When you start sending your young child to school, you may fear that they’ll become a victim of bullying. But what if your child is the one bullying others? Whether it’s a phone call from your child’s school, another parent or your own notice of some troubling signs, you’ve likely realized that bullying is a behavior that needs to be nipped in the bud. But how?
In this post, we’ll discuss some signs potentially indicating that your child has become a bully. We’ll also provide some suggestions on how to address this issue with your preschool or elementary-aged child to help them stop bullying.
How to Recognize It If Your Child Is Bullying
When children start preschool, there are bound to be fights. It’s common for kids to tease and quarrel with others at this age, but bullying goes beyond mildly insensitive behavior. If your child is consistently picking on another child who is smaller, shy, weaker or different from them, it’s considered bullying. Bullies pick targets and try to control them either through fear or manipulation. A bully also usually puts their actions on display in front of other children watching.
If you’re not sure your child is a bully, keep in mind that certain signals of bullying are obvious, like:
- Getting into trouble at school
However, bullying can also be subtle and harder to detect. Pay attention if your child is:
- Purposefully excluding other kids
- Whispering insults behind another’s back
- Showing obsession with popularity
- Talking about other kids negatively or in an aggressive way
- Possessing toys, money or other things that don’t belong to them
Teaching Your Kid Not to Bully Others
You may be shocked or saddened to learn that your child is picking on other children, especially if they don’t display that kind of behavior at home. Fortunately, you can take steps to help your child stop bullying.
The most important thing is for you to deal with it immediately. Delay can lead to more aggressive or antisocial behavior. Being a bully can also interfere with your child’s performance at school and their ability to make meaningful friendships.
Address the Bullying Right Away
Once you learn that your child is bullying another child, you should address the behavior right away. By doing so, you’ll let your kid know that you’re aware of what’s going on and that bullying will not be tolerated.
You may need to explain to your preschooler or elementary-aged child what bullying is. During your conversation, stay calm. Listen to their side and avoid casting any blame. However, your child needs to know that you want their bullying to stop immediately. This may be a good opportunity for your child to learn that it’s okay to admit to making a mistake.
Determine the Root Cause
Talk with your child not only about what they’re doing but also about why they might be doing it. To develop a plan of discipline, you’ll need to know why they chose to bully another child. This time isn’t important to give your child an excuse for their behavior, but so that you know how to address their poor choices and discipline them appropriately.
Kids bully for many reasons, including:
- As a way of coping with the bullying they’ve endured
- A desire to be popular and part of a clique
- Feelings of insecurity
- Not knowing that it’s wrong to pick on kids who are different
- A desire to copy the behavior of their peers or unkind interactions at home
Teach Your Child Empathy, Respect and Kindness
Just like any skill, children need to learn to treat others with kindness. This lesson starts with you showing them that it’s wrong to ridicule differences in others, whether it’s how they look, their gender or any special needs. Try to instill a sense of empathy for those who are different. Start by asking questions:
- Is what you did kind?
- Did you hurt someone’s feelings?
- Would you like someone to do that to you?
- How do you think that made the other person feel?
Emphasize the importance of treating others fairly and with compassion. Let them know that in your family, you respect people who are different.
Develop Appropriate Consequences and Discipline
As you explain why bullying is not okay, discuss the consequences of your child’s behavior. The point is to show them that their bullying behavior will not be tolerated and that it has consequences. Losing privileges is a popular form of discipline, including not being able to see a friend who may have been involved in the bullying incidents or taking away electronics.
Along with the discipline, show your child that they have a choice when it comes to bullying. Explain how they can change their behavior. This process may involve your little one learning new skills like:
- Managing anger
- Controlling impulses
- Finding value in themselves if they have self-esteem issues
- Forming healthy friendships
- Resisting peer pressure
A Safe and Nurturing Early Education Experience at Haymarket Children’s Academy
Whether your young child has struggled with bullying or has been the victim of a bully, we invite you to learn about a different kind of early education experience at Haymarket Children’s Academy in Gainesville, VA. We’re passionate about creating a place where children can come to feel nurtured, encouraged and safe. Our fun learning environment allows them to develop and thrive as they learn to be inclusive, honest and confident individuals.