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Bully Pointing And Laughing At Boy

Bullying: Helping the Child who is the Bully

Written by:
Erilda Borici, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Clinical Advisor for Mental Health and Counseling

The last days of summer are quickly approaching and that means that school is just around the corner. While many kids are looking forward to seeing their friends and teachers again, there are some kids who are dreading the return to school. For children and teens who are bullied, returning to school means having to endure endless teasing, name-calling, exclusion, threats and for some, physical aggression. It can be scary for these kids that experience consistent bullying at school. But what about the child who IS the bully?Bully Pointing And Laughing At Boy

Bullying is defined as “unwanted aggressive behavior among children that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power”. (Stopbullying.gov) The bullying is persistent or has the potential to be repeated over time. It can be verbal, physical, social/emotional or sexual. It can take place on the playground, in the cafeteria, in the classroom, in the neighborhood or online.  Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 US students say that they have been bullied in school (CDC). As we all know, it’s a prevalent problem, and while there have been so many great initiatives on how to help bullying victims, there is not enough information on the children who bully, why they do it, and how to help them stop.

Approximately 30% of US students have admitted to bullying someone. (CDC) If we think about how “the bully” is portrayed in movies and TV, we often see images of the angry kid who has low self-esteem. This is not always true. A child who bullies could also be the quiet, honor student, the happy, popular cheerleader or the student council member. Appearance really doesn’t have much to do with it and children who bully can be of any income level, race, family situation, gender, or religion.

Research shows that some of the reasons why children bully are:

  • Lack of empathy, perspective taking, and compassion.
  • Have poor social skills.
  • Might be bullied themselves.
  • Witness/experience aggression at home from parents or siblings.
  • Want to be “cool” or be part of a group that encourages bullying.
  • Quick to blame others and struggle with accepting responsibility for their actions.
  • Might be struggling with depression, anger issues, anxiety.

How to help children with bullying behaviors.

It’s important to start changing the language of how to refer to these kids. Using phrases like “once a bully, always a bully” can be really damaging. Sticking someone the term “bully” does not help prevent bullying. Bullying is about behavior which means that it’s about making a choice. Here are some tips on how to help support and teach children about stopping behaviors that are hurtful to others.

  • Teach your child about bullying from an early age. It’s important to talk to your child about how to treat others with respect, kindness, empathy and most importantly acceptance. Accepting that others might be different than us but that everyone is deserving of respect.
  • Teaching responsibility and accountability. Bullying is not caused by something the victim said or did. Children with bullying behaviors can become good at making excuses or blaming others for their actions. It’s important to help these children recognize the impact of their behaviors and take responsibility for their choices.
  • Provide clear consequences. Kids who are bullying others at school should be held accountable for their actions. If your child is bullying, take immediate action on providing clear consequences and discussing that the behavior is not tolerated.
  • Role-playing is a great tool to use to help model for kids how to resolve conflict, problem solve and manage difficult social situations. You can take turns playing the child who is doing the bullying and the victim to help your child see a different perspective.
  • Talk to your child about cyberbullying. Today, a child or teen has many choices on how to connect with friends and a lot of it is happening online. Many kids use social media platforms such as Instagram, and Snapchat to communicate and connect with their friends. While these apps are a lot of fun, they also provide opportunities for cyberbullying. It’s important to have a conversation about online safety with your child and to discuss some guidelines. Create a code of conduct such as:
    • Do not use social media to humiliate or embarrass someone.
    • Treat others online with the same respect that you would in person.
    • Do not post photos or videos of someone without their permission.

Continue to check in with your child about their online activity and review safety guidelines.

  • Talk with School Personnel. If your child is exhibiting bullying behaviors or if you are concerned that might in the future, reach out to the school and discuss these concerns with a school social worker or principal. Find out if your child’s school has a bullying prevention program or perhaps offers social skills groups that target teaching perspective taking, empathy, managing conflicts, and cooperation.
  • Provide positive feedback. When you notice your child is resolving conflict positively, responding with compassion and empathy or can effectively problem solve a situation, praise these behaviors. Positive reinforcement works wonders and is usually more effective than punishment. Providing your child with positive attention is crucial and will make your child feel confident and secure. Children who receive positive attention at home will be less likely to seek negative attention at school.

 

References:

stopbullying.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2018.
<https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/index.html>.

National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement – PDF,  2011.

Pacer Center, Kids against bullying. https://pacerkidsagainstbullying.org/

what to do when your child is a bully

Help! My Child is a Bully

 

 

 

Parenting is no easy feat as your job entails educating your child on how to make good choices, recognizing and maximizing your child’s innate capabilities, and teaching the skills necessary to appropriately function in society. While under your tutelage, your child’s behaviors, both positive and negative, can often times feel like a direct reflection of your own character. It is not a wonder that parents will instill within their child their core values and beliefs with the desire that their child emulate similar characteristics. But what happens when your child displays negative, bullying behaviors? What does that say about you? How do you aid your child in demonstrating the socially appropriate and expected behaviors you work so hard to teach?

What to do if your child is a bully:

  1. Make sure that your child is aware of the underlying message and meaning behind right vs. wrong behaviors. Don’t just say, “Don’t hit, it’s bad.” Explain the reason why this behavior is negative. “Hitting is not right because you could hurt someone’s body or their feelings; how do you feel when you’re hit, etc.”
  2. Teach your child what to do instead of the negative, non-preferred behavior. Besides just telling your child not to hit or push because it can impact another person’s safety, arm your child with what they can do instead when they feel mad or frustrated. For example, if your child feels mad when he is confronted to share a toy, you can educate him on the importance or turn taking, collaborating with others, or simply using his words vs. his body to communicate his dismay. Practicing effective communication skills regardless of age can help reduce negative behavioral reactions and facilitate appropriate compromise and negotiation skills.
  3. Operate with positive reinforcement instead of consequences. Motivate your child to access pro-social behaviors through the usage of a behavior chart. The incentives received from positive behaviors may provide the external motivation necessary to implement the impulse control required for appropriate decision-making necessary.
  4. Check in with your own feelings about your child’s behaviors. Know that you are working hard to assist your child in adjusting appropriately in various situations and try to stay calm when your child makes an unfavorable choice. Get down on his level, express why the choice he made is unfavorable, and provide examples for what he can do to correct the behavior (i.e. apologize, use his words, share the preferred item). Encourage your child to re-work the problem to gain a positive framework for what is expected of him in the future.

Read here for tips on turning a bully into an ally.

Turn a Bully Into an Ally

What is one seemingly positive characteristic of a bully?

Great leadership skills. They can gather a group of followers and move in a pack to accomplish a lot.  Most bullies use this skill for negative outcomes, but think of what good could be accomplished if we taught bullies to use this strength for good?

We need to teach bullies that great leaders have certain qualities.  Bullies can be taught that they are great leaders, and great leaders use their leadership skills for good.   The bully can be taught this by the assignment of positive leadership tasks.  For example, assign the bully to a time of day to make sure each and every kid is taken care of.  At lunch, the bully ensures each child has food and is not eating alone. If she is, charge the bully with finding a solution.  At PE, have the bully ensure each girl is picked first on a team at least once and gets to be team captain at least once.

Once the bully feels the power of leading for good, she may just become one of the best leaders and members of the class.  Make strong powered kids into true positive leaders and see more leaders and team players blossom!

For more on handling bullies, read Mean Girls and bullying Boys: How Parents Can Help, and How to Include Bullying In Your Child’s IEP.