You’ve been feeling like something is off with your child lately. They are significantly moodier than usual and have been acting increasingly withdrawn and disengaged. They come home from school angry and don’t have much to say about their day. You wonder if something has happened that has caused them to change because, well, this isn’t how your child usually acts…then it happens. You get a phone call from your child’s school, and they want to talk with you about some recent incidents involving bullying, of which, your child has been accused of participating in.
According to stopbullying.gov, roughly 30% of young people admit to bullying their peers. The most common types of bullying are verbal (i.e., teasing, name-calling, etc.) and social bullying (i.e., spreading rumors, intentionally excluding peers, etc.) and, not surprisingly, most bullying occurs at school. Cyberbullying, or online bullying, is also common. It is important to recognize the warning signs associated with bullying others:
- Your child has become increasingly aggressive
- Your child has friends who bully others
- You find unexplained money or belongings in your child’s possession
- Your child blames others frequently for their problems
- Gets into physical or verbal fights
If you suspect, or know, your child has engaged in bullying behavior you can follow some of the steps below to address the issue with your child. First, though, it might be helpful to understand some of the reasons why kids choose to bully others–a child who chooses to bully might be suffering from a low level of self-esteem, feel as though they are not in control of their environment, or be struggling to achieve the level of healthy attention they need. If this is the case, you can help your child by acknowledging the situation and doing the following:
- Talk with your child calmly–your child might not recognize their behavior as bullying. Help them understand what defines bullying and emphasize that behavior is not appropriate.
- Explore without judgment–try and figure out what is driving your child’s behavior.
- Teach empathy–help your child understand the impact their words and actions have on those around them.
- Develop an action plan–brainstorm appropriate ways your child can respond or communicate their needs without bullying others. Try to understand their situation and determine what needs to change, who needs to be involved, and what steps need to be taken.
- Set the example–model healthy communication skills for your child. Share with them how your actions impact others and how you might go about meeting your needs in certain situations where it might be easy to turn to bullying as a means to achieve a desired outcome
It is important to understand, as a parent, that behavior serves to meet a need. Therefore, when your child chooses to bully another, it is because there is something they are lacking and they are trying to find a way to fulfill a specific need they have–whether is it something they can identify and verbalize or not. If you find the above information is unhelpful, or you just are not sure of the best way to engage with your child about bullying, don’t fret. You’re not alone. In fact, there are abundant resources at your disposal to help you navigate your situation. For example, stopbullying.gov, is an excellent website with links to various resources for parents, school personnel, and community members who know someone who has engaged in bullying behavior or know someone who has been bullied. If you find, however, that you need additional support please feel free to reach out to us and we will do our best to support you.