A study published in School Psychology Review found that 30 percent of children admit to bullying others. In addition to potentially causing physical and psychological distress for their victims, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that children who bully others are more likely to engage in alcohol and/or drug abuse, physical violence, criminal activity, domestic violence, and other destructive behaviors.
“While it is certainly important for parents to confront signs that their children are being bullied, it is equally important for parents to respond when it appears that their child is the aggressor,” says Dr. Michael Golinkoff of AmeriHealth Caritas, a national leader in Medicaid managed care and other health care solutions for those most in need. “Parents should make sure they understand the full picture before reacting. But if their child is at fault, they need to respond.”
Dr. Golinkoff offers these additional tips for parents who find that their child is the bully:
- Ask your child — You should ask your child what they are saying or doing, to get their specific account of the situation.
- Spend more time with your child — In addition to seeing exactly what your child is saying and doing to others, this will also help you understand why they may be targeting others, and therefore get to the root causes of the problem.
- Hold your child accountable — If your child is bullying others, you must confront it. Make sure that your response holds the child accountable but also is constructive, and teaches them why the behavior is unacceptable.
- Develop clear, consistent rules and expectations for your child — Whatever limits you place on your child, they should be unambiguous and strictly enforced.
- Build on your child’s strengths and encourage improvement on those positive traits — Holding your child accountable does not need to be entirely negative. Look at your child’s strengths and use those as a foundation for improvement.
- Model the behavior and character traits you would like to see in your child — Children, even older ones, are impressionable. Set a positive example for them. If they see you demonstrating bully-like behaviors towards others, it will be harder to keep them from doing likewise to their peers.