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.
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Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach