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Are you the Parent of a Bully?

Yesterday I blogged about an important topic on the minds of parents this back to school season – bullying. I talked about signs that indicate a child is being bullied and practical steps that a parent can take to prevent or curb this insidious problem. But some parents may have a bullying problem at their child’s school and not even realize it. This is because, for those parents, their child is the school bully.

Children exhibit bullying behavior for a number of reasons. Bullying is often a reaction to physical or emotional abuse or neglect at the home. Bullies often turn to tormenting others because they feel powerless or lost. Other mental or emotional problems may also come into play in a child who bullies.

For parents, it may not always be apparent that their child is bullying at school. Here are a few signs to look for if you suspect your child might be a school bully:

• Lacks empathy; does not sympathize with others
• Shows or values aggression
• Likes to be in charge, sometimes almost compulsively so
• Is a poor winner and a sore loser
• Picks fights with brother and sisters
• Displays impulsive behavior

If you suspect that your child is bullying other children, you have a responsibility to your child and his or her victims to step up and take a stand. A bully can terrorize his or her victims, leaving them mentally and even physically scarred and disrupting their valuable education. Bullying behavior also indicates that a child is choosing inappropriate behaviors in his or her day to day social relations, an eventuality that could turn tragic if it follows them into adulthood.

If your child is accused of bullying at school:

1.) Take the accusation seriously. Parents who have never experienced the emotional toll that bullying takes on victims may be tempted to say that the children should work the problem out themselves. This is not the case. Your child is acting inappropriately and another child is being hurt. Bullying is not a normal part of childhood.

2.) Talk to your child. Children often bully because they are feeling angry, sad, lonely or insecure. Perhaps a change at home has brought on this behavior. If you can find and curb the reason for the bullying behavior, you can often stop the destructive bullying.

3.) Talk to your child’s teacher, counselor or school administration. If you can’t pinpoint the source of bullying behavior, it may stem from something that is happening at school. Your child may be struggling with his or her studies or failing to make friends. These factors can cause a child to lash out.

4.) Encourage empathy. Young bullies may not recognize the effects of their actions. Encourage them to put themselves in their victim’s shoes.

If you suspect that you are the parent of a bully, act. Even though bullying behavior may not be negatively affecting your child in an obvious way, it is allowing other children to be hurt. As an adult, you can never stand for that.