As we wind down on National Bullying Prevention Month, I’ve decided to complete part two of an article published earlier this month. Previously, my article discussed warning signs to look for if your child is being bullied. Children often hesitate to reveal when they’re being hurt at school.
We often focus on those who are victims of bullying, but what about the aggressors? What issues do they face? What makes them do the things they do? Most importantly, how can you tell if your child is a bully?
Why Would Someone Bully
The main reason some kids would bully another is because they lack attention at home. Many come from broken homes, have parents who are addicted to drugs and alcohol or neglect them. Bullies all target someone they perceive to be smaller and/or weaker to feel a sense of power and control. Bullying is a learned behavior. They likely witness bullying behavior at home, either from parents, siblings, or any other authority figure.
Stomp Out Bullying reports that they received some of the following responses when they asked people why they bully:
- They are bullied at home
- They see others doing it
- They’re jealous
- It gives them a sense of empowerment
- They want to keep others from bullying them
No matter what the reason, hurting someone else is never the answer.
Is Your Child A Bully?
If you have concerns that your child may be a bully, you’re taking the first step by trying to help them. Not all bullies come from dysfunctional environments. As you’ve seen from the reasons above, some children bully others because they themselves have low self-esteem or they are trying to look strong for their peers. Bullying may be a misguided attempt to fit in and they have no idea the harm they’re inflicting on someone else. Some children are naturally aggressive or dominating without intending to inflict harm. They just lack the social skills to make friends and others misinterpret their actions.
So what are some warning signs that your child may be a bully? Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Do They Make Fun Of Others?
Do you notice your child making jokes at other’s expense? Do they make fun
of differences? Do they have “nicknames” for classmates?
Are Their Friends Bullies?
Do you notice bullying behavior from their friends? The saying “birds of a feather” is definitely true. If you notice unfavorable traits in your child’s friends, there’s a good chance your child participates when you’re not around.
Do They Get In Trouble A Lot At School?
Do you get a lot of calls from your child’s school about their behavior? This
could be a sign that your child is a bully. Children who bully have trouble respecting authority figures and they don’t like to hear the word “no”. They have a tendency to be overly competitive and they have a desire to always be first.
Do They Withdraw At Home?
Do you find that your child is secretive about their social life? They may be keeping you out because they don’t want you to know about their bullying behaviors.
Do They Lack Empathy?
Lack of empathy can manifest itself in very young children. Have you noticed your child snatch a toy from another with no regard for the crying they cause? You can teach your child empathy by showing them support when they need it.
It’s Not The End of the World
So what if you get definite confirmation that your child is bullying another? The first thing you want to do is understand that there’s an underlying reason why your child is behaving the way they are. You need to address the issue immediately and let your child know that this behavior is unacceptable.
You’ll also want to find out exactly what is happening and where they learned this behavior. Has your child been bullied in the past? They may believe that picking on someone is the way to earn respect or keep themselves from being bullied. If they’re trying to fit in with a certain group, talk with them about their choice in friends and why is it so important to belong to this particular group.
You’ll also want to let them know that there are consequences for their actions. Back up any disciplinary action the school takes and implement some of your own. Teach your children social-emotional skills such as empathy and help them to build their self-esteem. Most importantly, do not shame them. Let them know that humiliation isn’t the way to get what they want. Do your best to lead by example.
Just because your child makes the mistake of bullying someone else doesn’t mean they can’t change. Show them how people should be treated. Perhaps next time they can stop bullying rather than feeding it.