How to Prevent Your Child from Becoming a Bully

Every parent believes their child has the capacity for good. That’s why kindness, empathy and respect are taught at such an early age. Yet, 30% of school-age children admit to bullying or mistreating their peers. This October, known as National Bullying Prevention Month, is a nationwide effort between kids and adults to increase awareness and reduce potential harm. Here’s how parents can better educate children on the dangers of long-term bullying:

Tips to Prevent Bullying
All forms of behavior, good and bad, are often cultivated at home. Therefore, parents play a significant role in how their children treat others. One can offset questionable conduct by:

  • Communicating More: Find a distraction-free zone to speak with the child about their behavior. Ask insightful questions to uncover the root of the problem. How are things at school? Are they having a hard time socializing? More importantly, do they feel negatively about themselves? Bullying is often the result of a deeper issue that requires self-reflection and awareness.
  • Connecting with the School: Parents and teachers must present a united front. When it comes to bullying, they should agree on messaging and discipline surrounding the act. This will ensure the child is receiving the same direction at both home and school.
  • Exercising Empathy: It’s a parent’s responsibility to explain how one’s actions can impact others. By teaching empathy, the child will have a better understanding of other people’s feelings and points of view. If they comprehend the gravity of their actions, they may be less likely to cause harm.
  • Explaining Consequences: Make it clear that bullying has serious ramifications. Victims have a greater risk of developing low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and poor academic performance. Bullies can also face legal implications for discriminatory harassment, which is protected under federal civil rights laws.
  • Monitoring Their Actions: Take a moment to observe the child’s day-to-day behavior. Watch how they interact with other children as well as adults. How do they deal with their emotions? Do they crave constant attention? In some cases, a child lashing out can be an extreme cry for help.
  • Setting an Example: Children often imitate what they see. It’s not unusual for a child to mimic their parents or older siblings. Therefore, it’s imperative to lead by example. When children are present, try to speak positively about co-workers, friends and family members. Also, illustrate acts that showcase the importance of kindness and respect.

Signs of Active Bullying
If a child’s already engaged in bullying, there are common markers that help identify the problem. Please note if they exhibit any of the following behaviors:

  • Can effectively talk themselves out of trouble
  • Constantly lying or stretching the truth to paint themselves in the best light
  • Failing to understand how their actions impact others
  • Frequently breaks rules and repeatedly tests boundaries
  • Has a positive view toward violence and displays aggression
  • Tends to be dominant in group situations
  • When faced with difficulty, is impulsive and easily frustrated

About the author: Dr. Kristyn Stewart, DO, is a medical director of behavioral health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

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Photo credit: Motortion

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