It’s something that crosses the mind of most parents at some point: is my child being bullied? It could be a harsh teacher, playground rough play, high school meanness or nasty posts on social media. While it doesn’t happen to every kid, bullying is common enough to be a worry and there are a lot of resources to give parents advice and help. But, then there is another tough question on the other side of the line:
What if your child is the bully?
This is a whole new nightmare: what if your kid is the one making someone’s life a misery? What do you do if you get a call from the school or another parent to tell you that your son or daughter is bullying their child? Your first reaction would probably be disbelief – we all choose to think the best of our kids. It’s not hard to understand, as bullies are often charming towards adults.
How do I know?
How can you tell if your child is capable of being a bully? Watch how he or she interacts with other kids. Here are some warning signs. Bullies
- like to dominate others
- get satisfaction from the fear or pain of others
- hide their behaviour from authority figures
- blame someone else for their problems
- are easily frustrated
What you can do
If you see a pattern like this beginning to show in your child, take action. If you get that call from school, don’t panic. Meet with the school staff and find out exactly what’s going on. Work together with them to change the behaviour in a positive way. If your child is being exposed to patterns of anger and harsh behaviour at home, he or she may simply be acting this out. Take stock of what your child is being exposed to and, if relevant, change it. Here are some other practical ways you can help:
- If your child bullies others, you need to discipline them with consistent and predictable consequences.
- Talk with teachers and keep track of your child’s progress.
- Work on creating a home where everyone feels valued.
- Spend time with your child – this is the most important key. All children need a daily, personal connection with parents, teachers and other caring adults.
Joanne Hart for HelloDoctor.com