Getting a phone call from your child’s school notifying you that your child has been bullying other students is a distressing experience. Many kids act completely different at home than they do at school and their parents may have no idea that their child has been bullying others. Bullying can take many forms. Physical bullying is obvious but some of the other forms of bullying can be subtle and your child may not even realize that the behavior was hurtful.
- Cyberbullying involves using a technology platform such as texting, email and social media to harass someone online by posting hurtful comments or images.
- Sexual bullying may take the form of crude comments and gestures, or touching that is not invited. Sometimes girls may be sexually bullied by other girls who call them names or seek to destroy their body image.
- Verbal bullying involves using words to tear down the self-esteem of the target and assert control over her.
- Emotional bullying is often used by ‘mean girls’ and involves purposefully damaging the relationships of the target and harm her social standing.
If you find out that your child engaged in any of these types of bullying behaviors, the first step is to stay calm. Firmly explain to your child what was wrong with his behavior and let him know he made a mistake that has serious consequences. Ensure your child fully understands his mistake so that he can own it and then decide how to make reparations to those he bullied. To gain an understanding of what may have triggered the bullying incident, engage your child in a conversation and listen carefully to his explanation of what happened. This information can help you act to preventing future bullying incidents. There are several reasons why kids bully.
Trying to prove themselves to a group of peers that they want to join. To fit in, kids may copy the behavior of the others in their group. Talk with your child about the peer pressure he feels at school and how to say ‘no’ to others pressuring him to be cruel to others.
Experiencing bullying at home or at school. Kids who are targets of bullying may bully others at school to express anger and to replace a sense of powerlessness with a sense of power. If your child is the target of bullying at school, work with the school administration to put a stop to it. Teach your child ways to cope with anger that do not involve lashing out at others.
Lack of understanding of how to be a good friend. Some kids do not realize that a ‘just joking’ comment may be hurtful to someone else. Also, some kids are assertive and misdirect their energy towards asserting power over their peers. Teach your child that a good friendship includes kindness and respect. Try to find new activities that help your child channel his assertiveness into learning leadership skills and provide opportunities to form new friendships with kids that may be different from him.
Some kids bully out of their inability to cope with frustration and anger and may have a lack of empathy that keeps them from recognizing that they are hurting others. Help your child understand how his behavior makes the target of his bullying feel and teach him ways to manage angry feelings.
Remember to give positive feedback to your child when you do see him displaying kindness towards others and be aware that your own behavior sets an example for your child.
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