What to Do When Your Child Is Bullying--or Being Bullied

Parents need to watch for patterns of behavior that indicate their children are being bullied--or are bullies themselves. Ultimately, it is parents' responsibility to identify their children's behavior. If you know that your child has been bullying others, try to identify his or her sources of frustration. Once you have identified the sources, you can work with your child to either eliminate his or her frustrations or learn how to handle them in a positive manner.

If your child is bullying:

1. Be very clear that bullying is wrong and that you do not approve of the behavior in any way.

2. Decide on clear and nonviolent restrictions for your child if he or she is caught bullying. These restrictions should include making apologies to the person or persons bullied and making restitution beyond whatever damage was done.

3. Know where your child is. Improve your supervision of his or her activities.

4. Communicate as often as possible with the teachers and administrators at your child's school so that you are kept in the loop regarding your child's behavior. Also communicate with other parents.

5. When your child makes an effort to behave in nonaggressive ways, recognize and praise the behavior.

6. Reduce or eliminate your child's access to violent electronic games, television, and movies.

7. If you behave aggressively toward your child, do things to change your own behavior. Your child will start to model your new behavior.

If your child is being bullied:

1. Tell your child to stick with others and stay in a group. Bullies don't usually bully kids who stay in groups.

2. If the abuse is verbal only, you may want to tell your child to ignore it. Sometimes bullies will just move on if they are ignored. Another approach, of course, is for the child to confront the bully. Sometimes bullies stop when confronted.

3. If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, suggest that he or she print copies of the harassing messages and give them to the principal before deleting them. Caution your child to give his or her email address only to trusted friends and adults.

4. Encourage your child to talk to other adults, perhaps a teacher or counselor, about what is happening. This can help get the problem out in the open where solutions can be found.

--Adapted from Baby Years.

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