What are some reasons a child may become a bully?
There are numerous and perhaps well-known reasons why a child may become a bully: they are easily frustrated and have a short temper; they do not respond well to authority; they view violence positively; they feel insecure and bully to compensate for their insecurities. However, studies have also found that bullying occurs from children who have high self-esteem and are often popular. Therefore, it is important to recognize that there may not be a generic answer across the board. Each child needs to be recognized as an individual. A child's unique circumstances can contribute to the act of bullying. It is important to consider the home environment as one factor in which the bullying behavior may be learned, and potentially controlled. Although peers are a major influence in the developing child's manner of interaction, the family environment plays a critical role in creating a culture of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Parental modeling of aggressive behavior and the choice of disciplinary measures may influence the child to act-out '" or displace '" his/her aggression on peer substitutes with whom he/she may reign. Similarly, the sibling relationship is paramount in serving as a model for peer interaction. Sibling relationships help to cultivate a preferred manner of relating and distinct style of communication. While sibling rivalry can foster competition, cooperation and negotiation, sibling abuse elicits problems in interpersonal relationships . When sibling abuse occurs and it is not addressed in the home, the child who is the abuser may continue to enforce his/her 'status'/role amongst peers.
Tips for parents in preventing your child from becoming a bully
1. Be an involved and aware parent. Know your child.
2. Communicate. The ability of parents to communicate with their child is key. Communication needs to be established early in the parent-child relationship. Always ask how your child is doing in school and not only in the realm of academics. Get to know their friends and the quality of these friendships.
3. Help your child develop empathy. Children who bully tend to be less empathic. Help to develop your child's emotional intelligence through modeling, communication, and sensitivity.
4. Discipline with judgment, not emotions. Studies have found that parents of bullies tend to have an authoritarian parenting style . When a child is in need of discipline, parents should match the punishment with the crime. In other words, make sure that a child is not overly penalized. Through an overly harsh and punitive approach a child learns through modeling that bullying is an acceptable manner of relating and communicating.
5. Limit-set. Parents of bullies may be overly permissive. It is important to create structure, create boundaries, and let your child know your limits.
6. It takes a village. Get involved in your child's school. Parents can work with the administrators of their childrens’ school to enhance the social and emotional functioning of children in the school climate. Schools must not allow bullying to occur. They have a moral responsibility (and in some states a legal responsibility) to effectively respond to, and prevent its occurrence."
What can a parent do if their child is already acting like a bully?
1. It may be unrealistic to expect that a parent will have a strong effect on a child with whom there has not been open communication. Therefore, ensure that as a parent, you have set a precedent of communication.
2. Don't overlook bullying as a typical experience, or as normal. Although it may be tempting to absolve a child through rationalizing their behavior, it is important that both the child '" and the parent '" take responsibility. On the other hand, blaming a child '" or yourself '" will not serve anyone.
3. Monitor your child's facebook site and internet use. Cyberbullying is on the rise. Know your child's activity.
4. Be curious. Be self-reflective. What might have led your child to act out in this way? What is the behavior representing? In other words, can you start to identify what the bullying may be communicating? If so, talk to your child about that.
5. Know that there are long-term implications for children who bully. Seek psychotherapy: getting help early will prevent future problems. A psychotherapist can help your child manage his/her behavior and help you learn how to communicate with your child." Remember that hurt people hurt people.