A day doesn’t go by without bullying of some kind being in the news. We usually focus on helping the victims – but what about the bullies? What can be done for them besides punishment? And, most worryingly, could my child be a bully?
What are the signs? Your child may be using verbal or physical aggression to deal with conflict; talking about "getting even" with others; blaming others for their behaviour or being unwilling to accept responsibility for their actions; coming home with items or money that don't belong to them; hanging around with other children who appear aggressive; having a hard time expressing feelings and understanding others' feelings; unable to play cooperative games (is an arrogant winner and a sore loser); reacting to questioning with anger or avoidance; playing inappropriately with much younger children; putting down other children in conversations; impulsive; fighting often with brothers and sisters.
Bullying is too important to ignore. Young people who bully others are more likely to do poorly in school, turn to violence as a way to deal with problems, damage property or steal, abuse drugs or alcohol, and get in trouble with the law.
So what can you do? Firstly, manage your own reactions, which could include shock and anger. You need to be able to talk about this calmly. (The resource below gives tips on how to do this). Check with the school for any problems.
It’s also important to look at what’s happening at home. Could any recent events be upsetting for your child? Is there any name-calling or physical fighting? How are things dealt with when your child does the wrong thing?
Having addressed the specific situation, look to increase supervision and support, and help them deal with situations of conflict better. As a family, model healthy ways of dealing with conflict and tension, and nurture positive relationships.
Reference – Helping your child stop bullying: A guide for parents
Upcoming opportunity: Helpful tips and guidelines on Supporting your teen through family separation. Monday 2 May, 6.30-8.30 pm, Richmond Neighbourhood Centre, phone 4588 3555. Free.
Information about counselling both in and out of school is on this website at the beginning of the "Counsellor's Corner Blog" page.