Bullying continues to haunt children throughout our country's communities and schools. But what do you do if you find out your child is a bully?
“The best thing you can do as a parent is have a conversation with your child about the bullying behavior and really listen to their thoughts on the situation. It’s very important that your child has a chance to share her side as well,” says Lisa B. Mayet, LPC, School Counselor of Parkview Baptist School.
There are many types of children who bully. “When students bully other students, it’s usually because they’re feeling powerless or insecure. In response to feeling that way, they try to control or put others down to elevate themselves. If a parent discovers this is the case with their child, it is important to recognize that your child is hurting and seek out help, such as mental health counseling, to help the child work through those feelings of powerlessness and insecurity.” says Mayet. However, researchers have also found that some children who bully have a very high opinion of themselves, and consider themselves ‘above’ the children they are bullying. Children who bully may:
- Come from a home environment that is not warm and nurturing and where discipline is inconsistent or harsh.
- Hang out with friends who bully.
- Experience bullying at the hands of a sibling or another family member.
- Tend to be impulsive, easily frustrated, and have difficulty following rules.
- View violence positively.
Know the Types of Bullying
Emotional bullying (intimidation and social alienation), verbal bullying (teasing, name-calling and making offensive remarks), and physical bullying (hitting or destroying another person's property) traditionally rule the hallways at school.
These days, insidious cyberbullying creates even more torment for young victims as damaging and hurtful messages fire through virtual social networks like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
“If cyberbullying is not the most common yet, it’s becoming the most common. I think that is due to the fact that technology is readily available and kids are able to say anything while hiding behind a screen. For some kids, it’s much easier for them to type hurtful things to others rather than to say it to another child’s face. Social media also makes it very easy for students to be able to access their fellow classmates, which makes it harder to avoid. I’d also like to note that it’s very important that parents know what social media sites their children use, and regularly monitor them to make sure they are not cyberbullying or being cyberbullied. If your child is being cyberbullied, be sure to document and take screenshots for proof,” says Mayet.
If you discover that your child is bullying, support the school's consequences. At Parkview Baptist School, “Any student who develops a behavioral pattern of assaulting, harassing, sexting, bullying or demeaning another student(s), either verbally or by social media means will be subject to disciplinary action (placed on Behavior Probation, suspended, or dismissed). Racial insults, ethnic insults, sexual innuendos or prejudicial behavior will not be tolerated,” explains Mayet.
Be sure to appropriately address their bullying behaviors at home, too. If your son breaks something belonging to another child, hold him responsible for replacing or repairing it. Also, discuss his actions with him. Ask him questions about the incident to determine what the bullying is about and if anyone else is involved. Let him know that there will be no retaliation for being caught bullying. However, if retaliation does happen, the child being bullied should inform faculty immediately.
Mayet explains, “The best way to prevent retaliation is to let school faculty know what’s going on. If you have good communication with the faculty, then they can keep an eye out for any sign of retaliation. Our disciplinarians recognize that retaliation is a factor and always make the bullying student aware of any consequences for retaliating. We encourage our students to keep open communication with us and let us know if retaliation occurs so that it can be handled properly.”
It’s important to help your child understand how the victim feels. Ask him how he thinks the bullying made the person feel. Also, seek opportunities for your child to practice empathy and kindness. Volunteer together at a food bank, a local shelter, or simply by giving time to someone who is in need.
Model Empathy and Respect
Empathy could be our most valuable tool to prevent future bullying. It is said that those who are prone to bullying also lack empathy. Read books together that teach lessons about empathy and use real-life examples to discuss kindness and respect toward others. This can be done by pointing out and acknowledging others’ feelings. Also, create connections in your family to help build empathy skills by not allowing bullying or teasing between siblings.
A child who lacks empathy will likely enter adulthood without the ability to form genuine connections and relationships with others. ■