Bullying has become a national epidemic. According to recent data, between 1/4 and 1/3 of school children say they have been bullied. And, according to surveys, roughly 30% of young people admit to bullying others.
While much research has gone into how we can prevent bullying, and many programs have been implemented and tested in schools, the results have been modest at best.
These modest results suggest that prevention needs to start in the home.
Home life plays a large role in creating a Bully
Research suggests that family life can increase the risk of someone becoming a bully. Certain home life characteristics are more commonly found in youths who bully others compared to those who don’t. The following trends serve as warning signs that trouble may lie ahead:
- Harsh discipline (shaming, insulting, physical threat or harm)
- Lack of warmth or tenderness between parent and child
- Excessive teasing from siblings (or parents)
- Domestic violence between other family members
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Prejudice or hatred against others shown by parents or family members
- Emotional neglect
- Excessive pressure to meet expectations or perform well in the world
The good news is that research has shown that intervening to prevent or end these risk factors in the home can significantly reduce bullying and other youth violence.
If another parent or teacher has told you that your child is being a bully, the first thing to do is sit down and talk with your child. However, don’t scold them right off the bat. Rather allow your child to share their side of the story. Of course this should go without saying, but it’s extremely important that you listen to ensure your child feels that you hear and understand them.
Depending on how old your child is, he or she may open up and admit to the bullying and also offer an explanation, such as they wanted to fit in and be liked, or maybe it was a retaliation.
Many children with low self-esteem bully to feel empowered and noticed.
Some children may not be able to express their thoughts or feelings easily. This is particularly true of younger children who may be struggling with anxiety or other mental health issues.
If your child is a bully, changing their behavior won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. But remaining vigilant is crucial. Continue to create and foster an open line of communication with your child which will help you recognize the signs of trouble. Check in with them daily and ask about their day – what have they planned, something that happened that they enjoyed, and something that happened they didn’t like.
Creating this foundation of communication is vital. Once children know they are expected to share details of their lives on a regular basis, they become more comfortable opening up – even into adolescence and teen years!
Parenting is hard. Finding out your child may be a bully is even harder. If you’re having trouble communicating with your child, consider seeking the guidance and support of an awesome therapist you like and trust to help offer guidance and support.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.