Keeping Your Child From Becoming a Bully

By Michelle Luce

Bully. We hear the word and our defenses go up. No parent wants their child to be the victim of a bully.  But what happens if it’s your child who is being the bully? Jill Pertler addresses that very issue in an article for education.com called, “Not My Kid: What to Do if Your Child is a Bully.

There is no formula for identifying bullies.  No one personality type.  No one ethnicity.  No socioeconomic distinction.  Every school, no matter how big or small, whether rural or urban, has bullies.

There are many reasons why children bully. For some, it’s power and control. For others, it’s a reaction to being bullied elsewhere.  Some are searching for status among their peers and others are insecure.

Parents need not feel powerless if they should learn that their child is a bully.  Jill Pertler quotes Alana Friedman, a national bullying prevention trainer with Olweus (www.olweus.org), “There are a number of things parents can do if they suspect their child is bullying.”

It’s important to acknowledge the problem.  Let your child know that bullying is unacceptable behavior.  Stand against it.  Don’t tolerate it.

You have to talk to your child. And listen. You have to take a proactive role in your child’s social life by knowing who his friends are, where they go and what they do.  Then, talk to your child.  And listen.  Communication has to be a two way street. Don’t be a side-line parent. Get involved.

Analyze what your kids see at home.  Are you (or they) playing violent video games? Watching violent movies? TV? How do you react when you’re angry? Is there violence in the home? Be candid with yourself. There’s a poem by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D. called “Children Learn What They Live.”  What are they learning from you?

Encourage positive behaviors.  It’s like planting seeds.  Don’t expect a hearty crop of good behavior overnight.  Instill the value of empathy, kindness, generosity and cooperation. Reward positive behavior all the while talking and listening to your child. Nurture the kind of behavior you expect.

If you feel that you can’t do it alone, get help.  There are professionals whose job it is to help bullies stop this destructive behavior. “A 1993 Olweus study found that boys who were identified as bullies in middle school were four times as likely to have a criminal conviction by age 24.”

No child is born a bully.  This learned behavior can be undone, but don’t wait.  If you see that your child is a bully, start today to bring about change.