There is always that one kid at school who tries to intimidate the other kids by bullying. We all worry that our child will be hurt by this kid, but what happens when you find out that YOUR kid is the bully?
It is never easy for parents to accept that their child could be causing harm to others intentionally; in fact parents are often blind to the faults of their child in general. "He is just having a tough day", "She is such a sweetheart when I am around, there is no way my daughter has done that. There must be a mistake", are things that parents will often say if they witness an event or are told of a situation involving their sweetie pie. Of course, sometimes it is true that a child is having an off day, that something affected them in an unusual way and they just lashed out or reacted. But if you are hearing these complaints more than a couple times, it would be best to take them seriously and nip these behaviors in the bud before they develop further. A child's behavior when they are with their parents is not always the same when they are without.
If you suspect that your child is bullying others or acting out in inappropriate ways, take a moment to think about whether something has changed in their home or social environment recently. Children do not know how to vocalize their feelings and concerns and will often misbehave because deep down they feel hurt or lost or angry with something else that has happened or is currently happening. We think of children as adaptable and flexible, that they will just bounce right back. And while children are quite resilient and adaptable, they are still human beings with fragile feelings that haven't perfected their way of handling complex emotions.
If the behavior has started only recently, talk to your child about what has happened, try to get them to open up. Make suggestions as to what the issue might be for them; help them to put words to their feelings so that they can articulate them to you. They often feel alone and confused, but you can show them how to express their feelings in healthy ways and communicate instead of lashing out. Make sure you let them know that it is okay for them to talk to you, allow them to feel safe to say whatever they need to. Do not yell at them about their behavior because they will only clam up and feel more lost and angry. What they need is an outlet and to know they are understood and have support, that they are not alone. It might take a bit of prodding, especially for some particularly stubborn cases, but making suggestions will help. Sometimes physical affection will help them to feel safe to talk about what is going on. Hold them. They may resist any affection at first and may even hit, but if you can, persist. Tell them they are loved no matter what they say or what they are feeling. Once they have opened up and you have gotten to the root of the problem, work on it with them. Find ways to explain what has happened in a way that they can understand. Be open with THEM. This sort of mutual communication builds trust and will help them feel like they can come to you for honest answers and support when something goes amiss for them. Getting to the bottom of the issue and supporting their feelings and helping them understand their emotions will often change the inappropriate behaviors. Do let them know that lashing out at others is not okay, GENTLY, and that you are always there for them when they feel upset. Have them come to you instead or give them another outlet such as drawing or punching a pillow or yelling into one. They need to express their hurt feelings somehow, they just do not often know how.
If the above does not help or if this issue has been going on a long time and has become rooted in their daily lives, it would be best to take your child to a therapist who can help them. There is a good chance that they will not be able to open up with a parent or anyone else whom they already know and have established patterns of communication with, and will need to talk to the therapist ALONE. This can be extremely helpful, as the therapist will try to establish a trusting rapport with the child. Allow your child the opportunity to create this relationship with the therapist on their own, as it will yield the best results.
When in the midst of an abusive situation, it may be difficult to think clearly and come up with a solution to remedy the abuse, while trying to implement it may feel almost impossible. However, given the right tools and the will power to create change, it most certainly is possible, even more so– it is probable. Many may feel overwhelmed and may not know where to start, but it is important to start somewhere.
Please continue to check in with us each week for a new post about abusive behavior and how it can affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is always that first action to helping someone you care about. Let this be it!
Author Bio - Anna Czarska is a writer and actor who has 15+ years of experience dealing with various situations of abuse. She has pursued business ventures and creative pursuits as well as spending time to study psychology in both formal and personal education. For more information, you may find her Linkedin profile here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kasiakraut/