don’t behave the way they do because they are bad kids. Sometimes they might just be young and still figuring things out. Other times they might have been exposed to aggressive behavior either at home or through the media, TV shows or the news and they might not know that such behavior is unacceptable.
Other reasons why a child might be unkind to others include:
The good news is that bullying behavior can be unlearned and kids who bully others can change, once they’re given the right skill set.
Here’s what to do if your child turns out to be the bully at school:
Once you receive the news that your child bullied others, the first thing to do is to acknowledge the behavior. Sit down with your child and calmly ask him to explain what happened and try to find out why he behaved a certain way. Instead of yelling or lashing out at them, be understanding and try to discover why the social aggression took place and what can be done to stop it. Additionally, help your child understand why such behavior is wrong and emphasize fair treatment of all people.
When it comes to disciplining your child, help them understand that they are responsible for their actions. In order for the punishment to have an impact, choose consequences that match the gravity of your child’s actions. For instance, if you discover that your daughter has been cyberbullying her classmates, it’s appropriate to revoke her phone or internet privileges for a while. Make sure you outline the consequences beforehand so that your child knows what to expect should they break the rules.
Explain to your child that he made a mistake and that it needs to be fixed. Then work with him to find a way to make amends to the child who was bullied. For instance, he could choose to apologize either in person or through a letter or text. If he was bullying others by deliberately excluding them from certain activities, ask him to invite them to a party or other social event.
Your child’s bullying behavior might stem from having difficulties with social skills. Perhaps they find it hard to make friends and the feeling of isolation makes them lash out at others. If that’s the case, empowering them with the right skills to foster healthy friendships and helping them learn suitable conflict resolution skills can improve their behavior.
Finally, you need to take a hard look at your home life. Is it possible that your child learned their bullying behavior and aggressiveness at home? Maybe yelling or name calling is common among your family members or siblings normally fight and pick on each other and your child simply carried this over at school. Whatever the case, ensure that your life at home reflects the kind of behavior you want your child to practice at school.
Learning that your child is a bully can be quite a shock. Getting to the bottom of why your child is acting out and teaching them positive social skills can help them change for the better.
From the mountains of Utah, Tyler Jacobson writes about his experiences as a father and husband. By sharing the struggles and solutions his family has faced, Tyler hopes to help other parents looking for a way to better their lives. You can connect with Tyler and read his helpful insights on Twitter.