As much as it disturbs us, a bully’s aggression and a mean girl’s cruelty are often a surprise to their parents. Is there anything you can do as a parent to prevent your teen from becoming a bully?
As a parent, you have more influence than you may think. When it comes to your teen and bullying, here are a few preventive things you can do:
Step One: Investigate and Evaluate
Look closely at your teenager. Listen objectively to what matters to him or her.
– Know your teen. He or she isn’t little anymore. What is his or her personality really like? You may have only an inkling of who he or she is at school or out there in cyberspace. Are there any characteristics that may make bullying attractive to your child? For example, some kids are naturally more dominant although this doesn’t make them automatic bullies. As a parent, you can steer your child productively, encouraging your teen to seek opportunities for leadership rather than control.
– Know your teen’s struggles. What is he or she is dealing with internally?
- Insecurity? Peers are paramount to most teens. Sometimes low self-esteem or loneliness can lead your teen towards aggressive social intimidation in order to secure a desired social status.
- Superiority? High self-esteem is a good thing until those who posses it require other people to submit to their obvious authority.
- Anxiety? It’s not easy being a teenager, especially since the advent of social media. Kids who feel burdened to be constantly available, exciting, and desirable may pick on those who operate outside of those concerns.
Try to gauge the influence of your child’s social world. You may gain a clearer understanding of how your child sees him or herself. From there, you can compassionately and more accurately interact with your child.
Step Two: Demonstrate, Appreciate, and Regulate
Show your teen what it looks and sounds like to be compassionate and connected to others. Set standards of respect for your entire family.
– Foster kindness, encouragement, tolerance, and respect. Examine your own behavior and interactions. Are you empathetic or indifferent? Do you default to intimidation or threats when you’re frustrated? What has your child learned from you? Teens, despite their growing independence, still look to their parents to model supportive relationships and emotion management.
– Praise and reinforce the good stuff. Everyone wants to be affirmed. The more competent your son or daughter feels at managing family relationships, the more positively he or she will approach peers. Remind your teen of how proud you are of the young adult he or she is becoming.
– Monitor your teen’s actions and interactions. Set clear, respectful expectations to be followed at home, away, and on the Internet. Tell it like it is. Let your child know that bullying is not acceptable behavior.
Step Three: Educate
Talk your teen. Reinforce appropriate social skills. Ask specific questions. Help your teen recognize the impact of bullying.
– Draw your teen’s attention to the appropriate way to solve problems. What will he or she do when opinions, belief systems, and needs clash? Will he or she compromise or control? What are the consequences for failing to use restraint?
– Teach your teen to appreciate differences. Belonging to one group or another isn’t everything. Remind him or her that everyone has value. Point out the positives that accompany a wide variety of personality types, interests, backgrounds, and social groups.
– Refer to familiar instances of bullying. Look at the whole picture, consider all the angles with your teen. Emphasize issues of compassion and justice.