Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What If Your Child is the Bully?

By: Kecia Burcham

We have been bombarded with information about bullying victims in the past few years with stories ranging from cyber bullying to suicide.  Just yesterday, The Nashville Tennessean as well as national news carriers reported that the President and First Lady are taking a stand in affiliating themselves with the “It Gets Better” project.

There has been some controversy, but overall, we do pity the targets of this behavior.  However, much of the news has overlooked the parent perspective of the bullies themselves. What if your child is the bully? 

How do parents accept and deal with the fact that their child might very well be the problem?  That’s a hard pill for most parents to swallow.  According to Mental Health America, some indicators that your child might be a bully are that he or she -
  • ·         doesn’t have empathy for other kids or adults.
  • ·         tries to dominate or manipulate other kids or adults.
  • ·         likes feeling powerful and in control.
  • ·         is a poor winner (boastful or arrogant) and a poor loser.
  • ·         gets satisfaction from others’ fear or pain.
  • ·         is good at hiding bullying from adults.
  • ·         is excited by disagreements or troubles between others.
  • ·         blames others for problems.
  • ·         gets angry easily.
  • ·         has gotten into trouble for behavior before.
  • ·         is impulsive – hits, kicks, pushes or intimidates others.
  • ·         is intolerant or prejudiced towards other people or groups.
  • ·         may be a gang member.
Children who bully are more likely to grow up to be child and spouse abusers and are more likely to be involved in troubling or violent behaviors.  The longer the behaviors are allowed to continue, the harder they are to stop.
So what can parents do? 
First and foremost, take every opportunity to teach your child the skill of empathy.  Research concludes that lack of empathy is the commonality among bullies and violent offenders.  Help your child understand the impact of bullying on others and let him or her know that it is not okay. Enforce fair and consistent consequences for the behavior.

It is also important to teach your child appropriate ways to deal with anger and frustration and to reward or compliment better choices.  When appropriate, encourage your child to “make amends”, but do not force this. 
If the school does contact you about bullying behaviors your child has displayed, try to remain calm and do not be defensive or angry.  It can be very difficult for a parent to hear and accept that their child is hurting another.  Don’t assume the school or others are “out to get you”.  They are not.  No teacher or administrator likes to make that call. Remember that you are both working in the best interests of all children involved.  Seek counseling or other outside help if bullying continues. 


Kecia Burcham works as a middle school counselor and holds a masters degree in education/school counseling as well as being a certified trainer in the "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" curriculum. She is also a certified NLP life coach, business coach, master weight loss coach and social/emotional intelligence coach. Kecia is a published poet, author and songwriter. She has worked in the field of education/psychology for 20 years and has one grown daughter. She can be reached at keciab0123@comcast.net.

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