Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bullying - Both Sides of The Fence

Whether your child is being bullied or is the bully, our parenting expert has some solid advice for you.

When Your Child is Acting Like a Bully

It has been brought to my attention that my child has been bullying other kids at school. How can I help him improve his behavior?

Think about it
At first you may want to blame the other kids, or the adult who brought the information to your attention. You need to be honest with yourself to determine the truth in the situation. If your child has been acting in aggressive ways, you'll want to help your child have more positive interactions with other children. Your child needs you on his side right now to help him learn how to control his own behavior.

Solution #1: Instead talk about specific incidents. Ask helpful questions to determine the reasons for your child's behavior. Brainstorm with him a variety of options he would have as an alternative to being rough. Help him learn new ways to handle the conflicts that arise with other children. Use role-play to help your child practice new ways of responding to other children.

Solution #2: If possible, arrange to have your child spend some time with an older, responsible child. If you don't have any close family members or friends that fit the bill, look into a Big Brother or Big Sister program. It may help to find a mentor for your child who can teach good social skills by example.

Solution #3: If you must discipline a child for a specific act, such as punching another child at school, use discretion when deciding on a consequence. Yelling, hitting or harsh punishment will only encourage your child to continue his own aggressive behavior. Instead, look for constructive consequences, such as assigning chores at home, or writing a note of apology to the child who was hurt.

Solution #4: Discourage your child from spending time with friends who behave in aggressive ways. (See: Friends, inappropriate choice of.) Encourage your child to become involved in an organized youth activity. Participation in a team or group often gives a child the social experience he may be lacking. Another option is to enroll him in one of the social skills classes that are now appearing in schools, churches and hospitals.

Solution #5: Enroll your child in a quality martial arts school. Visit the school first and watch a few classes in action before you mention the idea to your child. Choose a program with smaller class sizes. An authentic program will teach restraint, respect, and self-control. A good martial arts teacher will convey a quiet, reserved confidence. Talk with the teacher in advance of classes to let him know your concerns about your child's behavior, and what you are looking to achieve with the class. An experienced teacher should make you feel confident that you are making the right choice for your child. This may be just what your child needs to learn to control his physical power, and to develop self-discipline. (And it's heartwarming to see your child bow to the master and hear him end every sentence with a hearty "Sir" or "Ma'am"!)

Special Note: If your child displays a continuing pattern of aggression he may display other negative behaviors as well. He may display signs of low self-esteem, have problems in school, spend excessive time alone, and have a hard time controlling his anger. If this were the case, it would be wise to seek professional counseling for your child, so that the reason for the behavior can be discovered, and the child can learn to control his emotions and learn to succeed socially.

When Your Child is the Victim of a Bully

A bully is picking on my child. What can I do to stop this?

Think about it
As much as you'd like to step in and solve this problem yourself, it's probably in your child's best interest to teach him how to solve the problem. Once he's learned the skills to stand up for himself he can use them in other life situations.

Solution #1: Teach your child how to respond to a bully in a bold assertive way. Practice with him at home in a role-play situation. Demonstrate the difference between cowering and whispering, "Oh, go away, please leave me alone." versus standing tall, using a deep, loud, voice and saying with authority, "LEAVE ME ALONE!"

Solution #2: Suggest that your child stick with two or more other children when at the playground, the bus stop or wherever he comes face to face with the bully.

Solution #3: If the bully problem is at school, tell your child that if he's not successful in fending the bully off on his own it's okay to ask for help from a teacher or playground attendant. Rehearse with him what to say when he approaches an adult for help so he doesn't sound like he's whining or tattling. "Excuse me, Mr. Watanabe, but Jason keeps chasing me and throwing stones at me. I've asked him to stop but he won't." If your child practices saying this at home he will come across sounding confidant and will more likely get assistance from the teacher.

Solution #4: Teach your child to turn and walk away from a child who is being a verbal bully, without so much as a word. Being ignored may cause the bully to give up.

Solution #5: Determine if your child has healthy friendships with other children. If your child is a regular victim and doesn't have many friends, she can benefit by developing better social skills. Encourage your child to invite friends over to your home or to invite them to accompany you on an outing.

Special Note: If your child tries many different approaches but is continually harassed by a bully, or if the bully is physically aggressive, you may need to step in. It is rarely, if ever, effective to approach the bully or his parent's directly. Instead, approach the school principal or other person in a position of authority. If you lose your temper and yell, it will be unlikely you'll get the help you need. Instead, take the time to think about what you will cover in the meeting, and call ahead for an appointment. Outline the specific behaviors that you are concerned with, review the tactics you have used to try to stop the behavior, and have several suggested solutions in mind. Approach the principal with a calm, matter-of-fact attitude and you should be able to put together a plan to control the situation.

 More You Might Like:
I'm Sitting Up Front
Back to School Gear For Less
Back to School Wardrobes for Less
Managing Morning Madness
Kids Home Alone: When and How?
Preventing School Bullying and Protecting Your Child

About the Author:
Elizabeth Pantley is author of Perfect Parenting, Hidden Messages, & Kid Cooperation, and president of Better Beginnings, Inc. She is a popular speaker on family issues. Elizabeth's newsletter, Parent Tips is seen in schools nationwide. She appears as a regular radio show guest and has been quoted in Parents, Parenting, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, American Baby, Twins, Working Mother, and Woman's Day magazines.

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