You are doing your usual daily chores one morning when the phone rings. It’s the school principal telling you that your son bullied a student from another class. You tell her, “Are you sure you’re talking about my son?” That’s the usual response of parents – in fact, the response of almost 90% of parents when someone tells them that their kid IS the bully. Well, here’s a truth that can be backed by therapists and other experts: any kid has the capacity of bullying another, even if you think that kid is a saint.
“Why did my son do this to another child? I never thought he is capable of doing this.”
Family therapist and author Ronald Mah explains that there are two primary reasons why kids bully. First, popular and influential kids bully to keep their popularity and their power in school. The second reason is that those children who were once deprived of attention, finances, or any kind of lack feel that they are entitled to bully other children. Inside, they think, “I’ve had my share of bruises so I can get away with bullying.”
Also, children get to see bullying examples on reality TV shows, videos, kids getting bullied by other kids, and even see it in their family dynamics. And because nobody explains it to them, they do not think that bullying is absolutely not a behavior that should be followed.
Take a moment to digest what you just heard from the principal before going to school. Gather information about what happened and let the principal know that you are willing to work with the school administration for a positive result. Keep in mind that you need to make sure your kid will be given a just treatment when it comes to school discipline. For instance, new studies reveal that disabled students and students of a different race are given a tougher ‘punishment’ and are more toughly reprimanded compared to others.
Considering all these, you must observe and evaluate your child first without any judgment and try to focus on understanding the why and how of the behavior involved. Only then will you decide on the appropriate penalties.
But here’s the good news: behaviors such as bullying can be modified and unlearned, and you, as a parent, play a vital role in helping your child change his ways. Here are some tips from therapists who have handled children who are bullies and those who are bullied.
Here are some facts about bullying from therapists:
- “It’s not unreasonable to think that bullying is a solo act. Some would think that a group that bullies would easily be detected, but this is not always the case.” – Jason Walker PSYD, PHD
- “Bullying can be described as a pattern of behavior by a person or group of people who repeatedly and intentionally exert power (or perceived power) over another person.” – Lisa Bandsuch, LPCC
- “Bullying and harassment is often seen as a juvenile problem found in schools” – Jason Walker PsyD, PhD
What To Do To Help Your Child
- Recognize What Your Child Did. The first thing you should do it call your kid gently and sit with him. Talk to him in a firm but cool voice, and begin by asking him what transpired in school and why he behaved the way he did. Do this without judgment and blame. Children should know that it is okay to accept that they committed a mistake.
Help him realize his wrongful doing by asking him significant questions, like, “Do you think what you did was good? Did you think you would not hurt someone? Would you want others to do it to you?” Do not judge but be firm in conveying a message to him that there must be fair treatment for everyone. Tell him, “You know that we don’t do that in our family because we value respect, and we don’t want to be treated that way, too, right?”
- Emphasize The Consequences. Let your child understand that he is responsible for his behavior. You can discuss with him the results and the effects of bullying on others and the corresponding penalties for the bully. Write them together with your child and let him review these weekly. Lastly, you must enforce these consequences.
The penalties will depend on the magnitude of your child’s actions. For instance, you can take something from him, something that he thinks he needs, like his phone. You can also reduce his video game time or television time, so he will feel that you are serious. An educational consequence would be something like a discussion on bullying and some healthier ways to approach future circumstances.
After the discussion, ask your child to write something about how he would probably feel if he were the student he bullied, and then eventually you can have him write a sorry note to the bullied student.
- Work With The School. Reach out to your child’s school and let them know you are sincere in wanting to improve the circumstances. You are not there to be judged about being a bad parent. Raising a kid is one of the most difficult jobs, and it’s you are not a failure if you seek help. Work with the school willingly on finding ways to improve your child’s behavior. Initiating a meeting with the teacher, principal, counselor, and other staff to discuss the effects of bullying is a good start. Perhaps there is a therapist in your community that could help your child and other children better understand the matter.
- Empower Your Child. Building your child’s skills for managing difficult situations and resolving arguments are ways to empower him successfully. These tools are powerful in that they can help him learn to be mentally and emotionally strong and resilient. Let him join extra-curricular activities that involve self-management and building positive relationships. Working with your child towards developing him into a better individual who respects and empathizes will truly be a gift he can use throughout his lifetime.