by Dr. Kristen Wynns, PhD
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and we're hearing a lot about how to prevent bullying on all levels. What we don't hear a lot about, though, is what to do if you suspect your child is the bully. Today's article is an excerpt from a blog by Dr. Wynns, and sheds some light on the topic. Great info! ~KB
No parent wants to realize that his or her child IS the bully, but it’s an unpleasant reality many parents face. It’s important to know the warning signs to look out for and what to do about it if you discover your child is engaging in overt or subtle bullying.
What if my child IS the bully? Signs to look out for:
- Frequent name-calling (describing others as ‘wimps’ or ‘jerks’)
- Regular bragging
- A need to always get his own way
- Spending a lot of time with younger or less powerful kids
- A defiant or hostile attitude (easily takes offense)
- A lack of empathy for others
- Hot tempered, impulsive, easily irritated
- Aggressive towards adults or siblings
- Describes frequent changes in friendships, “I’m not her friend anymore” and seems to create a lot of drama in her peer group
If you suspect your child is the bully, it is important to do the following:
- Examine behavior and interactions in your own home (is he watching violent media, is the child exposed to intense marital conflict or sibling fighting, or is your discipline overly harsh?)
- Make an effort to identify what triggers the bullying behavior.
- Make it clear that bullying is not acceptable and set reasonable and fair consequences for failing to comply with those rules. Establish a “zero tolerance policy” regarding bullying in your family.
- As bullying is often a sign of poor interpersonal social skills, parents may want find methods to help their child learn healthy social skills and bring out the best traits in their child by redirecting their energies toward healthy and contributory activities such as volunteering, martial arts (to practice self-control), or Boy/Girl Scouts (to form friendships and practice cooperation towards a common goal)
- Many kids who bully have underlying insecurities or emotional problems that need to be addressed in therapy or with the school counselor. Social skills groups can be great for kids who are victims of bullying or engaging in bullying.
Dr. Kristen Wynns is a child psychologist with a private practice in Cary, NC. She is also the founder of a parenting website called NoWimpyParenting.com. Dr. Wynns is married with two children, and is "in the trenches" with moms and wives in the Triangle. Her blog is a resource for anyone who wants to learn more about marriage and parenting.