Bullying is a topic that parents just can’t seem to escape. Given the influence of peer pressure, technology and social media, bullying opportunities abound. If your child is on the bullying end of a bad situation, should you — the parent — be held responsible?
Bullying is often considered to be an aggressive act perpetrated by one person and projected onto another, the victim. While this is often true, overcoming bullying is definitely a team effort. The parent of the bully will particularly appreciate this dynamic if he or she is on board with ending the bullying behavior (there are, of course, those parents who inexplicably encourage bullying). "Parents of the bully need to be included in the process of helping the bully understand his behavior and hold him accountable for his actions," says Alyson Schafer, a psychotherapist and parenting expert. "The bully needs assistance and support, just as the bullied child does."
Finding out that your child is bullying another child can be difficult to swallow, but denial will only postpone the recovery process. "Many parents of children who bully simply deny that their child could ever behave that way," says Schafer. "Parents need to be willing to be open-minded and listen." Once the facts are hashed out, you can begin to help your child remedy the situation, which may include working with the school.
Nobody wants their child to be a bully, but if you find yourself heading down that road, you have an opportunity to turn the situation into a learning experience. "Bullying is about power in relationships and the bully does not yet have insights and skills to understand a different and more respectful way to feel powerful through acts of kindness, and in being masterful and competent at something," says Schafer. As a parent, you can change that by teaching your child empathy.
There are a variety of strategies for teaching your child empathy. Only you will know what’s best for her in light of your specific situation. Schafer offers the following techniques:
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