When Your Child is the Bully
Guest Post by Barbara Jolie
My brother and I couldn't have been greater opposites growing up. I was a calm, mild-mannered child who always got along with my classmates and teachers, while my older brother was a bully to fellow students, mouthy to his teachers, constantly getting in fights and getting notes sent home from his teachers. But somehow, with the help of key teachers and my mother, my brother turned a corner and we both grew up to be adults who are kind and considerate of the feelings of others. I share this to say that if you have a child who is acting out in school as a bully, it is possible to intervene and make a difference in that child's behavior. Here are some practical steps:
1.) Mentorship. Talk to your child's teacher about mentorship opportunities available through the school district. Some districts have a process in place by which adults who have been through a screening process can spend time with children and exert a positive influence on those who are bullying other students or who are being disrespectful in class. School districts that are close to colleges or universities often arrange for mentorship opportunities with local college students. If this isn't a viable option, it can often be arranged by parent and teacher for an older student in the district who is doing well in school to spend some time with the child who is demonstrating bullying behavior. Since younger children look up to them as peers, exemplary high school students can make great mentors for troubled elementary, intermediate or middle school students.
2.) Teach your children empathy. An article in Parent Dish touches on how the mother of an aggressive young girl helped to put a stop to bullying behavior by teaching her empathy. The mother encouraged her daughter to run a fundraiser for Haiti's earthquake victims as part of teaching her how to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. Encouraging other types of volunteer work is helpful as well. Role-playing with your child about appropriate ways to respond to others was also mentioned. For instance, you and the child who is exhibiting bullying behavior can role-play how he/she should respond when a classmate is hurting or embarrassed.
3.) Talk through the bad behavior. After any instance of bullying behavior, have a talk with your child. Ask them why they felt the need to hit, bite or speak harshly with another child. Sometimes there are underlying issues or frustrations the child is experiencing that he/she is merely taking out on an unlucky fellow classmate. The child may shrug it off the first time you ask, but finally explain what's on their mind upon gentle, persistent questioning. In my brother's case, my mother discovered that he was angry about moving from his old school to a new one after Mom's divorce and angry about the divorce itself. By getting to the root of the problem, it helped Mom get to the bottom of my brother's bullying.
4.) Choose appropriate discipline methods. I know better than to take an unyielding stance when it comes to corporal punishment, as every child and parent is different. What works for one child may not work for another child. However, my mother was counseled against corporal punishment in my brother's case (when he was young enough for it) since he was hitting other children. She was advised that physical discipline, in his case, was not the best idea. Instead, when he acted out in class or got into a fight, he was given very physical chores to burn off his angry energy, such as raking the yard, pulling weeds, vacuuming, dusting and washing windows.
5.) Counseling. Last but not least, some children whose bullying stems from underlying emotional issues benefit greatly from meeting every now and then with a licensed counselor. Other children may benefit from more informal counseling, perhaps from a pastor or another trusted adult. By-line: This guest post is contributed by Barbara Jolie, who writes for Online Classes. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: [email protected].