No parent wants their child to bully others
No child is perfect. Most parents, at some point, have seen their child be mean to other kids. But if you’re worried that your son or daughter might be a bully at school because they seem to have a habit of putting others down, there are some subtle signs of bullying you should watch out for.
Maybe, in the past, you’ve had a phone call from your child’s school. Your son pushed another kid’s face into his lunch. He has been reprimanded and is in trouble again.
Or you saw your daughter be snarky to other girls at a classmate’s birthday party and heard her say snide things, like “We can see you are a genius” or “I’m trying to picture you with a personality” to other kids.
Perhaps your child’s peers do his bidding, or you overhear a comment from another child to her mother at a coffee shop – “Casey says I can’t be a sweater-saurus at Halloween” – and you wonder, “Wait, is that MY child telling other people what to do?”
Overall, you think, “Heck, no, this is not happening.” But sadly it is.
No one thinks of themselves as the parent of a bully; no parent wants their child to bully others.
We spend a lot of time thinking about those who are bullied, but as a parent, one of the loneliest experiences is to be the mom or dad of a child you know is, or suspect may be, bullying other kids. You don’t know where to turn or what to do.
Children who turn to bullying others often do not mean to be cruel, but things happen that may lead to them eventually putting others down.
This can be their own low self-esteem, struggles at home, impulsivity, poor relationships and connection to others, poor control over their emotions, social discomfort, a desperate need to fit in, their experience of being punished all the time, seeing violence or aggression, or struggling with school work.
Being aggressive can become a lifelong pattern that will negatively influence your child’s future. Part of being a parent is playing detective and trying to work out what your child needs from very little signs.
If you’re worried your child is a bully, here are five signs of bullying behaviour that signal your kid needs help:
1. A lack of empathy for others
You notice your child does not try to walk in other people’s shoes. They don’t show compassion or empathy and don’t think about other people. They may blame other people and tend not to take responsibility for their actions.
More than their peers, your child just does not seem to worry about the feelings of other people or their impact on others. This lack of empathy may be a sign that your child is a bully.
Bullying is a complex issue and parents are not to blame
2. Obsessing about fitting in
Some kids are very acutely aware of the social hierarchy and social status. Thus, they feel tremendous pressure to fit in. They may try to manage, orchestrate and control others, are obsessed with their social image and social media, and they spend too much time worrying about how they are perceived.
This can lead your child to make poor choices in order to fit in, making them turn into a bully, even though they don’t mean to.
3. Previous experiences with anger, violence or bullying
Your child has experienced and witnessed bullying, violence, anger and physical punishment. They’ve been pushed around, so they see aggression and punishment as the answer to their problems.
If your child has been a victim of or has experienced injustice, or witnessed adults using aggressive behaviour, they may turn to this as their go-to reaction. This may not be their intention and as a parent, you can help him find another way.
4. A tendency to put other people down
You notice your child tends to put other people down while building themselves up. They point out flaws in others and joke about them, as well as insult them.
Low self-esteem, fear and feeling overwhelmed can make some kids become dismissive and put down others. This is a sign that your child needs help in how to feel better about themselves so they don’t resort to bullying others.
5. Recurring behaviour problems
Your child struggles with controlling their emotions. They have a history of behaviour problems and you notice their friends also share these characteristics.
Behavioural problems may mean that your child doesn’t plan the actions they take. Instead, they are impulsive during fights, leading them to act like a bully.
Bullying is a complex issue and parents are not to blame.
If your child is struggling, and becoming a bully, you can help by spotting these five signs when he or she is acting up. As a parent, you can help them pick themselves up and adopt better behaviours so that putting other people down doesn’t become a life-long habit.
Caroline Maguire, ACCG, PCC, M.Ed., is a certified Coach, the Director of the Fundamentals of ADD Coaching for Families at the ADD Coach Academy, and the author of Why Will No One Play With Me?, coming in 2019. You can follow her tips to solve common social dilemmas by signing up for her newsletter.
This article was first published on YourTango.