There’s no denying that bullying is a national problem. In fact, every day 160,000 students skip school for fear of encountering a bully, according to Community Health Charities. The good news is that people across the United States are trying to address the issue. Right here in New Jersey, parents, teachers, coaches and educators are regularly trying to stop bullies.
Oftentimes, experts share tips for those who are bullied and their parents. But what about the parents of bullies? What responsibility do they have? What can they do to help? This time around, we’re giving the parents of bullies a resource guide on what to do if their child is the one doing the bullying.
Be a Role Model.
Parents have to be aware of their own behavior. “The best way to ensure you don’t raise a bully is to be sure you do not bully, mistreat, over-control, put down, or humiliate your child on a repeated basis with continuity,” explained Fran Walfish, a family psychologist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, in an email to Best of NJ. Kids take behavioral cues from parents and the other adults in their life, so it’s important to be cognizant of how you behave.
Follow Through on Consequences of Bad Behavior.
When young children do something wrong, parents and teachers must inform them. When warranted, they must also discipline children. They can’t be wishy-washy; they have to follow through, so kids know there are consequences.
“The most important thing is to make children understand they will be held accountable for bad behavior,” says Laurie Endicott Thomas, activist and author of Don’t Feed the Narcissists, who attended school for a time in New Jersey. In her book, she discusses the idea that “When a child mistreats another person, that child should be required to apologize. You should not require the child to say he is sorry if he is not, but you should require the child to admit that what he did was wrong.”
Teach Them How to Make Friends.
Thomas continues that parents should offer lessons on how to “win friends and influence people.” Indeed, they should talk to their kids about how to introduce themselves and break the ice. Then, they should explain safe activities to suggest doing together. Reminding young children to help friends who are upset or struggling is never a bad idea, either.
Coach Kids on Anger Management.
Putting the power in the hands of children themselves is one way to effect change. The Federal government-managed website, StopBullying.gov, suggests adults tell child bullies to stop and think before they act. Trying to cool off is a start. “If you feel like being mean to someone, find something else to do,” is one of the tips the website offers. “Play a game, watch TV, or talk to a friend.”
Talking to an adult they trust to get advice on how to be nicer is a good idea, too, according to the website. Of course, kids who have severe anger issues could benefit from getting professional help from a therapist or counselor.
Get Involved at School.
The New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention wants parents to educate themselves on school bullying policies. They encourage parents to learn about the legal rights of their children and what their schools are doing to prevent bullying. Parents of bullies should make their child aware of legal consequences they might face. What many don’t realize is that some forms of bullying are against the law and could result in legal action.
Most importantly, though, experts agree that parents should get involved in their children’s school and get to know their friends. Working closely with teachers and educators can help parents have a say in bullying prevention efforts. You can keep tabs on your child and his behavior; but best of all, being involved also demonstrates interest in your kid’s life.