When the Class Bully is Your Sweet Angel At Home
It’s like any other day when you get the call from your child’s school. At first, you think that you have a bad connection, so you ask them to repeat what they said. After a moment, the words “Your child is in the office for bullying” finally sink in. You are shocked and confused. Your first reaction is to become angry and defensive. It doesn’t make sense . . .surely, there has to be a mistake. You know your child, and they would never do anything like this. You’re a good parent, and you would never teach your child to hurt anyone.
Who are “bullies”?
Most of us probably have a stereotypical image of what a bully is supposed to look like, and it certainly isn’t our child. In truth, appearance is not at all what defines a bully; their behavior does. Bullies come from all backgrounds, races, income levels, family situations, genders, and religions. Research has shown that kids who bully often possess one or more of the following traits:
- Lack empathy and compassion for others' feelings
- Act out from frustration, anger, or depression
- Want to be in control
- Possess low self-esteem
- Are involved in a peer group that’s pressuring them to bully
- May be the victims of bullying and is trying to retaliate
- Are quick to point the finger at others and avoid responsibility
- Come from families where parents or siblings bully
- Do not receive adequate parental attention or supervision
- Has parents who don’t enforce discipline or have consequences
- Has underdeveloped social skills
- May suffer from some form of mental illness
Can my child really be a bully?
Bullying is a serious matter that parents must address immediately. Children who bully can be affected as much as those they target. Statistically, they’re more likely to face failure in school, suffer from depression, commit an act of violence/crime, and get into other serious problems. The good news (and yes, we need to look at the positive side of things) is that bullying is a learned behavior, thus over time and with effort, it can be unlearned and replaced with more positive behaviors.
By addressing the issue and seeking help immediately, our child has a much greater chance of learning more appropriate ways of handling their feelings and dealing with peer pressure and conflicts. If we’re either in denial about their aggressive behavior or have convinced ourselves that this is just a phase they will eventually outgrow, we are doing them a great disservice. Ignoring the issue will only reinforce their negative behavior.
Analyze your relationship with your child
As hard as it is may be, we have to be willing to look at ourselves as parents in this situation, and ask if we play a part in any of our child’s negative behavior. Sometimes, bullying is a cry for help, and with a good dose of self-honesty, we might discover that we need to work on things within ourselves to build a healthier and stronger relationship with our child.
Dealing with the situation
When confronted with the possibility that our child is bullying another child, the first thing that we have to do is breathe. We don’t have all the facts (yet), so we must remain calm and open-minded. Once we’re in a calm space, then we need to approach our child in a non-judgmental way. It’s important to constantly remind ourselves that this is not about us or our feelings of failure as a parent. It’s about our child – first confirming if they are indeed bullying, and then discovering what is motivating them to lash out at others in a harmful or disrespectful way.
Discovering the cause of our child’s bullying is the key to getting them the help that they need. In some cases, kids bully because they have trouble managing strong emotions like anger, frustration, or insecurity, or they haven't developed the social skills needed to express cooperative ways to work out conflicts and understand differences in others. Sometimes, children bully because they are being pressured by their peers to prove themselves.
It’s vital that we let our child know that bullying is not okay under any circumstances, and that we will not tolerate it. We must be clear that there will be consequences (such as loss of privileges) for their bad behavior, and be consistent when it comes to following through with punishment.
If after we have confronted our child and implemented a strategy to end their bullying, and we discover that they are still engaging in the negative behavior, then it may time to seek help from their school counselor or another health care provider.
No parent ever wants to face the possibility that their child is harming another human being, but ultimately, we have to remind ourselves that life is an ongoing learning process. Like us, our little ones are going to make their share of mistakes along the way.
Has your child ever been a bully? How did you tackle the situation?