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How to handle a bully child

13 steps on 'How to handle a bully child'

Handling bullies is not a piece of cake. But if we have a bully kid, we have no choice but to try everything available on earth to stop this behavior. Remember Bullying is more harmful for the bully than the victim.

The following strategies would certainly help you in your mission.

  •     Accept the fact that your child is a bully
  •     Keep your cool
  •     Talk to the child
  •     Unconditional apology
  •     Unconditional love
  •     Collecting information
  •     Analysis of information
  •     Understanding your bully: finding root cause of bullying
  •     Chalk out 'Stop Bully' Plan & stretegy
  •     Eliminate the root cause that promotes bullying
  •     How to help bullies grow out of bullying
  •     Contact the School
  •     followup

1. Accepting the fact that your child is a bully

I know it is not that easy. Nobody likes to accept facts like this. But we can’t solve a problem as long as we don’t accept it as a problem. One we recognize and accept a problem with a constructive frame of mind, our mind starts working on it and keeps finding ways to solve it. Necessity has always been the mother of all inventions. But the necessity must be accepted first.

Wake up to this issue as soon as you get any complaint from any body about your child having bullied anybody anywhere, even to a mild extent. Accept it ... and take it seriously. Take action NOW before it is too late to solve.

2. Keeping your cool

Keeping a cool mind is the key to solve any problem. If we get too much emotionally involved in this, we would lose track and start emotionally vomiting on the child. Do not scold the child for this as this would make the situation worse. Scolding is a kind of bullying. Scolding would reinforce the bully behavior in the child. He learns that elders can bully younger by scolding them. Have patience to collect all information to solve the issue.

3. Talk to the bully child

Talk to the child. But only when there is no one else around the place and you have enough time to discuss. Talk with a cool mind. Without loading your words with humiliation, insult or any other negative emotion. Tell him that you have come to know that he has been bullying around. Be brief. Do not quote any specific incident in finer details.

Let the child explain his side also. He should not be held guilty unheard. But beware. Check his story. He may be telling lies to save him. Double check his story.

Tell him in a neutral but assertive tone that the bully behavior is not acceptable and he has to stop the bully behavior right away. Tell him that you take it very seriously and it disturbs you a lot, and if he continues to bully, there are consequence.

4. Unconditional Apology

Make the child apologize to the victim … unconditionally. Apology should be one to one with the victim. Do not involve anybody else in this. The bully child wouldn’t like to apologize. He might make faces doing it. But this is a must. The child has to get the feel of the humiliation that he caused to the victim. This would also make it very clear to the bully that bullying is not acceptable at all. Let it be in a lonely place. This would be a little comfortable for the bully.

5. Unconditional love

While we are working with the problem, we need to send a message to our little bully that we love him unconditionally irrespective of the fact that he bullies. Do not assign him a permanent role of bully. Do not pass insulting or sarcastic remarks. This would send a negative message. Do not let the issue of bullying affect any other aspect of the family life. Let all other things go in a normal routine. Do not forget to keep hugging the child and telling him that you love him.

6. Collecting Information

Before finding ways to correct the problem, we need to collect all the facts and information about the problem. These can be collected from the school teachers, classmates, neighborhood children, relatives’ and friends’ children, especially who are younger or weaker than our children. We need to keep collecting the information time to time so that we can monitor the degree of the bullying over a period of time during which we can start the process of correcting the bullying behavior. See if there is any similarity or pattern in the incidents of bullying.

7. Analysis of information

When we have collected all the information, we need to analyze the bullying events. This would help us in identifying bullies pattern. There can be lots of things to be gone into. Some of them could be:

  •     Is there any similarity in these events?
  •     Are the target victims always one kind of kids?
  •     Is the place of occurrence always the same?
  •     Is the time of occurrence always the same?
  •     Does the child bully when he is supported or encouraged by another bully?
  •     Does the child bully only for one type of reason or demand?
  •     Is he always violent?
  •     Does he always call names?
  •     Does he use any particular bad words and language?
  •     Does he bully after occurrence of any specific incident?
  •     Does the child feel good by hurting others?
  •     Does he feel that he is bigger and stronger than his peers and use this as a tool to tease others?
  •     Has he been bullied by someone sometimes and feel like bullying others to avenge?
  •     what are his hobbies?
  •     What kind of friends he has?
  •     what kind of games he plays?
  •     Does he share his belongings? Etc.

Collecting and analyzing information would reveal a lot of new things about the bully. On the basis of the analysis, we can identify what kind of bully the child is. Is he temporary bully or hard core bully? He is abusive bully or violent bully? What things encourage the behavior and what are the things that discourage the behavior? Etc.

8. Understanding our bully: finding root cause of bullying

Understanding bullies from their point of view would give us valuable in depth understanding of the problem. We need to have a bond with the child so that the child can talk to us open heartedly. We need to find out what does the child feel like while bullying. If he enjoys it, we need to find out some other acceptable behavior where he can enjoy without hurting anyone, and replace that behavior with bullying.

There are lots of reason for why do kids bully. Every child might have a different reason to bully. Based on the analysis of the information, we can find out what triggers the bully behavior in the child? Is the behavior inherent or Learned. If the root cause is an inherent behavior only, we need to take steps accordingly. Fix appointments with a doctor, developmental therapists, child-psychologists etc. and explore why your child bullies.

If we totally rule out the Inherent behavior, we need to find the sources from where the child could have possibly learned that behavior. Click here to read how to find the source of a learned behavior. We need to look at ourselves first, what kind of source we are to teach behavior to our kids. Parents are the biggest influence on the child’s behavior.

9. Chalk out 'Stop Bully' Plan & Strategy

Knowing most of the things about the bullying behavior of the child, we can chalk out a plan to correct the problem. We need to select some discipline techniques and ascertain the degree of these techniques. For temporary bullies, milder action might be suitable. But for hardcore Bullies, severe and consistent steps need to be taken. Choose your discipline techniques carefully. Consequences are okay but never use physical punishment. It will teach violence to the child. It will also teach that it is okay for a big and strong to physically assault a younger and weaker. The basic thing we need to teach the child to treat others the way we like to be treated.

10. Eliminating the root cause that promotes bullying

By this time you know the root cause of the problem. Make sure you eliminate all the root causes to their maximum extents. Ensure the child does not remain in the company of other kids who help, support or motivate the child to bully. Removing things which motivate the child to bully and apologizing would break the bully pattern. The next step is to replace the negative things with some positive things.

11. How to help bullies grow out of bullying

We can’t change the bully unless bully cooperates in the process. The bully wouldn’t want to change. We need to help the bully child grow out of the bully behavior himself. Here are some suggestions:

  • Start some activities where the child learns that love and attention can be gained by doing some thing positive, which makes him feel good. If we feel good, we do good. And when we do good we feel good. Once he does something good, he will feel good.
  • Help the child develop new things to do where involvement of other child, waiting for turns.. etc.. are involved. Keep a watch on the activities.
  • Encourage friendship with other new friends who don’t bully.
  • Teach some social techniques to the children.
  • Motivate the child to be friendly with the victim. Encourage their friendship.
  • Try and Pick up some good anger management technique, learn them yourself first and once you have attained some grasp over it, teach them to the bully. It would be a life long investment.
  • Encourage the child to involve in some social activities like donating old toys and old clothes to poor kids and societies, helping handicapped children, working with mentally retarded children etc.
  • Praise and Reward the child for any of his kind, caring and compassionate behavior. It will reinforce the thought that there are better ways to attract attention of others.

12. Contact the School

Parents of bully should contact schools and support school’s Anti Bullying Programme. They should also meet the victims and their parents. This will provide them valuable information which would help in improving the behavior of the bully child.

13. Follow up

Keep a track of the child’s behavior. Keep collecting information about it. Analyze the events. Make appropriate changes in the plan and strategy if the need be. Be consistent unless the bully tendencies eliminate altogether.


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