Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.
My daughter is in the sixth grade. Her grades are good, she does her chores, and she is an all-around great kid – or so I thought. The other day, her principal called me and claimed she’s been bullying some other girls in her class by commenting on their weight, and she even pushed another girl to get her to buy her ice cream at lunch. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. My daughter is such a nice girl, and I’ve always thought my husband and I did a great job raising her. This can’t possibly be true, can it?
Is your child a bully? Could they be physically or emotionally harming another child without you knowing? There’s nothing worse than getting a call from their school or having another parent approach you and claim that your kid’s been hurting others. And, as unfathomable as it sounds that the sweet baby you love and adore could be causing someone else pain, the reality is that it happens to many parents.
Rice Psychology Group wants to stress that this doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. In many of these cases, there’s an underlying issue that causes children to bully. If your child is a bully, then know that we’re here to help you understand what might be going on and what you can do about it.
The Signs of a Bully
Bullies don’t always come from troubled homes or abusive backgrounds. Instead, many come from loving and well-balanced homes, but no matter their home life or upbringing, any child can become a bully, especially if they can get away with it. And with social media at their fingertips, it’s easier than ever for kids to bully without repercussions or punishment.
Here are some things to look out for:
• A teacher, parent, sibling, or someone else bringing your child’s negative behavior to your attention.
• Your child speaking negatively about others more often than usual.
• Your child possessing items (like phones, jewelry, etc.) or even money that doesn’t belong to them.
• Signs of a scuffle, like bruises or cuts, on their body.
These aren’t 100% proof that your child is a bully, but they should be addressed.
What Can I Do?
No responsible parent wants a bully for a child, but living in denial about their behavior will help no one.
Here are a few things you can try:
• Understanding bullying can help your child and their victim(s). Perhaps your child is bullying as a response being bullied themselves. Maybe the stress of school is too much for them to handle. Whatever the issue may be, talk about it.
• When talking to your kids about bullying, teach them empathy, a quality many bullies lack. Make sure your child recognizes how their behavior is hurtful. Lead by example by being empathetic towards others in need. Help when you can and explain to your child why helping others is a good thing.
• Get to know their friends whenever they come over to visit. Perhaps who your child is spending time with is affecting their behavior and leading to bullying. Again, talk about your concerns but don’t push things by being overly assertive.
• Don’t ignore sibling disagreements. While it’s normal for siblings to argue, a child might release pent-up anger against others at school. Break up arguments before they get out of hand, and be sure that all is well before your kids go to school.
• Take an interest in your child. Don’t spend all your time directing and telling them when they’ve “messed up.” Ask about their day, take an interest in their activities, and be a trusted and safe source for them when they need to talk and not feel judged.
• Speak with a licensed psychologist at Rice Psychology Group. Sometimes a child may be bullying others because it’s a way to get what they want or because there’s something more serious going on.
As hard as it may be to accept that your child is a bully, it’s essential to address it sooner than later.
Let’s Work Together
Being a kid today is tough, and the many issues they’ll face in early life will sometimes need a guiding hand. Our team of licensed psychologists and therapists in Tampa provides a safe and judgment-free setting for families. Contact us today to schedule your free, 10-minute consultation.