You just received the dreaded call. You know, the call that all parents of school-age kids hope will never come. This is the call where the principal tells you that your kid has violated school policy and is now in deep water.
Yes, now you have been the recipient of that call, and you’re left trying to figure out what to do. The principal said your child was bullying. You know that bullying is horrible, but what do you do to help your kid understand that his or her actions were wrong and cruel?
Now you’re likely scouring the internet trying to find help on how to handle a bully. Parenting can be hard enough sometimes without the added pressure of making sure your kid isn’t hurting others physically or emotionally.
Luckily, there is an increasing amount of literature on the subject and lots of tips on helping a child who is a bully to become a more compassionate and emotionally stable person. Groups like Fathers Eve can help when you find yourself in that awkward spot.
While you need to stay strong, consistent, and supportive to help your child move past this and learn to change their ways, you also need someone to help you and give you advice.
Gather Information Before “The Talk”
If you are concerned about how to handle a bully, one of the first steps you can take is to get informed about bullying: what it looks like, the reasons behind why some kids do it, and how it affects people. These are all things that will help you speak with your child in a calm, knowledgeable, and assertive manner.
Many websites offer training and tips for how to deal with different types of bullying, whether your child is the bully or the target.
For example, federally funded agencies like StopBullying.gov have bullying prevention training available and also have pages on how to talk to your kids about bullying.
Sign of a Bully
Many parents wonder how they can tell if their child is being a bully or is on the receiving end of this behavior. The signs and symptoms tend to be quite different.
If you suspect your child is bullying others at school, or you want to confirm an educator’s suspicions, look for these warning signs:
- Your child is becoming more aggressive and frequently gets into physical or verbal altercations.
- They do not take responsibility for their actions.
- They become increasingly worried about their reputation and how peers will perceive them.
- They become friends with kids who are bullies to others.
As a Parent, What Can You Do?
Studies have shown that when adults respond quickly to bullying and are consistent in their rebuking of the behavior, this sends a strong message that bullying is not acceptable, and you will not tolerate it. Many researchers say that over time, this helps to stop bullying behavior more efficiently.
If you want to react immediately to concerns, these are some of the things you will want to do:
- Intervene in the situation. It will not be damaging to the children if you and another adult get involved. It might diffuse the situation.
- Separate your child from those he is bullying. Try speaking to the school regarding changing classes that include both of them.
- Model respectful behavior whenever you intervene. This will show your child how to resolve conflict in a healthy manner.
Acknowledging the Behavior is Important
When speaking to your child about the situation that happened, it is essential to sit with them and be a good listener. Ask them to describe to you all the details but assign no blame as they are retelling the story. Kids need to learn that they can admit they made a mistake without the world crashing down on them.
Speak with them about vocalizing what made them do what they did. Ask your child questions that will help them empathize. “How would you feel if that happened to you?” or “Were you respectful?” are great questions to ask your child in conversation.
Do you know the golden rule? The one that says, “Treat others as you would like to be treated?” Talk about that concept with your child as well and talk about what that looks like in practice.
All kids need to know they are accountable for their actions. So when your child has been bullying, you as a parent need to set appropriate consequences and be diligent in enforcing them.
Removing privileges such as phones, social media, and video games can help reset their mindset and behavior. Many of these platforms promote bullying behavior. You may need to take them away to make progress with your child.
On a deeper level, you can sign up your child for community and volunteer service. They will learn to work closely with others and to help.
Writing a letter from the point of view of the person he or she bullied is also useful and can help shift their mindset.
Whatever consequences you choose, be consistent. If not, your child will think that it is not that important to you and therefore not worthy of drastic change.
Be United with the School
Set up meetings with the principals and your kid’s teachers. They see your child for many hours of the day and get to know your child well.
Having a clear line of communication will not only help to prevent future incidents but also shows your child that this is so important you want to show up and be as constructive as possible. The school or district might be able to create an action plan to help your child stop bullying.
Meet Men Who Can Help
If you are learning how to handle a bully, we can help. You need support and a good listener. Find us at fatherseve.com and join a group near you.
Our national Fathers Eve event is coming up on June 15th, 2019. We hope you join us.