When your child is the bully

All Woman

AS a parent you don't want to get a call that your child is being harassed, but what could be worse is a call informing you that your usually sympathetic child is the perpetrator of the harassment. And while this can be quite shattering, clinical psychologist Dr Pearnel Bell says that these situations must be handled rationally.

“Bullying is a very serious issue and can have psychological implications for the victim as well as the bully, and as such it is important that parents seek to first speak with the child to get an understanding of what happened without being judgemental, because this can be counterproductive,” Dr Bell explained.

She noted that quite often the children are not intentionally unkind or malicious, but may be fuelled by challenges that they are experiencing or situations that they are in which must be addressed in order to help them get past their unkind habits.

“The bully may be experiencing feelings of powerlessness, feelings of inadequacy, seeking attention or wanting to take revenge because of a perception of ill-treatment. These feelings lead the bully into wanting to take out their anger on someone they perceive as an easy target. The victim of bullying may also be experiencing anxiety, psychological problems, or an increased desire to self-harm,” Dr Bell underscored.

To best assist your child who is harassing other children, Dr Bell said there are a number of routes to take.

1. Do not get angry. Be calm and get to the bottom of what happened. Focus on your child and do not let him/her divert attention to others; keep the discussion on your child.

2. Empathy is an important quality to develop. Help your child to understand how the other person feels by asking how he would feel if someone treated him that way. Use scenarios and anecdotes to help your child understand this.

3. Help your child to understand that he/she has erred. This process should result in your child showing remorse and making amends to the victim.

4. Parents should always remember that they themselves should not stray from the situation at hand or try to make excuses. This will only hurt the child, and their behaviour may continue to spiral into other unhealthy habits. Parents must do their very best to help the child to identify the cause of bullying so that they may explore alternative ways to satisfy the need for attention, for example, getting the school involved and asking them to assist with monitoring the child's behaviour.

5. Become an active parent in the school life of your child. This way you can also better monitor the child even at school.

6. Parents should model the behaviour they want their children to display. So you should not display hateful behaviours towards others, such as gossiping or speaking unkind words to others in the presence of your children. Treat people with respect, show kindness, and give love so that your children can mirror your actions.

7. Parents should examine what is going on in the home that could be contributing to the unkind behaviour. Every effort should be made to address this. If the child is experiencing feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness or seeking attention, you may want to address these by spending more time with the child, giving the child attention, helping them to find hobbies that they like so they may feel fulfilled.

— PENDA HONEYGHAN

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