There’s nothing worse than learning your child is being bullied. Except maybe to learn your child is bullying. If someone reports that it’s your kid who’s the bully, here is what to do.
5 Things to Do When Your Child Is Bullying
1. Be open minded. Let the reporting party know you don’t tolerate bullying and that if your child has been the cause of any bullying, you will take swift action. Have them please tell you what they have seen or heard so that together you can correctly identify if it was indeed bullying.
Bullying is defined by four cardinal trademarks:
- imbalance of power
- intent to hurt or harm
- repeated negative behaviour with threats of further harm
- victim feels terror
2. Do NOT punish your child. Re-read the four cardinal trademarks of bullying (above). When we punish our children, we are modeling bullying to them.
3. Take firm and friendly disciplinary action. Sit down with your child and share what you have learned about the bullying episode. Listen calmly to your child as he will no doubt try to negate the situation, put the blame on others, or minimize what he has done. Expect him to justify and rationalize his actions. Your job is to ultimately get him to understand the gravity of his actions, while keeping his dignity intact. Be sure to reinforce the idea that regardless of any excuses, he ultimately chooses his behaviour and he made a choice that was devastating to the other child. Now he needs to set that right. Reassure him he is not a bad person, but a person who acted badly and that this mistake must be fixed. Let him know you’ll help and remind him that you love him.
4. Work co-operatively with the children to help them come up with a way to correct the wrongs and heal the hurts. This may take some time and be inconvenient to parents and children alike, but restorative justice is important, and human healing requires time.
- If your child broke property, he needs to replace it.
- Restore a sense of trust and safety to the other child. If the other child is afraid of being near him, your child needs to stay away from certain areas. (i.e. Your child has to find a new place to eat his lunch at school or he is no longer permitted to ride the same bus and you now have to drive him.)
- If he wants to write a letter or apologize in person, lovely. But don’t force an apology that will be disingenuous and further hurtful to the other child.
5. Improve your child’s ‘social interest’. The bullying incident was a wakeup call that your child needs to develop a better sense of awareness of others and community, something known as ‘social interest’. He needs to be challenged to see life as something you give to, not get from. Help him seek opportunities for ‘do-gooding’ to others in his family, school, and community. This will also help him see life from another person’s perspective and feel more embedded socially. Improved social caring will follow.
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