Education report: Parents can take steps to keep children from becoming bullies

Parents should be alert for signs of bullying.

My recent column on bullying prompted responses from several readers.

One father poignantly wrote: “A bully not checked early in life becomes the aggressive adult male or female who has learned that they can get what they want from bullying.” And in extreme instances, this parent said, “Bullying can lead to murder.” One can but wonder what pain that parent has endured with a child of his.

Granted, his assertion may seem severe, but, regrettably, it may be true. Bullies bully because they can, because they get away with it. Bullies always pick on someone weaker. They seldom return to taunt someone who stood up to them.

So what can parents do to make sure their child is not developing into a bully?

Parents first need to be aware that bullying can take many forms. We traditionally think of it in terms of physical domination, pushing and shoving, for instance. But it can be mental: teasing, spreading false rumors or even ignoring, as examples.

Another, more recent, form comes under the heading of cyber bullying. Wikipedia defines this as “the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm others.” Another on-line source simple calls it “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cellphones, and other electronic devices.” Regardless of the form it takes, parents should not tolerate their child bullying anyone.

But what can you do?

Know signals

First of all, you need to aware of signals that may indicate your child is developing into a bully. Derek Randel, author of “Stopping School Violence,” published a piece titled “When Your Child is the Bully” on the Web page Education World at Home ( in which he lists the following behaviors to watch for:

— A tendency to be aggressive

— More likely to have confrontations with teachers

— Possibly encourages fights with peers

— School achievement declining.

One of these behaviors may not mean much. A child exhibiting several of these needs your immediate attention.

Randel attributes the rise in these behaviors among children to extended exposure to the aggressive and violent acts in the video games they play. Whether that is the case or not, you may want to monitor and limit the time your children spend with such games — or ban them altogether.

Regardless of the cause, if your child starts developing bullying behavior, you must act.

As with so many things parents must deal with, there is no one-size-fits-all rule to apply. Be alert, be sensitive to the situation and be proactive.

Regrettably, some children learn their bullying behavior at home.

Parents or a sibling may be bullying others in the family and the child learns that this is accepted behavior. Survival skills learned at home may carry over to school or other venues. Examine your parenting skills; make sure you are not teaching your children that abuse is tolerated.

Develop clear and consistent rules in your family for dealing with conflicts. You may have to step in sometimes to help settle a dispute, but you also want to encourage your children to find for themselves a non-violent solution to problems among siblings or playmates.

Consistency is key

Consistency is the key. If you have to intercede in a dispute, you must listen impartially to each side and make sure you do not favor one person over another. Use any such moment to teach your child something about fairness and consideration for the other person’s feelings or viewpoint.

And work with the school. It is natural to want to defend your child when he or she is punished for some behavior. Try to remember, however, that school officials do not punish children just for kicks. Your child was involved in some serious incident and more than likely is guiltier than he or she will admit.

Storming into the principal’s office and stating, “My child would never do anything like that” or “My child does not lie” just reveals your naivete

Children regularly become involved in situations they that don’t know how to handle and they react or overreact in ways you never taught them.

Finally, as one bullying resource I consulted suggested, praise your child for following family rules about non-aggressive behavior. Your child expects your protection, but also desperately yearns for your approval.

Charles Cummins, Ed.D., is a retired school administrator. Send questions to him at: [email protected]

Categories: Life and Arts

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