It’s painful to think that your own child could be hurting other kids. There may be reasons why your child is acting this way, however, bullying tendencies should be curbed as soon as possible, and it starts with you being stern, calm and collaborative.

Find out how to spot signs that your child is bullying, and how you can manage it effectively in this article.

What does bullying look like?

Teasing a sibling or a friend isn’t harmful when it’s done in a playful and friendly manner. However, when teasing becomes hurtful and unkind, it crosses the line into bullying and needs to be stopped.

Bullying can be:

  • Physical: hitting, shoving, destroying belongings

  • Verbal: name-calling, taunting, or threatening someone

  • Emotional: spreading rumours, intentionally leaving someone out

Bullying can leave deep emotional scars, and can lead to someone getting hurt.

How do I know if my child is a bully?

Some signs include:

  • Talking about other children at school in an aggressively or negatively

  • Has money, electronic goods or other things that don’t belong to them

  • Becomes prone to raising their voice, or talks back in an aggressive manner

  • Often blaming others for their behaviour

  • Being unwilling to accept responsibility for their actions

  • Exhibiting impulsive behaviour or aggressive competitiveness

What should I do if my child is bullying someone else?

It can be upsetting to find that your child has been bullying others and you might want to react immediately. However, it’s important that you keep calm and try to understand the reasons behind your child's behaviour so that you can effectively solve the issue.

Here are four steps you can take:

1. Hear your child out during a quiet time.

Explain that you know about the situation and want to know what happened from their perspective. Remain calm and approachable, as you will learn more about why your child has started bullying. Avoid using strong-arming or threatening them, as this reaction often models bullying itself.

Ask questions such as “Can you share with me what happened?” or “How long has this been going on?”. Talking it over can also be helpful to find out if your child is upset, jealous, unhappy, or perhaps has been bullied themselves.

2. Empathise with your child.

Reassure your child that it’s okay to feel negative emotions on some days. Sometimes, kids bully because they have trouble managing strong emotions like anger, frustration, or insecurity. Other times, kids haven't learned cooperative ways to work out conflicts and understand differences.

Most importantly, let your child know firmly that bullying is unacceptable, and that it must stop. A simple statement can get your point across, for example "I need you to know that bullying is wrong, and it must stop."

3. Ask your child what they want to do about it and how you can help.

Take the situation seriously and don't dismiss your child's behaviour by excusing it. Make sure your child understands that you will not tolerate bullying at home, school or anywhere else.

Keep calm and let your child know that you will work on their behaviour with them and help them learn how to treat others respectfully. Set rules around bullying and stick to them. Teach them appropriate (and nonviolent) ways to react to unfavourable situations, like walking away and calming down before acting.

If you catch your child handling situations in positive ways, praise them for it. Positive reinforcement can encourage them to keep up good behaviour.

4. Contact your child’s school to follow-up

If your child is bullying students at school, working with your child’s educators is the best way to stop it. School staff are trained to handle bullying, so it is beneficial to work with them to ensure your child is practising good behaviour in school too.

Discuss the problem with a school representative to ensure that your child’s good behaviour is reinforced at all times. Your child will feel more conscious of his/her actions and choose more prosocial choices if they know that you are informed of their behaviour when you’re not present.

Bullying should not be accepted or ignored. Act swiftly to ensure your children can grow up with positive intrinsic values.

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