In the United States, 1 in 4 children are bullied each month. Every 7 minutes a child is bullied. That adds up to 160,000 students missing school each day for fear of bullying. Having their child bullied is a very real fear of every parent. But have you ever wondered: What if your child was the bully?
Some bully because they feel insecure, others do so because they don't know that it's unacceptable to pick on others who are different because of size, looks, race, or religion. How can we as parents make sure our children don't end up bullying others? Here are four ways to make sure your teenager is respectful and loving towards his/her classmates and friends.
Model positive social behaviour
The most effective way to keep children from becoming bullies is to make sure they grow up in loving relationships. As Robert Fulgham puts it, “Don’t worry that your children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you.”
If your discipline methods use power over your teenager, he will learn to use power over others. So model positive behaviour, respect your child, and talk to him to resolve disputes. Don't shout, don't use force, don't coerce or humiliate. You can also help him/her learn to express anger or negative emotions in healthy ways. For example, if you feel angry, you could say something like, ‘I feel really angry just now. Can we talk about this later when I’ve calmed myself down?’
It’s great if your teenager sees that your social media posts are always kind and respectful.
Understand what is happening
If you've already found out that your child is bullying others, take the time to find out what happened. Talk to him or her in an open manner, don't blame or show anger at this stage. When asking about details, be a good listener so you can learn as much possible. Find out if this behavior is new for your child, or if there are past instances you don’t know about.
Look for insight into the factors that may be influencing your teen's behaviour in school. Talk with parents of your child's friends and peers, teachers, guidance counselors, and the school principal. Do other teens bully? What about your child's friends? What kinds of pressures do students face at school? Is their social network encouraging the bullying?
To help a child stop bullying, talk with teachers, guidance counselors, and other school officials who can provide assistance. Your doctor also might be able to help. If your teenager has a history of arguing, defiance, and trouble controlling anger, consider an evaluation with a therapist or behavioural health professional.
Get your teenager to say sorry
Let him or her know that there are consequences for being mean or hurtful to others. Be firm and consistent on the consequences. Encourage your child to apologise. This can be done in person, or in writing. Help your teenager choose the right words for the apology.
If the bullying happened online, have your teenager remove the posts. If it happened at school, tell the principal and let them know you’re working with your child on this. Offer to work with the school on any consequences that have in accordance with the school’s policy.