Bullies are not just the big, burly kids shaking down others for lunch money. Nor is it always the typical “mean girl” making fun of those not as popular to cement her social standing. Sometimes its the sweet boy who goes to church with his family and hangs out with his family on weekends. it could be your child. No one wants to think that their child is a bully, but it happens. Most parents think, “not my child” but here are few measures from About.com you can take to help avoid raising a bully.
- Take an interest in your children. This seems simple enough but many parents don’t actively engage in their child’s life. Instead, they spend a lot more time directing and correcting than they do listening and getting to know their kids. In fact, research shows that there are more protective factors among parents who share ideas with their kids than parents who feel frequently bothered by their kids. So take the time to find out who your children are apart from who you want them to be.
- Teach your child to respect others. Be sure your child knows that all people are different and that your child needs to respond to everyone with kindness. Also, set clear expectations on how to treat people, especially those who are different in some way. Ensure that your children know that even if they don’t like someone, this does not give them the right to be mean. Every person deserves to be treated courteously.
- Don’t ignore sibling aggression. While it is normal for siblings to argue and tease one another, chronic mean behavior, both verbal and physical, should never be ignored. Many times, kids who engage in sibling bullying at home will bully others at school. Other times, the non-aggressive sibling is transferring that behavior to other kids at school. Even if the bullying is limited to the home, sibling bullying should be addressed because it has significant consequences.
- Get to know your child’s friends. Invite your child’s friends over to your house or invite them to attend events with your family. Even offer to carpool from time to time. You will be amazed what you will learn about your children, their friends and the school from the front seat of your vehicle. And if your child develops a friendship with a bully or a mean girl, be sure you talk to your child about what is respectful and kind and what isn’t. But be careful about asserting too much control over your child’s choices because it could backfire. Try to guide your child instead of making demands. In the meantime, keep an eye out for mean behavior. Remember, your children’s friends often have a huge influence on their behavior and peer pressure is a very strong force when it comes to bullying.
- Talk with your kids about bullying. Consistent communication is the key to good parenting and it is especially important when it comes to bullying prevention. Remember, you can’t shelter your kids from every malicious influence, but you can prepare them for tough situations by talking with them about bullying. Be sure your children know that life is full of disagreements. But make sure they know how to handle these situations productively. Hitting, name-calling and blaming are never the answers.
- Foster empathy. Many bullies lack empathy. Work with your children to recognize how their behavior affects others. Be sure to ask your child how he would feel in a similar situation. Also, point out when you see other people hurting and encourage your child to offer help or assistance in some way. Another way to develop empathy is to help your child process emotions. Many times, understanding how others feel begins with knowing how he feels first. If your child can identify his own feelings, he will be better equipped to understand the feelings of others.
- Know the signs of bullying. Not only is it important to know the signs of bullying to prevent your child from bullying others but, it’s also important for your own child’s health and safety. Sometimes kids bully others because they too are being bullied. Be sure you know how to stop the bully-victim cycle if you find your child in this situation.
- Put an end to bullying behavior immediately. If you find your child is a bully or your child is a cyberbully, take steps to put an end to the behavior at once. Be sure you take swift action with appropriate consequences. And if the bullying was reported to the school, work with administrators to enforce any disciplinary action that your child receives. As difficult as it is, it is important that your children receive consequences for bullying behavior. Do not try to shelter them or they will never learn from the experience.
Just following this list isn’t going to ensure your child isn’t a bully, but it will help. Don’t be the parent who thinks it’s never your child. Every child makes mistakes. Your job as a parent it so help your child learn and grow from those mistakes.