Speech Buddies Parents’ Corner – Help! My Child is the Bully!
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It is common for parents to worry that their children might struggle in school with friendships and peer relationships – maybe inwardly flinching at the thought of their child being bullied. On the flip side, no parents want to think that my child is the bully. But what if you found out that your child was acting this way? It can be a devastating and even confusing truth to be confronted with about the situation, but there are things you can do to understand why your child is acting this way and what you can do to change things for the better.
How Do I Know if My Child is the Bully?
- A consistent lacking of empathy towards others
- A consistent struggle with social skills and peer relationships
- Physical strength
- A temper that is easily flared
- A need for control
Before you dismiss the possibility of your child being the bully because she is a girl or because your son isn’t the stereotypical image of a “big bully”, consider the facts that bullying is very prevalent among girls and some bullies act in passive ways where physical size does not matter.
My Child is the Bully – What Do I Do?
If you suspect or have found out that your child is the bully there are several things you need to do. Your actions and reactions will need to happen on several levels:
Maybe you just suspect that your child is the bully but you haven’t actually been confronted by anyone with this information. It is still important that you ask your child and school professionals some questions. For your child, ask about friendships, relationships at school, and have discussions about empathy and respect. You can also go to your child’s teachers and ask how your child is getting along with other students and if they share your concerns that your child might be bullying others.
If you do find out that your child has been bullying another student it is time to help your child learn how to make amends. This is an integral part of developing empathy. You can role play with your child to help him learn how his actions affect others, and you need to help your child find out to specifically make amends with the victim. Your child can write a letter to the victim and you might need to meet with parents and school officials to make sure they know you and your child are taking steps to right the situation. To continue building empathy for others, find opportunities for your child to volunteer in the community where he can learn more about compassion.
If your child is using his cell phone to be the bully, take it away. If he is acting as a bully during gym time, work with your child’s teacher to change his opportunities during class. Removing or limiting opportunities for bullying is important until your child can learn better self-monitoring skills.
Just because your child has apologized does not mean the situation has resolved. It is valuable to continue teaching your child better peer-relationship skills. Restrict those friendships that appear to negatively influence your child and find ways to promote the healthier, positive ones. Activities such as martial arts can be great outlets for energy and teach self-discipline, too. If the situation is severe, consider finding professional support for your child. Some children become the bully because they are experiencing their own emotional trauma or anxiety.
It is normal to experience a roller coaster ride of emotions if you suspect or find out that you child is the bully. Anger, frustration, sadness, and anxiety are all a part of the process. Just remember, though, that your child and those in his community are relying on you to still be calm, collected, and strong so that you can help your child learn from these mistakes. The parenting has to continue, but the bullying doesn’t.