Usually you hear about how to “bully-proof” your child, or what to do if your child has been bullied. But what if it’s your child who’s done the bullying? What do you do to handle that situation?
If it’s happened at school, there will most likely be procedures in place that both you and school will have to follow. Just hang in there and work through it.
If you’re like most parents, at first you’ll want to stick up for your kid, reacting with something like, “You must have the wrong kid. My child wouldn’t bully someone. They must have been provoked. They certainly didn’t learn that from me.” We are all allowed a bit of denial – at first.
This can be embarrassing. You’ll quickly feel the necessity to administer some “corrective” punishment on top of what school is already doing to “correct” the behavior. Yet, still in the back of your mind you keep thinking, “There must be some mistake. I don’t understand, why would she feel the need to bully someone? What if it happens again? How can I keep it from happening again? What am I missing here? Do I need to be more strict? Does the punishment need to be more severe?”
Discouragement opens the door to bullying.
Bullying happens in many different ways, both verbal and physical, and it’s easy to miss the underlying cause: discouragement. Figure out what your child is discouraged about, address that and their need to bully someone will end. This will require you to tune into, and ask more about, how he or she is feeling on a regular basis.
Rudolf Dreikurs explained, “A bully is always a child who, as a result of initial discouragement, has assumed that one is big only when he can show his power. He’s discouraged; not naughty or mean. We must distinguish between the doer and the deed. We must recognize misbehavior (bullying) as a mistaken approach brought about through discouragement.”
Explore why — dig deep — why your child is discouraged. Then follow our instructions on how to get them encouraged.
We all have the capacity to be a bully. It’s an inappropriate way to feel powerful when we’re feeling overpowered, or when we’re discouraged and not feeling good about ourselves. Can you recall a time when you said a hurtful comment to someone, but disguised it as just teasing? It wasn’t teasing. You were being a bully. Or maybe a time when you overpowered someone physically, or with your voice? If you are physically or verbally overpowering your child on a regular basis, you are setting them up to be a bully.
You may also be setting the example of being a bully without even knowing it. Take a moment and seriously ask yourself, “Where in my life do I feel overpowered? Where am I feeling discouraged? How do I then react, and what is my child observing?”
Bullying is a learned behavior that can be unlearned.
So what’s the best thing you can do to handle discouragement?
Learn how to better handle feelings while replacing threats and punishments with more effective and emotionally intelligent methods. We can help with that.
You can start by simply asking your kid, “How do you feel about that?” Then listen. It really doesn’t take much more than your willingness to listen, and then be vulnerable and share your feelings with him or her.
And should your child be bullied by someone and they’re feeling hurt and discouraged, you can really help by first asking how they feel about it, and then ask how they think the person who bullied them is feeling. Empathy is a powerful tool.
Remind yourself that your kid is not mean or bad, that he’s discouraged. Each and every day deliberately look for ways in which to encourage, and be encouraging.
Anyone who’s feeling good about themselves will never – NEVER – bully another.
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It’s all about the relationship.
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And keep asking yourself, “If I approached my parenting as seriously as I do my profession, what would I be doing to improve my skill, and get better results?”