"Are you sure it's not your child who's the bully?" is a line almost all parents have heard when bringing up their child's school troubles with a teacher or another parent. In many cases, the question is baseless. However, some parents do find themselves in the unfortunate position of learning that their child is the one bullying others. Learning that your child is a bully can both troubling and heart-breaking, but it's important to remember that you can address the problem. Here are a few steps you can take to tackle your child's bullying behaviours.
Listen to Your Child
The most important thing to do if you find out your child is a bully is to have a conversation about it. In this conversation, it's crucial that you take a listening role. The purpose of the talk is for you to understand what your child is doing and why they're doing it, not lecture them about their behaviour. Understanding bullying is the root to stopping it. Ask your child about what happened before, during and after the bullying incident, and encourage them to tell you what emotional state led to and followed the scenario. Once you have a good idea of what your child's problematic behaviours are, why they're enacting them, and how they feel about their actions, you can work on finding ways to eliminate the causes of the bullying. If your child says he bullies others because he feels bad about himself, for example, you can work on building his self-esteem.
Teach Your Child Empathy
Most children begin to learn how to be empathetic at a young age and continue to develop their empathy over the years. However, for a number of reasons, some child can forget to behave with empathy, or may learn the behaviour slower than their peers. Empathy is crucial to ending bullying behaviour, because it reminds children to think about how others feel before acting. There are many ways to teach your child to be more empathetic. You can start by discussing different emotions and how to recognise them in other people's language and behaviour. Setting down basic rules of care and politeness as well as setting a good example by avoiding become angry and rash yourself are also good ways to teach compassion.
Talk to the School
If your child's bullying is a long-term problem, it's a good idea to work with their school to tackle it. Your child's school will have dealt with numerous bullying incidents over the years, so they're likely to have a good understanding of how to curb the behaviour. Talk to teachers and senior leaders to help form a plan to stop the bullying. The plan could include sessions with the school guidance team, permission to take a time out during stressful situations, daily or weekly reports home from teachers, or a range of other potential solutions.
While these tools work for many parents, sometimes professional help is needed to get to the root of your child's bullying problem. If you don't feel confident about tackling your child's behaviour or you've tried to stop the bullying to no avail, you may find it helpful to consult a psychologist. Psychologists can help you find out if a problem like depression or anxiety is causing your child to bully others, and they can offer counselling services to guide your child through improving the way they treat others.