So what can you do to address the problem? First and foremost, remember that even if your child has bullied another child, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is a bully. There are many factors that combine to cause a true bullying problem. There are a number of things that you can to to determine the true extent of the problem.
• Get as much information as you can.
If the problem is occurring at school, talk to your child’s teachers, the principal, lunchroom staff – anyone who might have information. Try to find out the circumstances of the incidents – was your child frustrated for some reason? Is this a new problem or has it been building? Who are the kids being targeted and what has your child’s relationship with them been? Ask everything you can think of.
• Get information from your child.
Your first impulse may be to ignore the problem or try to punish your child severely enough that the problem won’t occur again. But neither of these approaches gets to the source of the problem. If you don’t know that your child was thinking or feeling, you can’t determine how to intervene.
• Encourage empathy.
Discuss the situation in a way that will help your child be empathic towards the victim. For example, you might have him tell you how the other child feels or role-play with him, with your child playing the other child.
• Be specific about consequences.
Make sure your child understands that bullying is not acceptable in your family and knows the consequences if it continues.
• Make sure you aren’t sending mixed messages.
Sometimes parents may communicate to their child that certain behaviors are okay without realizing it. For example, some kids may interpret messages like “boys will be boys” as a tacit acceptance of bullying behavior. Other kids may interpret a parent’s determination that their child be the best as approval for whatever behavior is necessary to actually be the best.
• Consider seeing a child psychologist.
If your child is having a problem with bullying – beyond just an incident or two – and you are having trouble addressing it, a therapist may be able to help. A child psychologist can help your child understand her feelings and behavior and practice alternate ways of dealing with peers. A psychologist can also help you understand the most productive ways that you can help your child.