11 Steps to Help Your Own Child Stop Bullying Others

Written by Adele Keyser

If your child is bullying other children, then you’ll want to address his or her behaviour very quickly.

Accepting that your child has a problem and that they are a bully takes courage, as many parents will take the stance of denial. The first step to helping your child is to admit that your child has a problem and to remember that bullies are often charming to adults.

The consequences for bullies, later in life, can be far reaching. Children who bully have a higher risk of abusing alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults, as well as a greater risk of suffering from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and developing anti-social personality disorder. Children who bully are also more likely to get into fights, vandalize property, engage in early sexual activity and drop out of school.

How to identify if your child is a bully?

These can be clear warning signs that your child is bullying others …

  • Becomes violent with others.
  • Gets into physical or verbal fights with others.
  • Has extra money or new belongings that cannot be explained.
  • Has friends who bully others.
  • Needs to win or be the best at everything – inflated ego.
  • Often aggressive towards parents, teachers and other adults.
  • A need to control and dominate others and situations – power imbalance.
  • Boy bullies tend to be physically stronger than their peers.
  • Girl bullies want to win at all costs.
  • Hot tempered, impulsive and easily frustrated – get angry easier than other children.
  • Often tests limits, boundaries and breaks rules.
  • Good at talking their way out of difficult and tense situations.
  • Show little sympathy towards others who are bullied.
  • Get satisfaction from the fear or pain of others – intent to harm.
  • Hide their behaviour from authority figures.
  • Blame someone else for their problems and will not accept responsibility for their actions.
  • Are easily frustrated.
  • Gets sent to the principal’s office or detention often.

Why do children resort to bullying?

  • They want to be in control.
  • Lack empathy and compassion for others’ feelings.
  • May be expressing anger about certain events in their lives.
  • Have low self-esteem.
  • May be trying to impress their peers.
  • Come from families where parents or siblings bully and have learned this behaviour.
  • Do not receive adequate parental attention or supervision.
  • Have parents that do not enforce discipline.
  • May be victims of bullying and are trying to retaliate.
  • Feel insecure.
  • Follow a crowd to fit in.
  • Have friends that bully.

How to stop your child from bullying others?

Firstly, it is of paramount importance to know that you can help your child to stop bullying. Secondly, you need to take immediate action. Your child should know that bullying is unacceptable.

Try these strategies …

1. Remain calm

It will not help to respond to an aggressive child by being aggressive yourself.

2. Determine why your child is behaving in this manner

Listen to what others have to say about your child. Try and find the source of your child’s anger and frustration.

3. Communicate the consequences of bullying

Explain to your child that bullying causes pain and harm (physical, emotional or psychological) to both the bully and the person being bullied.

4. Teach empathy

Teach your child the importance of empathy and try to make them understand what the other person feels like.

5. Tell your child that he or she can change

It’s important that your child understands that they have the ability to change. Help your child by role-playing to understand how the bullied child feels, and how your child can handle future conflicts in a way that doesn’t hurt others. Your child must learn co-operative ways of handling conflict.

6. Don’t be afraid to discipline your child

When you discipline your child, be consistent and be predictable so that your child fully understands the consequences of what will happen if they bully others.

7. Communicate with your child’s teacher

Listen to the teacher’s perspective and emphasize the importance of working as a team.

8. Spend time with your child

It’s very important that you personally spend time with your child on a daily basis. Your child needs to know that you are there for him or her.

9. Take the situation seriously

Make sure that your child understand that you do not approve of their behaviour, and that you take the situation very seriously. This will help them understand that their behaviour is not a joke, and carries serious consequences. If you take their behaviour lightly, then all you are really saying is that you are not too concerned.

10. Learn about your child’s social life

Take the time to get to know your child’s friends and the type of children your child associates with.

11. Encourage good behaviour

The best way to encourage good, acceptable behaviour is through continuous, positive reinforcement.

If all else fails, seek professional help. This will help them to learn to behave differently and accept responsibility for their actions.

What should you do if someone calls your child a bully?

What should you do if you get a call from the school, or another parent, informing you that your child has mistreated a peer?

Rosalind Wiseman, an internationally recognized author, offers this advice …

  • Breathe: take a deep breath and be receptive to what you may hear.
  • Be grateful you’ve been alerted: thank the parents or teacher for informing you and acknowledge how difficult it was for them to make the call.
  • Take a moment: accept that you may need time to process what you have heard.
  • Make a pledge: assure the parent or school that you will talk with your child.
  • Take their info: follow up if you need to get further understanding, or to discuss what you are doing to address the problem.

Rosalind believes we can control the safety and dignity of our family units, “By creating a respectful home where the parents don’t demean each other; by choosing for our own friends people who treat others with dignity, by looking inward and seeing what expressions of anger we may or may not be modeling.”

The Author - Adele Keyser

Adele has 27 years experience in teaching pre-primary, foundation phase, intermediate-senior phase and adult education. That's 27 years experience in dealing with children (and parents!). Currently teaching in Cape Town, her major focus is building classroom environments that foster healthy self-esteem and help children realise what they're capable of.

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