What to do when your child is the bully


What to do when your child is the bully

Bullying among children is a growing problem many parents are eager to address. A quick online search will offer tons of advice designed to help a child confront and respond to bullies. But what should you do when your kid is the bully?
First, says Dr. Lucretia Carter, a pediatrician at Tidelands Health Pediatrics in Myrtle Beach, don’t jump to conclusions about your child, your parenting or the incident that took place.
“It can be difficult for a parent to hear that his or her child has been caught bullying another child, and it can provoke strong reactions,” says Dr. Carter. “However, the most important thing you can do for everyone involved is to approach the situation calmly and clearly.”

First steps

Dr. Carter recommends getting all of the information you can from the adults who have contacted you. Before you approach your child, make sure you understand:

  • What happened and how
  • Whether it’s possible the accusation is in error
  • If there were any triggers or extenuating circumstances

“While we want to protect children who are being bullied, we also want to make sure that children aren’t being disciplined for events that were misunderstood or that didn’t happen as reported,” she says.

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On the other hand, if the evidence indicates your child was bullying, discuss the incident with your child. Ask your child to tell you clearly and specifically what happened. If there was a trigger for the bullying, explore it with your child. It may reveal a deeper issue that may be causing your child to act out. 
When you talk with your child, be clear about the behavior that you’re addressing. 
“It’s best to avoid blanket instructions like, ‘don’t bully,’” says Dr. Carter. “Instead, be specific. Say things like, ‘I won’t tolerate you hitting other children,’ or ‘it’s not acceptable to let your anger lead to name-calling.’”

Next steps

Finally, seek help from a professional if your child persists in bullying other children or seems to be acting out for other reasons. Dr. Carter says your pediatrician is an excellent place to start. 
“Not every child who bullies understands they may be causing serious harm,” says Dr. Carter. “Some may be acting out in some way or may even be victims of bullying themselves. That’s why it’s important to avoid labeling your child a ‘bad kid,’ but instead to see him or her as a child who needs help.”

 Dr. Lucretia Carter is a pediatrician who practices at Tidelands Health Pediatrics in Myrtle Beach. 

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