Bullying is a problem at just about every school. We hear a lot about how to tend to kids who are coming home with emotional bruises -- but what if your kid is the bully? Some students with behavioral issues or social anxiety act out at other kids. Here are some tips for how to handle a child who is being unkind at school.
Listen to Teachers and Administrators
If you get a phone call from the school about your child's bullying behavior, it's easy to get defensive. Take a breath, listen to what the staff has to say, and schedule a meeting. Talk to your kid's teachers in more detail about the behavior (and when it started). The first and best strategy for dealing with a child who is bullying is acknowledging it sooner rather than later. If you make excuses, it sends the message to your child that their behavior is either not that serious or just an acceptable phase.
Set Consequences and Stick to Them
Once you have a thorough understanding of what is going on, it's time to talk to your child. Ask them in a firm tone about their behavior. You don't want to lead with blame, but let them know that bullying behavior is a mistake that must stop. Emphasize why you don't condone bullying ("I wouldn't accept someone treating you that way, so you can't do it either"). Set consequences at home that will happen every time there is a new report of their bullying.
Model Empathy at Home
One of the most crucial steps is to model the type of behavior you want your kids to exhibit. Are you yelling at people in traffic? Calling the neighbors names when you're annoyed? Ask yourself how you might be modeling bully behavior without thinking about it and practice more conscious empathy instead. Your kids will pick up on the difference.
Hearing that your kid is a bully is difficult for any parent. Get to the bottom of why they are acting out and let them know you won't tolerate it. From there, you can build more empathy and help them become more responsible at school.
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