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My Child Is a Bully

How to change bullying behavior



(page 1 of 2)

Parents often worry that their child will be bullied. But what if it’s your child who’s accused of being the bully?

When parents first hear that their child may have bullied another, they often respond with defensiveness: “He would never do that!” Or, “The other kid must have done something to provoke mine.”
“It’s instinctive to take our kid’s side, but all children make less-than-kind choices,” says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, the NJ-based psychologist behind the Great Courses video series Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids. 

“It’s not helpful to refer to children as ‘bullies,’ as if it’s their permanent, unchangeable nature,” says Stuart Green, director of the NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention. Engaging in bullying activity doesn’t make a child a bully. But even in isolated incidents, the behavior does need to be addressed.

Why do kids bully?

Children, particularly young children, may engage in bullying simply because their empathy skills aren’t fully developed. They may not realize the impact their words or actions have on another child and need a parent’s assistance in understanding that.

“Other children may have trouble managing their frustration and anger and may lash out impulsively,” notes Kennedy-Moore. She advises helping these kids find ways to calm themselves and identify and avoid trigger situations.

Kennedy-Moore explains that another group of children who often engage in bullying fall into a group called bistrategic controllers: “These kids really like to be leaders,” she says. “They’re very good at strategically doling out kindness and meanness to increase their own social power.” Such kids need clear limits to redirect their desire to lead in a positive way.

Next page: How to work with the school when your child's accused of bullying and prevent bullying in the first place

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