It is very disturbing for us parents when our child is being bullied. But what if our child is the bully? It may be hard to accept but it is possible. There are telltale signs to spot a child who bullies. The good thing is that there are also things we can do to help us manage such behaviour.
Table of contents
- What is bullying
- Why children bully others
- How to tell if my child is a bully
- What can I do to stop my child from bullying
What is bullying
Bullying is when someone stronger or more powerful abuses or mistreats someone who is vulnerable. It is a very common problem in schools, play areas, and even on the Internet.
Types and examples of bullying
There are four different types of bullying our children may encounter. It goes beyond the obvious physical bullying. Many incidents happen when there are no other adults or other people around.
1. Physical bullying
Physical bullying is the most obvious type of bullying. It is when a child, who is usually bigger or stronger, uses physical actions to intimidate, control, or gain power over their targets. Physical bullying may include repeated hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, pushing, blocking, shoving, and inappropriate touching.
Example: A slower kid is being pushed away in one of the playground equipment.
2. Verbal bullying
This type of bullying involves name-calling, teasing, verbal threats of physical violence, and the use of words or statements that are insulting, belittling, demeaning, hurtful, and disrespectful. These comments are usually about someone’s appearance, race, religion, disability, and sexual orientation. Verbal bullying, unlike physical bullying, is more difficult to identify as it usually happens when no adult is around.
Example: A child calls another child fat and ugly.
3. Relational aggression
Another type of bullying that is not very obvious is relational bullying. it is sometimes called emotional bullying, which is more common among tweens and teens. The bully usually tries to hurt, sabotage, or ostracize a peer from a group. Acts usually involve spreading rumours, manipulating situations, and breaking someone’s confidence.
Example: Girls at a lunch table excitedly talk about an upcoming sleepover in front of an uninvited peer, which made the child feel bad and left out.
Cyberbullying is becoming very common and alarming in this era of social media. It involves harassing, threatening, or embarrassing someone through lies or rumours over the Internet, in text messages, emails, and social media posts.
Example: When a child from school posts an insulting photo or meme with another student’s face on it.
Why children bully others
Children who bully are not usually bad. They can be nice kids who are just making mistakes, who may be confused, or who are going through tough times. They bully other children for the following reasons:
- The child may also be a victim of bullying at home or school and tries to gain their confidence back by bullying other children.
- The child wants to fit in with a certain group.
- The child feels threatened.
- The child is looking for attention whether from parents, teachers, or classmates.
- The child is naturally assertive.
- The child may not know that his or her behaviour is embarrassing or hurting others (especially for younger children).
How to tell if my child is a bully
While it may be hard to point out that your child is a bully, there can be some signs and risks that can help you tell that your child is a bully.
1. Lacks empathy
A bully usually lacks empathy and compassion towards other children. He or she may not have regard or concern towards the feelings of other children, especially from one’s own actions. Your child may find it difficult to say sorry or at least feel bad when something unpleasant happens towards another child or another person.
2. Refuses to take responsibility for one’s actions
Your child may refuse to take responsibility for his or her actions and usually passes the blame on somebody or something. Your child may also come up with excuses and refuses to admit any wrongdoing.
3. Wants control
A bully needs to be in control and is manipulative. If you notice signs of your child always wanting to be always in control and always wanting to dominate whether at home or with friends, you may have a bully.
4. Wants popularity
Many tween or teen bullies are obsessed with popularity. They want to always seem great and cool. They have the tendency to bully others who are different from them or their peers. You may want to observe your child’s behaviour when he or she is with one’s circle of friends compared to your child’s behaviour with other children.
5. Is proud and arrogant
A bully is usually proud and arrogant. Too much self-esteem gives the child the ability to attack others who seem weak and vulnerable. If you think your child is over-confident to the point of being arrogant and shows signs of looking down on others, your child could be a bully.
6. Has been a victim or bullying or violence
While some bullies are just naturally over-confident, arrogant, and lacking in empathy, some children resort to bullying others because they have been victims of bullying or violence at home or at school. They think that bullying others can help them get back their confidence.
7. Has behavioral issues
Many children who bully are hot-headed and impulsive. They also have the tendency to get into trouble at school for behavioural issues. You may want to observe your child’s behavior or ask teachers to help detect if your child could be bullying other children.
8. Has friends who bully
Although it may not always be the case, your child may have a tendency to bully others if he or she has friends who also bully. This is especially true if you notice your child is having aggressive tendencies or is lacking in empathy.
9. Has trouble sleeping
A study has found that children with sleep concerns were observed to have behavioural problems, including bullying tendencies. While this is not always the case since health concerns may cause sleep problems, this could be a helpful sign to detect if your child has been bullying others especially when accompanied by other tell-tale signs.
10. Poor child-parent relationship
If you notice that you are not having a good relationship with your child, your relationship could be causing your child to develop bullying tendencies. Children have the tendency to develop behavioural issues if they do not have an open relationship with their parents. They tend to bully when their parents are always angry at them or they feel they are a problem.
What can I do to stop my child from bullying
To stop your child from bullying others, you need to work on parenting with love and logic. This means that we show our love to our children by being compassionate and empathic along with enforcing limits and rules. More than this, we also allow our kids to make decisions and let them experience the consequences that go with their choices. This will help them realize the logic that the quality of their lives will depend on the quality of the choices they make.
If you notice signs that your child may be a bully, here are some things you can do:
1. Know the story
The first logical step to addressing the problem is to know the reason for such behaviour. You can do this by talking to your child. If, for instance, your attention has been called out because of an incident at school, ask your child what happened. Try to be emphatic and assure your child that you are open to listening to the reasons without any judgment. You may just be surprised to learn what is causing such behaviour.
If your child is having a difficult time articulating the situation, your child’s school counsellor or your family therapist can be of help.
Some of the risk factors we mentioned earlier are when the child has been a victim of bullying or violence and that there isn’t a healthy parent-child relatinship at home. Try to reflect on your situation at home and your relationship with your child. Can you spot any abuse going on at home, whether to your child or to any family member that your child may find disturbing? Has he been bullied at school or in any other place? Do you or any family member frequently shout at him or belittle him, which could affect his self-esteem? All these reflections can help find the root of the problem and address the situation.
3. Ask for help
There is no harm in asking for help. If you realize that your child has been bullying other children, you may talk to some parents who you trust for some piece of advice. You can also talk to their teachers, who may have witnessed your child’s bullying. Your teacher can also help come up with solutions that can help improve your child’s behaviour.
If your child does not seem to be opening up with deeper issues or you think he is traumatized, do not hesitate to ask for professional help.
4. Guide your child
One of the roles we have as parents is to give structure to our children – to guide them and teach them values. Talk out some scenarios that are familiar with the child and guide your child on the right thing to do and the right way to respond. Your guidance can be a great help to help your child develop empathy and care for others.
You can also teach your child about dealing with personal biases to help them overcome bullying other children who are different from them.
5. Talk about solutions together
Now that both you and your child are aware of such behaviour, you can talk about solutions together. Make your child understand that this is important to help motivate your child to stop bullying other children. You can talk about punishments, such as taking away some privileges, like cellphone usage, when your child engages in bullying.
You may ask suggestions from your child to gain more cooperation, but be sure to be the one in control.
6. Correct mistakes
Apart from the consequences, it may also help to make your child correct his or her mistakes. Let your child apologize in whatever way they are comfortable with – verbal, writing a letter, sending a text message, or whatever initiative can be made. Be sure to let your child know about this policy beforehand to help your child be more cooperative.
A habit can be hard to break. Be sure that you monitor your child’s behaviour by talking to your child’s teacher. If cyberbullying is involved, monitor your child’s social media. Make it clear in the first place that you will be monitoring social media accounts and thus will be needing access to them.
8. Constant communication
Having an open line of communication with your child will have a very powerful impact on your child’s behaviour. Make communication a regular thing with you and your child. Talk to your child during meals and during bedtime. Try to have bonding on weekends and know more about your child’s activities, interests, hobbies, circle of friends, and school situation. Try to be more supportive without giving in to wrongdoings or unacceptable behaviour.
The first step to solving the problem of having a child who bullies is acknowledging that such a problem exists, even if it is hard to accept reality. If you have read the entire post, then I salute you for your strength – for accepting the possibility that your child might be a bully and for actually trying to address the problem.
We are not perfect parents, we never will be. The best thing we can do is to raise our children and guide them the best way we know how – parenting with love and logic, with concern and hope.