Whilst there are no excuses for bullying other people, there are genuine reasons why a young person may be bullying.
If you discover your child has been bullying, you should be open to these reasons and not simply dismiss them.
Bullying can be motivated by a number of things including:
Frustration as a result of being bullied themselves
Frustration with the behaviour of the victim of the bullying
Seeing others – particularly adults – bully to get what they want
It is important to explore the reasons behind the bullying and help them to find better ways of expressing frustration/anger, and negotiating what they want to achieve. If you punish bullying without attempting to sort out what is behind it, it will make the problem worse.
Most parents and carers find out that their child is bullying through being called in to talk to their teachers. It is often very difficult to accept that your child could do such a thing. Your instant reaction may well be that he or she would never behave like that and has been wrongly accused.
Sometimes children and young people are accused of bullying as a result of a misunderstanding. However, it is also true that almost all of us are guilty of bullying behaviour at some point in our lives, and that unless steps are taken to help us change, it can become a real problem. So it's a good idea to start by believing that your child may be bullying and try to find out why and help them to stop.
Here are some ideas for addressing the issue from BeatBullying:
Find a quiet place where you won't be interrupted to speak about it.
Tell them that you think or know (depending on which is the case) that they are bullying, that this is unacceptable, that they will have to change and that you will help them and support them.
Ask them why they are behaving in this way and show them that you really want to know by listening to them.
Be prepared to listen without judging, and be sensitive to the needs and fears of your child. Be aware that he or she may be afraid of your anger at finding out about the bullying. Also be aware thatthey may be used to you not challenging such behaviour and always backing them up. You may need to slightly change the way that you behave towards your child in order to help them change.
Try not to label the child a 'bully' and make sure that you condemn bullying without condemning them. This is not in any way to suggest that you excuse the bullying, but if you label a child 'bad' rather than his or her behaviour, it will make it harder for them to take responsibility for it and choose differently next time.
Help your child find and put into practice alternative ways to cope in situations where they bully. Children and young people who bully are often quite unhappy or insecure. As a parent or carer, you are in a very good position to try to build up your child's self-esteem and find out what, if anything, may be troubling them and making them angry and upset.
It is very important that you show your child that you are interested in sorting out why they feel the need to bully rather than just punishing the bullying itself.