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Stopping your child from bullying

What should you do if your child is the bully at school? When your child comes home and is distraught because they are being bullied, it’s heartbreaking, but the path to begin a resolution is generally quite clear and straight-forward. But what if you get the call that it’s your child that is the bully? How do you address that situation effectively?

Angry Young Boy

Your first response may be one of, no, not my child, no way. After all, it’s the extremely rare parent who raises their child to be a bully. But we do our children no favors by thinking they are
perfect all the time. If you’ve been told your child is a bully, you have a challenging job in front of you: you need to figure out the situation, discipline appropriately, and address the
underlying issues.

Assess the situation

When you are told your child is a bully, your first instinct may be to take your child’s side and deny the possibility. It’s a very natural response. Every child deserves the unconditional love and
support of parents and it may feel that this is a way to offer that. But your child also deserves appropriate parenting. As such, it’s your responsibility to talk to everyone involved and figure
out what happened – without dismissing the feelings of the target of the bullying.

You may feel thoroughly embarrassed if you get the call, and that’s normal, too. But don’t let that feeling stop you from doing the right thing. Talk to whomever informed you of the bullying and
anyone else that you can. Talk to your child, role-play, whatever it takes to try to get to the bottom of the situation.

Appropriate discipline

After assessing the situation, discipline may be in order. If you realize that your child intentionally, knowingly hurt the feelings or the body of another child, there should be consequences for
this. The kind of discipline given to your child in this situation will depend on the discipline style you’ve already established.

If the situation is less clear cut – if, say, your child is younger and doesn’t fully understand what bullying is, even if he or she was doing it – discipline may still be in order, but perhaps
with a different tone.

In either case, apologies to the target and likely others are probably in order, and you have a big opportunity for both of you to learn about appropriate behaviors, responses, diversity, and
living as part of a community.

Look for underlying issues

The cause of bullying is never with the target of the bullying, the cause is with the bully. The bully likely has some underlying issue or insecurity that compelled him or her to lash out in this
way, to make this power play. Probably the best thing you can do as a parent of a child who has bullied is to identify and address the underlying issue.

When my oldest child was in second grade, there was one boy in his class who bullied another. After a tremendous amount of energy expended by the teacher and the school psychologist, it came down
to this, and was first identified by the other kids: the bully was struggling at reading and he targeted another boy who was particularly good at reading. When the bully’s reading skills were
addressed, the bullying eased and finally ended. The two boys, many years later, are friendly – not friends, but friendly.

While not every situation is so clear, bully situations can be resolved for everyone involved – so they don’t happen again. whatever your child’s issue may be, your unconditional love and support
to address their issue, stop them from engaging in inappropriate and destructive behaviors, and become more confident in their role in your community can help reduce bullying as a whole. Addressing
the situation openly, honestly and lovingly not only helps your child, but it helps the child he or she bullied. And we all benefit from that.

Need more advice from real moms? Check out our message boards to read moms give
advice on how they have helped their child stop bullying others.

For more on bullies:

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