Parenting is no easy feat as your job entails educating your child on how to make good choices, recognizing and maximizing your child’s innate capabilities, and teaching the skills necessary to appropriately function in society. While under your tutelage, your child’s behaviors, both positive and negative, can often times feel like a direct reflection of your own character. It is not a wonder that parents will instill within their child their core values and beliefs with the desire that their child emulate similar characteristics. But what happens when your child displays negative, bullying behaviors? What does that say about you? How do you aid your child in demonstrating the socially appropriate and expected behaviors you work so hard to teach?
What to do if your child is a bully:
- Make sure that your child is aware of the underlying message and meaning behind right vs. wrong behaviors. Don’t just say, “Don’t hit, it’s bad.” Explain the reason why this behavior is negative. “Hitting is not right because you could hurt someone’s body or their feelings; how do you feel when you’re hit, etc.”
- Teach your child what to do instead of the negative, non-preferred behavior. Besides just telling your child not to hit or push because it can impact another person’s safety, arm your child with what they can do instead when they feel mad or frustrated. For example, if your child feels mad when he is confronted to share a toy, you can educate him on the importance or turn taking, collaborating with others, or simply using his words vs. his body to communicate his dismay. Practicing effective communication skills regardless of age can help reduce negative behavioral reactions and facilitate appropriate compromise and negotiation skills.
- Operate with positive reinforcement instead of consequences. Motivate your child to access pro-social behaviors through the usage of a behavior chart. The incentives received from positive behaviors may provide the external motivation necessary to implement the impulse control required for appropriate decision-making necessary.
- Check in with your own feelings about your child’s behaviors. Know that you are working hard to assist your child in adjusting appropriately in various situations and try to stay calm when your child makes an unfavorable choice. Get down on his level, express why the choice he made is unfavorable, and provide examples for what he can do to correct the behavior (i.e. apologize, use his words, share the preferred item). Encourage your child to re-work the problem to gain a positive framework for what is expected of him in the future.