What to do if your child is a bully?

According to the Times of India, 42% of students in Class 4 to Class 8 and 36% of students in Class 9 to Class 12 were subjected to bullying at school. Bullying is unacceptable, whether perpetrated by a kid or an adult. Hence, parents feel shame when they discover that their child is a bully. The good news is that parents can control their child’s bullying behavior at an early stage.

There is no doubt that bullying affects the victim more than it affects the bully. Such a child lacks motivation and may lose confidence in their abilities. The child may feel insecure. Parents of these children also notice a change in behavior. The child will be withdrawn and not participate in activities that they previously enjoyed. Apart from this, the child may also suffer from mental health disorder such as anxiety and depression.

It all starts with a phone call you receive from the school saying that your child is bullying other children. Nothing is more shocking for a parent than to learn that their child is the cause of distress to other people.

There are two types of reaction from parents when they discover that their child is a bully. On the one hand, parents take bullying lightly as they believe that the kid will grow out of it. For them, bullying is a natural behavior that some kids exhibit. On the other extreme part of the spectrum, parents react too rashly, failing to understand the reason behind the behavior. In this case, parents punish their child for wrongful behavior without getting to the root cause. Either of these approaches is not the right one. Parents should understand why kids bully before coming up with a solution to deal with it.

Why kids bully?

Before you address your child’s bullying behavior, you need to understand why a child bully’s another child. Several reasons explain why a child engages in bullying.

  • Children feel the need to be part of a social group. Thus, a child may poke fun at another person to please the group whose approval they seek. Without any intention to do so, the child becomes a bully.
  • A child may feel distressed, which compels him to lash out at others. The situation at home, poor grades, or even being bullied by others causes the child to let out his anger on someone else. Although it may provide momentary relief, it still makes the child miserable because it doesn’t solve the problem.
  • Children are not emotionally mature. Hence, a child finds it difficult to deal with emotions such as anger, hurt, jealousy, and others. The buildup of these emotions causes the child to lash out at others when the child does not know what to do. Children who are bullies are impulsive and easily angered.
  • When a child engages in bullying, they may not understand how their words and actions make another child feel. Younger children often find it difficult to empathize. Hence, it is difficult for them to comprehend the effect of bullying.
  • A victim of bullying knows the feeling of powerlessness. A child feels powerful and in control when they bully others. Being bullied by an adult or an older sibling are among the root causes.
  • Lack of attention from parents causes a child to act in extreme ways. A child’s desire for being the center of attention causes them to bully others. They may receive a few laughs and attention for a short time. Neglected children are prone to this type of behavior.

Bullying affects the victim as well as the bully. Bullies have an increased risk of developing anti-social disorders. Such behavior could be found later in life and makes bullies prone to criminal behavior. In addition to this, previous studies have shown that bullies find it difficult to retain employment and face problems in relationships. Moreover, bullies are more likely to become abusive towards their partners, spouses, and children. In addition to this, bullies are more likely to drop out of schools and engage in violent behavior. Hence, a bully’s life is affected negatively, as well. To avoid such consequences, parents should observe their child’s behavior.

Signs that your child is a bully

Several signs appear if your child is a bully. These signs are described in detail as follows:

Aggressive attitude

If your child is easy to anger, they may display aggressive behavior towards others. A child finds it difficult to handle their emotions. It can lead to emotional outbursts.  

Friends

Friends influence a child’s behavior. If a child has friends that are prone to violent behavior, the child also picks up their habits and behaviors as a result.

Trouble at school

If your child gets into trouble at school frequently, it is because they engage in bad behavior with others. If left unresolved, it leads to extreme behaviors such as bullying.

Life at home

A child’s surroundings are paramount in shaping their attitudes and behavior. If a child lives in a violent home or has divorced parents, it leads them to bully. Lack of attention from parents or being bullied at home by a parent or a sibling forces a child to enact similar behavior in school and other places.

Intolerance

A child’s upbringing affects how they view the world. Moreover, a child limited interaction with people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and disabilities makes them hostile towards others. This intolerance displays in the form of bullying.

The internet

Because of technology, there is another form of bullying that has increased over the last decade: cyberbullying. If you notice that your child spends a lot of time on the internet, especially on social media platforms, cyberbullying could be one reason. Hence, parents should monitor their child’s online activity.

What to do if your child is a bully?

If you notice any of these behaviors in your child, there are ways you can prevent them from exacerbating.

Determine the reason for bullying

There are various reasons why a child resorts to bullying. Many children are bully-victims, meaning that they are a victim of bullying and are also a bully. In this case, parents should address both aspects of bullying. A child needs to understand how bullying someone makes them feel. 

Communicate

Communication is key. You should discuss the consequences of bullying and how it affects the victim and the bully.

Focus on spending time with your child

Children look for approval from adults, especially their parents. Likewise, children crave and demand their parent’s attention. If they do not get this, they may throw temper tantrums. The act of bullying makes a child feel in control and puts them at the center of attention. Bullying someone may substitute the approval they seek from their parents. Hence, parents should spend time with their child.

Talk about the child’s feelings

Talking with your child about their feelings helps if they have engaged in bullying. If a child is aggressive and lashes out, discuss why they feel that way. Is it because someone hurt them? Or they did not get what they wanted? When you understand why your child gets angry quickly, you can develop strategies to help them deal with it.

Develop empathy

Empathy helps the child feel what a victim of bullying feels. Children do not develop empathy fully, although they do show signs of it. When a child does something wrong, talk about how they would feel if they were at the receiving end.

Do not shame your child

If you know that your child is a bully, you shouldn’t shame them. On the other hand, let them know that you don’t approve of their behavior and why it is upsetting. Parents should be rational in this aspect and avoid displaying the same behavior that you want your child to avoid. A child is not likely to learn to improve their behavior if the parent is quick to anger.

It is alarming for a parent to find out that their child is a bully. However, parents need to be mindful and prevent this behavior by talking to their child. Kids learn from their surroundings. Hence, problems at home force a child to become withdrawn or lash out. Moreover, parents should provide a healthy environment for their kids.