When your kid comes back home and complains of being bullied, your immediate reaction is to empathize and give him tips to deal with the bully. But if your kid is being branded as a bully, the knee jerk reaction would be to defend your child and call it baseless.
It can be shocking for parents to know and accept the fact that their child is a bully. Any kind of repeated offensive behavior that affects others and exhibits imbalance of power is bullying. It can take the form of physical, verbal and psychological harassment. Parents should gather as much as information before concluding or deciding anything. Parents should be aware of their child’s behavior and chalk out ways to control any negative behavior in their child.
While parenting a bully and trying a way to change the child behavior, the parents can chance upon many challenges. Here are the most common challenges, they are most likely to face.
1. Bossing around
Bullies have strong desire to control and subdue others. From a very young age, they become conditioned to bullying behavior that satisfies their ego and gives them power and social status in doing so.
2. Picking up behavior from others
Children who bully often witness such behavior and learn from their immediate environment. Usually they themselves have been bullied or teased by others. They observe the power of a person who is bullying and try to imitate the same.
3. Attention seekers
Often children seek attention and end up showing aggressive behavior towards others. Sometimes they also do not know how to play suitable games and often achieve satisfaction by bullying others.
4. Emotions control them
They are unable to handle emotions such as frustration, anger, sorrow and make them display hostile feelings towards others. They get an innate sense of pleasure by making others feel bad, verbally or physically. They feel powerful by coercing a victim through actions or words.
5. Insecurities drive them
Bullies often feel insecure and do want to show themselves as weak. They act tough by subduing others and feel powerful by subjecting the victims with poor treatment. They are unable to acknowledge the fact of being weak and have hidden feelings of unhappiness and bad feelings which they are unable to communicate or express in proper ways.
Being calm and open minded in tackling the problem will help in resolving the issue in a healthy way.
1. Don’t deny the problem
Parents of bullies should understand that ignoring or brushing away the claims of your child being a bully will lead to severe behavioral and psychological problems when the child grows up. Such a child may engage in criminal or anti-social behavior. Parents should consider the problem with all earnestness. It is important not to take the issue personally but try to rectify the situation.
2. Check for facts
Listen to your child with an open mind. Check with the bullied children and the school authorities if required to get the right facts. At times, bullies manipulate things and weave a one-sided story. Ask questions to determine if there are other ways to avoid such behavior. Show him/her ways to respond positively to other children.
3. Supervise and monitor your child
Actively spend time with the child to know the types of friends he/she spends in his/her leisure time. Check on the kind of activities that he/she engages in. Limit the time he/she spends on computer, TV and video games. Discourage the child from spending time with bully peers. Parents should closely monitor the issue by contacting his peers and school authorities to ascertain that the bullying behavior has stopped.
4. Make your child accountable
Have an open communication with your child. Explain to him/her that bullying in any form is totally unacceptable behavior. Establish a system of family rules and make it clear that it is imperative that all the members in the family should follow them. Develop a code of conduct that will have respect for all people regardless of social status, race, religion etc. Make your child understand the pain a bullied victim undergoes by putting the child in the shoes of the victim.
Yelling or punishing may make a bully more aggressive and this will make him/her continue with the same behavior. Discipline the child for a specific act of bullying with constructive consequence such as writing a note of apology, mowing the lawn, loss of privileges such as watching TV, computer etc.
5. Guide their energy positively
Invest your time in channelizing your child’s energy in doing positive things. Encourage his/her talents or strengths such as writing, dancing and painting that will make him/her less aggressive. If he/she is lacking social experience, make him/her participate in team or group activities that will teach compassionate behavior towards others. Taking care of a pet at home is another way to reinforce feelings of love and kindness. Show him/her ways to control his/her temper to avoid unpleasant situations. Encourage him/her to share his/her feelings with family members when he/she is depressed or dejected.
6. Spend time
In most cases, bully children go unsupervised at home. They spend lot of time being alone. Spend enough time with your child. Read books together to learn about empathy and other social skills. Parents are often the role models to a child’s behavior. Keep your family atmosphere peaceful and calm. Strongly discourage negative criticism, mockery and violence among family members. Show them how important it is to be kind and show empathy towards others.
If the child shows positive behavior, be quick to praise and reward him/her for the good behavior. Remarking about his/her caring behavior in front of others will make him/her feel good and confident to continue such behavior.
If parents feel that they are unable to address the problem efficiently, they should take help of others to tackle the problem. Working with parents of bully-victims, school authorities will help you resolve the problem mutually and amicably.