My Child is the School Bully! What do I do?

It’s a horrifying realization to find out your child is a bully, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

I’ve worked with a lot of bullies and they’re usually in pain in some way.  Although, I went to elementary school with a little girl who was so sweetsie around adults but would threaten to kill any kid who beat her at a game, race, etc.   She had the nicest family and wasn’t in any pain, was just spoiled and used to getting her own way.

Let’s assume your child isn’t spoiled and go from there.  So, what do you do?

Step 1:  Acceptance.  Don’t go into denial and/or get defensive.  Just accept that your child needs a lesson in empathy.

Step 2:  The Confession.  Talk to your child about the bullying.  Don’t wriggle around the subject, ask if he/she has been mean to other children.  If they deny it then say you’re going to have to talk to the school, other parents, kids, etc.  They’ll usually fess up at this point.  They’ll also usually say they were just defending themselves which is sometimes true but not usually if they’ve been labelled the school bully.

Step 3:  Stop the Bullying.  Schools often talk about zero tolerance but that’s ridiculous as kids just get sneakier and bully behind staff’s back.  But at home you have so much more control.  Don’t bother getting them to apologize to their victims as this does little, it’s usually just empty words to kids.  Instead, attach consequences to their bullying.  Tell the school you want a report every single time your child is caught bullying.  Then you use screen time as a reward for every good day they have.

Step 4:  Forgive Them.  Do not remind your child about the bullying, just quietly deal with it by withholding screen time if necessary.  In that time, play games with them, talk to them, have fun with them, bond with them.  When kids are in trouble parents often punish them 24/7.  That is, they’re angry with them all the time.  That’s parent to child bullying.  Then the child gets worse and the parents can’t figure out why … “I’m punishing them like you told me to do!”  No, I said to hand out consequences then forgive and bond with them.  If you continually look at your child as a problem, that’s what they’ll become and they’ll stay that way.

To help you get organized with consequences, sign up for my FREE accountability system (3 Step Parenting Plan).

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach

 

How to Bully Proof Kids using Role Play

The best defence against bullies is confidence and high self-esteem.  That’s what I did with my own kids but when I was mentoring other people’s kids I didn’t have the time to build them up.  I had to figure out another way to arm them against bullies.  So we used role playing.    

Why is role playing so effective?  Because kids learn best by doing.

Here’s what you do:  You set up a bullying scenario, write it out like a script with your child.  Then you take turns being the bully and victim.  Keep the bullying non-personal as even when acting things out meanness hurts.

Make it fun.  When I’d play the bully I’d say things like, “Do you use that thumb growing out of your forehead to push elevator buttons?”  Kinda embarrassing writing such ridiculous stuff here, but kids gobble that stuff up.

The victim role is one of calm indifference.  Not ignoring as that’s antagonistic.  Use indifference, then diversion.

Role play could go something like this:

Bully:  Does your whole family have green hair or is it just you?
Victim:  Yup, all green tops.  What are you doing this weekend?

Humour can work also but it has to come naturally to the child.  My son used humour but my daughter used indifference and diversion.

I had my first bullying incident when I was in Grade 2.  A much older student came up to my face and made fun of my last name.  I laughed right along and came up with an even funnier play-on-words with my name.  The bully was completely defeated and walked away.  Bullies are quick to move on when they don’t get the desired reactions:  fear, crying, etc.  

Were you ever approached by a bully?  How did you handle it?

For more information and FREE disciplining system, sign up for my Newsletter.

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach

How to STOP School Morning Battles

One of the most common problems parents come to me with is School Morning Battles.  It’s also one of the easiest problems to fix.  

1.  Write out a list of everything that needs to be done every school morning:  make bed, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, etc.
2.  Put it on the wall for everyone to see and make sure the kids follow through.   

That’s it.  Oh yeah, there is one final detail that sort of makes it all work:  INCENTIVE.

Incentive can be anything from watching TV before school to playing video games after school.

Too many privileges are treated as rights.  My kids could never have watched TV, gone on computer or anything like that if their bed wasn’t made, their dirty laundry wasn’t in the hamper, etc.  They never questioned the rules as never knew any different.

But if you are setting a new set of rules, it’s going to take a bit of time.  The challenge for you is to not cave in and turn on the TV in the morning before the list is completed, or to not nag, even be willing to let them go to school in their pj’s if necessary.

My son was running late one morning so I grabbed his uniform and said, “Let’s go”.  You’ve never seen a kid change so fast while wearing a seatbelt.  We were all laughing hysterically by the time we got to school and he was never late again.

Trust that this advice is sound which makes it easier to follow through.  It’s when you start to question yourself that you get into trouble.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with expecting kids to get ready for school on time to earn privileges.  

Have fair expectations and follow through.  Don’t expect a 7 year old to wash your car at 7:30 in the morning but he’s quite capable of putting on the clothes you laid out for him, eating his breakfast and brushing his teeth.  It’s amazing how quickly kids can move when they have incentive. 

Funny Story:  My then teenage son was laying around the house like a slug all day.  I suggested he get out and do some yard work.  He said, “I’m so tired Mom.  I honestly don’t even think my legs could hold me up at this point.”  Five minutes later he gets a call from a friend to go out and he sprang up off the couch and out the door quicker than I could blink.  Yup … incentive is amazing fuel.  

Happy Parenting,

Lisa.

More reading on incentives:  Chores & Money Management

Happiness is a Choice, not a Circumstance

Happiness is dependent on 1 thing:  CHOICE.  The only time it’s circumstance is when your health, loved ones or necessities are taken away.

My mom was an amazing woman.  She grew up during the Depression with 2 younger sisters, a mother with mental health issues and her father died when she was just 4 years old.  They had an unheated roof over their heads but not much more.  They often went hungry and the school would feed them cream to fatten them up.  They were in Winnipeg where it got 30+ degrees below 0 yet they were not allowed to complain about being cold, hungry or anything.  Their mom instilled in them a sense of gratefulness for what they had.

Mom had so many funny stories about growing up but one of my favourites is when they’d visit her grandmother who hated kids and would send them out in the garden to search for peas under 5 feet of snow.

What made Mom so special is that through all her hardships, and there were many, she was always cheery and positive.  Her charisma drew people to her.  She wasn’t just positive, she was also very funny, social and just plain nice.  Never said a mean word about anyone, that was too negative for her.

I was 14 when my Dad died.  I can remember it like it was yesterday as we were at home expecting Dad would die soon.  He’d been in hospital for 3 weeks in the final stages of cancer.  Mom and I got the call at noon and we cried in each others arms for a few minutes then she pulled herself together and said, “Weren’t we lucky to have him for all those years?”  I was like, “What???  Dad just died and you’re already searching for the positives in all this?!  There aren’t any!!!”  

But, that was just Mom.  She couldn’t help it.  Her glass was always half full.

They say we’re born with a certain nature.  It could be cheerful, serious, quiet, loud.  Mom was very serious and quiet growing up but she turned into a very loud, cheerful adult.  She always said it was a choice.  She CHOSE to be happy. 

I mostly got that throughout life but it wasn’t until she died in my arms that I really got it.  It almost felt like she’d passed the torch.

Happiness really IS a choice.  

I was at a party the other night and some people were talking about politics or something and it was all negative.  I wasn’t joining in the conversation and someone commented on it as I’m usually such a motormouth.  I said I just don’t function well around negativity.  A friend thought that was funny as I deal with so many crisis situations in my business.  I said that’s completely different as it’s all solution based, not just dwelling on the negative.

That’s why I don’t let clients talk about their problems for more than a couple of minutes at a time.  What’s the point???  I get it, I know there’s a problem, now let’s work on the solution.  Let’s focus on being happy.  

Happy Families are my goal with BratBusters.  I want you all to be happy with yourselves, happy with your kids, your kids to be happy with you.  I want everything to be positive.  I see problems as opportunities to learn and grow.  

Disclaimer re. youths in crisis:  I do not recommend my methods to others as they are not based on formal training, just experience and intuition.  Every situation is different but here is an example of how focusing on the positive can be a real asset: 

I was talking to a youth in a psyche ward after a suicide attempt.  I’d been working with his family but hadn’t met him previously.  I introduced myself but he just turned his head to the wall.  I sat there quietly flipping through some ancient magazines and talking to myself about how lame they were.  After an hour or 2 he turned and looked at me.  It worked, I’d gained his trust.  When I left awhile later the nurse asked what was so funny as heard us laughing.  I said, “He was telling me how he’d tried to kill himself and we were laughing at what a failure he was at it.”  A couple of years later he was still doing okay so … fingers crossed.

I won’t bore you with all the psychological mumbo jumbo but the jest of why that worked was that I’d normalized his suicide attempt.  He didn’t need to feel ashamed, he wasn’t crazy, he’d just screwed up and it almost cost him his life.  Really tough to do it again when you’ve been giggling with someone about how ridiculous it was.

Mom taught me that, she could ALWAYS find the humour in a situation.  She knew how to put people at ease, to make them feel good about themselves. 

Mom chose to be happy and knew how to spread the happiness.  What a gift.  What a woman.  

Do you choose to be happy?  Do you teach this to your children?  I’d love to hear from you.

Warmly, Lisa.

 

More Happy Reading.

When to Negotiate and when to Lay Down the Law

It’s fine to negotiate with kids, so long as you know when and how to do it.

I negotiated pretty much everything with my kids, ahead of time, rarely in the moment.  They were told that if something came up that they really wanted to do but it was interfering with the schedule, that’s fine, so long as they discuss it with me in a reasonable manner.

I’d even do their chores for them at times so long as they were nice about doing mine sometimes also.  Mutual respect … can’t go wrong once that’s in place.  Easy peasy.  

So if it’s so easy, then why do so many parents struggle?  Two main reasons:

1.  Inconsistency

I was talking to a client recently who didn’t understand my claim of being 100% consistent when I was willing to do my kids’ chores for them if they got a call from a friend to go and do something fun.  I said I was just doing them a favour, as I expected them to do for me from time to time.

They never asked without sweetening the deal with something like, “‘If you do the dishes for me tonite, I’ll wash your car on Saturday.”  If I’d said no, which I rarely did with a better offer like that, there was no argument, they just did the dishes.

The consistency was that it was still their chore, they could just negotiate out of it by offering to do something for me.  Those were odd exceptions, not the norm.

2.  Unreasonable Expectations

Before hiring me parents have often gone into overdrive trying to get control of the family.  They’ll set up elaborate charts full of rules and chores, punish often and go diving off the cliff of frustration.  Some will even tell me they’ve been following me for years and have tried everything I’ve suggested yet nothing has worked.

What they haven’t done is have reasonable expectations.  When they work with me we work on one thing at a time.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and you can’t get your kids’ respect in a day.  You have to earn it over time.  The longer it took you to lose it, the longer it’s going to take to get it.

The biggest turnaround I ever experienced with a client was literally one day.  In order to respect their privacy I will change a few details but it’s a great story worth sharing.

The children were between 10 and 15 and not into anything terrible, just defiant and cheeky.  I told the parents to throw out everything they’d been doing and adopt my “3 Step Parenting Plan”.  We went through how to set it up keeping it very simple.

But here’s what they did that changed everything.  I have to mention they didn’t want to do it, they were horrified at my suggestion.  But I assured them it’s worked with tons of other families and that I couldn’t work with them further if they weren’t willing to do it.  I don’t recommend it for all families, but they were the perfect fit as had extremely demanding and unreasonable expectations of their children throughout the years.  The list of chores and rules were ridiculous.  They were lucky their kids hadn’t run away from home.

So, here’s the speech I gave them to say to their kids:

“We’re sorry we’ve been lousy parents.  We don’t blame you for not respecting us.  We love you more than anything in the world but that doesn’t mean we’ve treated you well.  From now on we’re going to work to be the parents you deserve.”  

They said their kids just sat there staring at them in disbelief and one even ran over crying and hugged them.  It was a huge shift for the family and all we did in the next sessions was work on how to follow through on their promises.

Now I didn’t think they were lousy parents at all, it was just said to shake things up.  Kids usually defend their parents and say they’re not lousy.  It’s a great tool to break down walls and defensiveness.  It also brings out compassion in the kids.

As difficult as it is for some parents to do, not one of them has told me it was a mistake.  They say it’s very emotional and difficult for them but also shows them and their children that it’s okay to be humble and vulnerable.  We’re all human, we all make mistakes.

So, when do you Lay Down the Law?

 

You can’t lay down the law if you don’t have respect.  That’s what the above was all about.  So, assuming you have at least some level of your children’s respect, you lay down the law in the moment as necessary.

The bottom line is that you are the adult, you’re in charge of their welfare, etc. and if you say something, it’s law.

The only thing I can remember my kids doing that annoyed me was arguing over Lego or some treat.  They were pretty quiet arguers as knew if I heard I’d take away whatever they were arguing over.

One day I heard them arguing over the last piece of cake, one said it hadn’t been cut fairly.  I calmly walked into the kitchen and they handed me the cake to eat right in front of them … they knew.  After I ate the cake I taught them how to handle it next time:  one cuts, the other chooses.  But in the moment, I laid down the law.

There is no negotiating in the moment, just laying down the law.  That was the first and last time they ever argued over a piece of cake, lol.

More on this:  “How do I stop my kids from fighting with each other?” 

Arguing was the crime, losing the cake was the punishment.  If I’d let them have the cake that day, they’d have learned that it’s okay to argue.  NEVER REWARD BAD BEHAVIOUR.  

If you want help learning how to navigate through all this negotiating, laying down the the law, etc. check out my coaching page.  There are unlimited emails flying back and forth between weekly sessions so I’m with you through it all.

Warmly, Lisa