It can be devastating to learn that your child is bullying other children at school. However, there are ways that you can help your child understand why she is acting out this way. You can help your child learn and understand healthy ways of dealing with her emotional struggles.
The single most essential tactic to stop bullying, in my experience, is parental involvement. Parents, school principals, and guidance counselors must all work together. It is important for everyone to remember that children who bully are still children.
In my previous blog post, “How a Child Becomes a Bully,” I outlined some of the many different reasons children may become bullies at school. Today, I would like to share some suggestions for things you can do if you find out that your child is a bully.
Tips for parents of children who bully:
• Communicate with your child. Hold regular family meetings to not only discuss the bullying openly, but also to establish trust between you and your child. Use my empathic process, which allows each family member to speak without interruption. One characteristic that bullies have in common is a lower level of empathy. Luckily, empathy is also the one thing we can teach. My empathic process teaches everyone to listen carefully, and it gives each person a voice.
• Communicate with your child’s school. The greatest way to stop bullying is to get mom and dad involved. Parents should maintain regular communication via email, phone calls, and in-person conferences, with your child’s teachers and guidance counselors. You can’t help the situation if you do not know all of the details, so be sure your child’s teachers and counselors know to share any instances of bullying or any concerns they have with you immediately. This is a case in which parents and schools must be equally involved partners to ensure your child receives appropriate attention and guidance.
• Model healthy social behavior for your child. The best way to teach your child how to treat others is to make sure they see you treating others fairly. Sometimes a child’s bullying behavior at school is a wake-up call to a parent: children force us to see ourselves through their eyes, and however difficult it may be, you need to be the adult and own up to your actions. If you find yourself exhibiting bullying behavior, whether at home toward your children or spouse, or while you are out with friends and family, or toward strangers – now is the time to change that behavior. There is no question: you must do this for your child. Otherwise, you are giving your child a hall pass to exert the same bullying behavior onto others.
• Seek professional help. Every situation is different, and some instances are just too great for parents and teachers to handle alone. Maybe your husband is the bully, and your child is learning from him. Maybe your child’s uncontrollable anger is beyond normal parenting control. Whatever the situation, do not be afraid to get help. Don’t hesitate to seek professional family counseling, or individual counseling for your child, for yourself, and for your partner.