Advice if you wonder, “What if my child is a bully?”
Most advice today is about how to cope with bullying. But common sense decrees there must be someone on the other side of the behaviour. Parents, quite understandably, are loathe to admit their child is the one actually doing the bullying. It conjures pictures of hoodlums and gangsters. This is not how we tend to see our own children. In fact some bullies present very differently.
Bullying and aggressive behaviour is present in modern society right across the board. Life is less formal than it used to be. Children are often reflecting what they see around them. Football violence, competitive work place practices and the struggle for daily economic survival can bring out the worst in adults too.
So the first thing that parents should do is accept no family is totally immune from hearing that their child is a bully.
However there is much that can be done from a home point of view if your son or daughter is being accused of upsetting other children in this way.
Let’s dispel the myths. Not all bullies are oversized and underprivileged. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, as do their victims. And today, physical fighting is not the only assault weapon of choice. It can be internet-based, or ganging up behaviour to isolate others. It may be they are using threats of retaliation on their victims to get them to do what they want and exploit their power over them. Bullies can be highly intelligent and use wide-ranging and psychologically based ploys. Or, if not, they can be deeply insecure (and in need of extra academic tuition) and find being verbally abusive highly effective in getting their own way over children who are more academically gifted.
What degree of bullying traits is being displayed? Behaviour can range widely from making nasty comments at school to physical attacks on other students. If you mark these from 1 to 10, with the lowest number being more minor incidents, you will be able to assess the seriousness of the situation.
So if you are concerned your child is a bully, here are six areas you may wish to look at:
1: Check their social reference points
Today’s society promotes many examples of powerful people exerting their strength over others as `cool’. TV soaps which are written around heightened drama and conflict promote aggression as the normal way to behave. Clearly it is not. What do they watch on TV? What games are they playing online? Are you comfortable with it? If not, don’t ban it completely, but maybe suggest some old movies or comedy shows. Research clearly shows that aggression on television can have an impact on mood and also encourage copycat behaviour.
3: Accept The Fact
If it has been brought to your attention that your child is bullying, there is probably some truth in it. Even if the bullying is minor. They need parental guidance to overcome the stigma of being labelled this way. Talk through thoroughly all the small details leading up to the incidents being flagged up. This is vital before you have any meeting with the school. Let your child know that if you go into the school you are primarily on their side, but you need to correct their bullying behaviour as well for their own good.
5: Talk it Through
Asking questions about specific situations is the best way to start building up a picture of what is going on. Why does he or she feel the need to put the other person down/nag/criticise? Does your child have friends who join in when this is going on? Tell a story using a situation which has happened to you, either now or in the past, to make your child realise the pain that is incurred when they bully others. Were you the victim of a bully as a child? Or are you encountering bullying at work? Children will always remember tales that resonate, particularly if it comes from their mother or father.
2: Check At Home
`Not in front of the children’ is the saying that springs to mind. When parents use threats of violence as a form of discipline, often so will their children. Or maybe there is a brother or sister, even a younger sibling, who they are modelling on. Is someone in the family particularly critical or abusive? Maybe you are not even aware of it. Or is a parent going through money stress which is causing your child to act out in the same way at school.
Bullying behaviour can be a cry out from children who feel angry, helpless and worried. Sometimes it is because they have been victims too and have found bullying back is the best way to survive a competitive school society. Get to the bottom of their concerns. Help them to plan for a different approach. They may well be seeking your approval all along and using this behaviour to attention-seek.
4: Tell Them to Stop
Human beings are social creatures. Explain to them that anyone who bullies people ultimately loses their friends. While they may pay lip service to it, those around them grow wary and fearful of being dropped or threatened and eventually avoid them altogether. Peer popularity is a powerful tool, because it is how we are programmed.
6: Don’t Play-Act
It can be very disturbing to be told your child is acting in a bullying manner. However, don’t lose your temper. Many parents feel that they can play-act to show what a bullied child goes through, but this is not helpful. Your child is looking for new references. So instead, explain as calmly as possible how the victim must feel. Let your child know that you are disappointed by their conduct, but also how you want to help them change it.
We’ve made quite a splash with our campaigns. But with your help, we can continue to change social attitudes on bullying and abuse wherever it occurs.
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