We hear in the news each week of horrific stories of children being victimized by bullies at school, in the neighborhood, and on the Internet.
There are programs working to change the school climate when it comes to bullying behaviors, and there are parents monitoring social networks, but we don't talk enough about the bully.
What motivates a child to be cruel to another child? And what can parents do to prevent a child from hurting others?
Children are not born as bullies. They learn this behavior and react to factors in their life, and more often then not their aggressive or mean spirited behavior is not addressed adequately early on. Some children become bullies after they've been a target of bullying in the past.
Here are some things that can help you raise your child to Not be a bully:
1. Understand individual behavior styles of your children and have realistic expectations based on their temperament
- If a child is sensitive and slow to warm up, help them navigate friendships and school life.
- If your child is active and impulsive, and loves to be the center of attention, make sure there are many positive outlets for energy and passion.
- Know who your children are hanging out with and pay attention to the values of the group. Is there a "trouble maker" that your daughter is attracted to? Do you hear lots of mean gossip in the back seat when you're driving them to school?
- Try and understand why your daughter is attracted to the "mean girls." Watch movies and commercials together and talk about what you see.
- Don't make excuses for your child's behavior. Give consequences that fit the behavior and always end with encouragement showing that you assume your child will do better next time. Start by teaching toddlers social skills, and stay attuned to underlying causes of acting out behavior.
- Give positive attention to children when they are behaving in a socially acceptable way. Your children want you to love and respect them.
- Find a way to problem-solve without harsh punishment. Provide love and limits!
- Your children will model your behavior, even more then listening to what you say. Make a point of having them see you help others.
- Provide opportunities for children to be of service to people less fortunate. Have them help at a homeless shelter, or mentor a younger child.
- Focus on their strengths and the ways they are competent.
- Reduce intimidation and fear and increase respectful communication.
- Give children opportunities to express their feelings, fears, and desires. Don't let them hit you or their siblings. Stay calm as you deal with their aggression.
- When children see violence or on-going anger at home, they may internalize their fear or act out their feelings.
- Have time away from the kids when you work out adult problems.
- If children do hear fighting, have them see you make-up or talk to them about what they heard and what you hope to change in the future.
- Have frequent contact with a child's teachers and school counselor.
- Talk with your pediatrician and get referrals for mental health professionals.
- If you don't know where to get help, call 211.
For information on anti-bullying programs check out 10 Days to a Bully Proof Child, by Sherryll Kraizer, Phd.
For more information about parenting issues visit www.childhoodmatters.org and tune into our show in the Bay Area on Sundays at 7 a.m. on 98.1 KISS FM, or anytime on the web or by downloading our podcasts.