This month with Parent Ministry for Kids our online parenting class focused on how to help parents when their children are being bullied. One of our sharp children’s ministry subscribers emailed us and asked the question from some of her parents, what do we do if our child is the bully!
Today in the Tennessean they reported that this past year there were over 5,400 cases of documented bullying in schools. That number is staggering when you think about the fact that those are only the reported cases. With all of those reports there was a kid that was acting out as the bully and there were kids being bullied. We have to remember that many times there are parents on both sides of the spectrum that are asking the same question…what do we do?
When you discover that your child is acting out as a bully you have to step back and remind yourself that you child is not “a bully” they are choosing bullying bahvior. Rosalind Wiseman is an internationally recognized author and educator of children and teens. She wrote Queen Bees and Wannabees, the book that inspired the movie Mean Girls, and developed a bullying curriculum used nationwide by teachers and administrators. She urges parents to understand the following:
- Roles change // Today the bully. Tomorrow, the bullied. Children are not fixed in their roles. Depending on the situation, children can just as easily be the bully as they can the target.
- They have a private life // Parents must assume and accept that they won’t know everything that goes on with their child.
- Kids have 2 sides // Children will act differently at home than they will at school. Your 7th grade son who kisses you goodnight before grabbing his stuffed animal will never show that side of himself to his friends.
- You’re still a good parent // There are many reasons why parents aren’t aware of their child’s inappropriate behavior, and it’s not because the parent is irresponsible.
As parents we have to step back and remember that God gave us this role to be an influence in our child’s life. Difficult times create opportunities for us to influence because they demand our focus. Being alerted that your child is acting out as a bully is an opportunity to step in and help. Check out this verse from Proverbs 12:1(NLT)…
To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.
If you’re stuck in a moment where your child is acting out as a bully then you have a chance to help them learn. You get the honor of helping them work through a season of growth. We never grow apart from discipline and our kids will never grow if at times we don’t step in and help them find the way. It’s stupid for our children to hate correction but it’s just as crazy for parents to ignore the problem and resist giving correction. This challenge is your opportunity to influence.
So if you find your child is the one who is being a bully here are a few steps will help guide you in the moment…
- Don’t freak out // As a parent it’s our tendency to overreact and allow our frustration to guide our next few steps. Slow down, get perspective, gather the right information, get advice, cover the matter in prayer, and then move forward with helping your child.
- Resist the blame game // It’s so easy as a parent to want to allow our embarrassment to push us to blame other people and ourselves for the behavior of our kids. Own what you need to own, but blaming will never help your child move forward.
- Confront your child with love, respect, and patience // You have to confront your child and the way you confront matters. Don’t bully your child to get them to stop bullying others. Stay calm and lean into your child with love and compassion and not anger.
- Set the standard // Our children have to know what we expect of them, so immediately remind them of your standards and the way you expect them to treat others. Many times kids who are bullies have learned to talk their way out of situations. Don’t let their excuses change your expectations of them.
- Stay connected and find partners // Don’t handle this alone. Stay connected with friends and let them into the situation. Many families go through this but try to hide the problems. Find partners (teachers, pastors, small group leaders, Sunday school teachers, family friends).
- Spend strategic time with your child // Make a plan to schedule intentional one on one time with your child who is struggling to shore up that relationship. Many times kids who bully just need to know they matter and that you believe in them. Investing time solves so many issues.
- Check in regularly with your school // Leverage relationships with teachers, administrators, and counselors at school to get up to date information about what is happening during the day at school. Make sure they know you are working to help your child deal with the problem.
- Don’t resist getting help // If you feel like you are not breaking through never hesitate to get help from a professional counselor and your pediatrician. Asking for help will only help you to have the best plan possible for your child.
Discovering your child is acting out as a bully is frustrating but it’s a great opportunity to step in and influence them and lead them toward an “others first mentality.” Your child has a great shot at overcoming this because you are willing to guide them through it.