It’s every kid’s nightmare to catch the eye and attention of a bully. Nobody likes to be the butt of all jokes or serve as a punching bag. As a parent, it’s also the last thing you would wish for your child.
However, what’s even more jarring is finding out that your once innocent little one has morphed into a modern-day Mean Girl.
“Children are generally not born bullies. They have problems themselves,” notes Dr Vanessa von Auer, a clinical psychologist and director of VA Psychology Center. “The main reason why children bully is because they want to be in control and feel powerful over a victim.”
“Children are generally not born bullies. They have problems themselves,”
According to Dr von Auer, who holds regular workshops on the topic of bullying, a bully’s need for power and control may be a result of the following:
• Coming from an unstable, dysfunctional or abusive family
• Feeling unloved or unimportant, and feeling stupid or like a failure
• Having been a victim of bullying themselves
• Suffering from a learning difficulty or behavioural disorder such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder and so on.
As such, bullies need help too. If you suspect your child is a bully, look out for the following red flags: Acting impulsively, talking back and defying authority, not taking responsibility for their actions, reacting physically when angered, being in possession of belongings that are not theirs and keeping company with other bullies.
Contrary to popular belief, bullying does not start and end at childhood. As the bully gets older, it can turn into acts of sexual harassment, aggression or cyberbullying. If your sweet-natured child has become a classroom tormentor, Dr von Auer suggests five ways to nip the problem in the bud.
EDUCATE the bully on what bullying is, how it may feel and the consequences that may occur as a result. Some children may not fully understand how detrimental and hurtful their actions actually are. They may simply feel that another child “angered them” and felt that it was acceptable to react.
INVESTIGATE what may be triggering your child’s bullying tendencies. Is she being bullied by someone else, or have you as a parent been overly critical of her and comparing her to her siblings, making her feel unloved and unimportant? Junior might also be acting out because she’s not doing well academically and is feeling like a failure.
OFFER SUPPORT by alleviating some of the bully’s frustrations or spending more time with him or her. If the bullying behaviour is serious then you might need to seek counselling for your child.
IMPLEMENT consistent consequences for all bullying behaviours. Bullying is unacceptable and if it remains uncorrected, bullies can develop into unstable, dysfunctional individuals. Ensure that you set limits and consequences and follow through on them whenever your child has bullied someone – whether it happens at home or in school.
KEEP COMMUNICATION LINES OPEN and make sure your child knows that even though consequences will be implemented, you will love him or her regardless. Bullies need to know that consequences are set to help them become a socially appropriate and accepted member of mainstream society. Thus, consequences are teaching moments and not withdrawal of parental love. By speaking to your child regularly, both of you will experience more together.