In the past 10 years or so, awareness and education regarding bullying has risen significantly. Today, countless clubs, forums, and materials exist, each detailing how to prevent bullying and how to support those who have experienced it. However, there is one glaring gap in this abundance of resources: support for the parents of bullies.
Guidelines exist for how to handle a child that bullies, but actual support or advice for parents of bullies is rare to find. In an article written by Alissa Marquess for her blog Creative With Kids, the author talks about the shame and helplessness that come with parenting an angry child. Though her child wasn’t a bully, he was still displaying less than ideal behavior, so it would be reasonable to believe that Alissa’s feelings might be similar to those of parents of children who bully. The number one response to the article?
“I’m so glad I’m not alone”
Parenting isn’t easy in the best of situations and when your child is bullying, it can make you feel as though there is nowhere to turn where you will not be judged or accused of being a bad parent. If bullying is going to end for good, though, we must realize that it is a two-sided issue and begin to create resources to help both of those sides. We must create a safe environment for everyone to discuss their issues openly and without fear of judgment. To get the ball rolling, here are some things to remember if you are the parent of a child who bullies:
1.You are not a bad parent
Hearing your child has been bullying others brings on a wave of questions and emotions. “MY child?? He/she would never act that way!” “How could I have missed this behavior?” “What did I do wrong?” “How could I not see he/she was hurting? ”The reality is, though some bullies learn the behavior at home, bullying has multiple causes, many of which are hidden, easily missed, and triggered only while in a school environment. A child who is helpful and kind at home, around those he trusts, may act very differently when placed in a stressful school environment.
Additionally, the causes of your child’s bullying behavior may be issues which call for the help of a professional to unravel. This doesn’t mean you have failed, it only means you need help, and there is no shame in that. The key is to do something about the situation once you become aware of it. Talk to your child and talk with teachers and counselors. Together you can understand why your child is bullying and work through those issues for the future.
4. Talk regularly
This includes conversations with teachers, other parents, and students, in addition to making regular conversation with your child. Bullying is a complex issue and to fully understand why your child is bullying and to ensure it does not happen again, it will be necessary to keep in communication with those who are with your child when you aren’t.
3. Bullying behavior CAN be changed
Despite what many Hollywood films would lead us to believe, your child is not doomed to be a bully for the rest of his or her life. Though some of the personality traits that may lead to bullying, such as aggression or narcissism, will always be present, they do not have to control your child’s life or actions. Aggression and other traits can be managed, children can be taught to recognize when their behavior is becoming harmful, and coping mechanisms can be put into place. Other root causes of bullying, such as loneliness, abuse at home, or need for popularity can be identified and minimized or eliminated. Let your child know that you are there for him and that he will never have to face his struggles alone.
Additionally, don’t forget to find someone you can trust to talk to about yourself. Find a friend, spouse, or confidant who will listen to your struggles without judgment or start a support group for parents of children who bully or have behavioral issues. Not only will you gain access to a wealth of knowledge and advice, you will learn that you are not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence.
5. Be realistic. Understand there will likely be setbacks and be patient
People can change, but this rarely happens over night. Your child will likely still exhibit bullying behavior off and on while they get used to handling their issues in a healthy manner. While bullying should never be justified, it’s important to be patient with your child and not write him or her off as a “bad kid”. Children have an incredible ability to rise or fall to the bars we set for them.
When setbacks do occur, address the situation immediately. Talk through what happened with your child. Discuss what the other person did, what your child did, why they did it, how they think it made others feel, how it made them feel, and how they could have behaved differently. Make it a point to have your child genuinely apologize to the person they bullied. It won’t be an easy journey, but the destination will be well worth the effort.
6. You are not alone
It may seem that it is you and your child against the world, but the reality is, any good school wants to help all children, including those who bully, to become good, happy, and successful adults. Be open with your child’s teachers and ask them to help you develop a plan to stop the bullying behavior. Chances are, they will be grateful for your willingness to be involved and you will benefit from their support and experience.
No one wants to shout their problems to the world, so it can often seem as though you are the only one struggling, but it simply isn’t true. Whether it’s bullying or something else, every child and every parent is dealing with something. The important thing to remember is, while we are all struggling, we don’t need to struggle alone. By putting aside anger, shame, and judgment, we can all work together to create a better world for our children and better children for our world.
Are you the parent of a child who bullies? What advice do you have for other parents? Let us know in the comments!
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