No parent wants to find out that their child is bullying other kids. When you get news that your child is bullying others, it’s important to know that bullying behavior is not about anger or conflict.  Bullying is about contempt which is a powerful dislike toward someone who the child thinks is inferior, worthless and undeserving of any respect.  It’s the inability to see the humanity in the other person.

When you are looking at behavior to determine if it truly is bullying, there are 4 markers to look for: Is there an imbalance of power between the children involved? Is there an intent to harm the target of the behavior? Is there a threat of further aggressive behavior? Does the target feel a sense of terror due to the behavior?

In addition, your child may display an attitude of entitlement and a desire to control, dominate or otherwise abuse others.  Other markers of bullying may include an intolerance toward differences in others or a mistaken assumption by your child that they have the liberty to bully anyone that they deem unworthy of their respect.

Terrorizing, shunning, tormenting, intimidating and ridiculing are all forms of bullying. When you discover that your child has been involved in bullying behavior, it’s important that you do NOT make light of the behavior or write it off as “typical kid behavior”. By letting your child get away with this kind of behavior, you are subtly saying that you don’t expect much from them and that will not serve your child well.

It’s important that you do NOT punish your child because that will only teach them that aggression is acceptable.  Punishment is about blame and pain without considering the reason for the behavior or solutions to the underlying issues.  Punishment deprives your child of an chance to understand the consequences of their actions, to fix the wrongdoing or develop empathy for the child they harmed.

Physical punishment plays a large role in the background of many children who are involved in bully behavior.  There are also more subtle forms of punishment that also have a negative impact on the behavior of children.  Some milder forms of punishment include isolation, humiliation, embarrassment, shaming, grounding and emotional isolation.  All of these subtle forms of punishment resemble emotional or verbal bullying and are unlikely to change the bullying behavior. Children are robbed of the opportunity to develop their own self-discipline.

When confronting the bullying behavior of your child, it’s also important to examine your own behavior to be sure that there is nothing in your behavior that might be encouraging or supporting this kind of behavior.  If you determine that you might need to make changes, you can change your attitudes, behaviors and habits.  That will change your interaction with your child and that will change the way they relate to others.

If your behavior is not an issue, there are other influences that may be affecting your child’s behavior.  Friendships, environments such as school or social events and sports lessons could also have a negative impact on the behavior of your child.

Remember, as parents, we are responsible for our child’s behavior, but we are not necessarily to blame for it.  As much as a child can be disrespectful, malicious and demeaning, they can be empathetic, respect, kind and compassionate. Helping your child to be good at being kind, showing empathy, getting along with others and making friends can go a long way in changing both their thinking and their behavior.

There are some things that you can do to help your child.

 You should intervene immediately with discipline.  Discipline, unlike punishment, is constructive and compassionate.  It shows the child what they did wrong, gives them ownership of the problem with no excuses, leaves their dignity intact and gives a process for solving the problem they created.  Restitution, resolution and reconciliation are steps I the process for solving the problem. (we will be talking more about that in a future blog post)

You can create opportunities for your child to do good.  Children need to practice doing good at home, in the community and at school. These types of activities help children to learn that they can make a contribution and a positive difference in their families, schools and communities.

You can nurture empathy. Empathy is what increases humanness, civility and morality. It helps children to understand another person’s situation and to understand other peoples’ needs. Using every day situations to talk to your children about their feelings can help them recognize and identify their feelings as well.

You can teach friendship skills.  Skills like respect, assertiveness, kindness, keeping promises, etc.

You can closely monitor your child’s TV viewing, video game playing, computer and phone activities.  All forms of social media can have a profound effect on the way your child perceives the world. Too much media interaction and too little real-life interaction can keep your child from developing the social skills they need to succeed.  Keep the TV, videos and computer in an area where it can be monitored.  Watch your child’s favorite TV programs with them and limit the time they are using technology. 

You can engage in more constructive, entertaining and energizing activities. The more time your child spends in engaging, constructive activities, the less time they will have to think about harming others.

You can teach your child to ‘will good’.  Willing good means speaking and doing what is right, even when the burden is heavy.  It helps children to develop an inner moral voice that guides them to do or say what is right in spite of external consequences.

Teaching your child to be assertive, not aggressive, to get their needs met in constructive ways and to be, do, and will good will take time and effort.  It involves taking stock of the way you get your own needs met, how you handle conflicts in your own life and the way you respond to your child’s mistakes, mischief and mayhem!

You’ve most likely got a lot to think about now…I will leave you with this quote I recently read…

“Children learn to care by experiencing good care.  They come to know the blessings of gentleness, of sympathy, of patience and kindness, of support and backing, first through the way in which they themselves are treated.”

If you are ready to learn more about what you can do to create a more positive, balanced home for your family, check out our latest e-book called “Bullyproof”.  It’s full of ideas on how you can take small steps to empower your child to stand up to bullies, to keep the lines of communication open and help your child to become more empathetic and compassionate.

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