No parent imagines their sweet child could grow up to be a bully. But unfamiliar social situations, frustration with other areas of life, and poor examples of interactions can all contribute to a bully’s behavior. There’s no guarantee that your child will always be a perfect angel, but it’s never too late to take steps in teaching your child to not bully. Here are some ways that can help.
1. Acknowledge your child’s feelings, but also make them aware of how others feel. Instead of saying “You’re feeling mad that Ben took your toy,” you could try “You’re feeling mad that Ben took your toy, but he really wanted to play with you and was also mad that you decided to play by yourself.” By making them aware of how others are feeling, your child will (hopefully) not just consider their own emotions when they make decisions.
2. If they’re old enough, explain to your child what bullying is. Explain that any type of bullying, whether it’s hitting, teasing or spreading rumors, is hurtful to others. If they’re too young to understand the concept of bullying, emphasize that any bullying-behavior (taking toys, hitting, pushing) is wrong and won’t be tolerated by you.
3. Talk about the feelings of others. This is especially helpful for those who can’t talk, like babies or pets. Ask your child “Why do you think that dog is barking?” or “Why is that baby crying?” This gives your child a chance to feel empathy towards others and also put feelings in to words. You can also talk about your own feelings, to better explain how you feel, for example: “I’m sorry that I yelled at you earlier. I was angry that you didn’t pick up your toys when I asked you to and we had company coming over.”
4. Be consistent. This can be hard to keep in check, especially with different personalities living under the same roof. If you tease your spouse, be aware that your child could pick up on the behavior and begin teasing other children. Any name-calling from the child should be addressed immediately, without laughter and eye-rolls. Explain that name-calling can hurt feelings and try to be aware of your own discrepancies with teasing.
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