With back to school right around the corner the hot topic is what to do if your child is being bullied. But often overlooked is what if your child is the bully? We can all agree that it is more beneficial to stop a problem at the source and if parents can look at their child objectively enough to see that their child may be the issue.
Now a high majority of parents believe that they are "good" parents and that their child's behavior is a reflection of their success. Not so true. Just because your child misbehaves does not mean you are a bad parent- in my 20+ years of teaching children I've seen wonderful parents who had the worse kids I've ever met and horrible parents with absolute amazing children. The real influence comes not from the parent but from where they spend their time when they are alone or with their friends.
Every parent that I've ever told that their child shows oppressive behavior is genuinely shocked. In most cases their child is a star athlete or a straight A student ore very popular. And it's just that environment that makes a child feel superior towards others and makes them want to maintain control. The key is to keep a balance of success and humility. At The Edge Center we constantly use game drills and playful dialog that keeps students humble- never letting any success go to their head. Now I'm not saying one has to put someone down when they gain something but rather share the learning experience with others who have not found the same. This method prevents the ego from growing out of control.
Before we continue on how to prevent the bully from growing, let's look at some indicators that a child will show that leads them into becoming a bully. Now this may not be your child but at least you can help a fellow parent out and identify if in their kids (you may need to sit down with a glass of wine or two first).
Now after identifying some of these characteristics how do we stop it?
At the first sign of this behavior it has to be dealt with immediately. It's like a dog who poops on the floor- You don’t wait a day or two to tell them "bad dog". First you need to sit them down and make them understand the importance of other people's feelings and emotional awareness.
The punishment has to be severe; and I mean severe enough that that the act of bullying is unthinkable! If the bullying is online or over the phone- Take away the device. Not for a day or a week, make it a month. And don’t give in. If the bullying is being done in person- get your child to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter and have them volunteer and listen to others stories of hardship. This will give them a unique perspective that they cannot get inside their own sphere of influence.
Other behavior solving activities are limiting access to their current peers. Get the child involved in activities that teach humility, compassion, comradery . I use Martial Arts as the ultimate medium. It has most of the elements needed to teach. I also rely heavily on Wilderness Adventure. The act of getting out of their comfort zone enables them to learn un-inhibited from the distractions of the every day.
During the punishment phase (not before or after) its most important for the bully to issue a sincere apology to the victim- in person. This is done during the punishment because the newly reformed bully needs to be humbled and show the right amount of empathy otherwise it will be spiteful and with little remorse.
Our main goal here is to make all children feel important and good about themselves. By curbing less than desirable behavior we can make sure that bullying does not extend into adulthood. Make sure we build children up with talks of honor and respect. Include dialog of valuing other people's feelings and how their behavior influences others actions both good and bad. Be sure they have the right role models to look up to and they are not emulating what they see on reality TV & internet videos. Don’t let a bully make excuses for their actions. Make them take responsibility for what they have done and do everything it takes to prevent this behavior from happening again. This process won't happen overnight, it will take some time. But don’t give up, the last thing a parent wants on their mind or their child's is having someone commit suicide because of them.
I always make myself available for question. If you would like to talk more about this please don't hesitate to reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org