7 Ways to Stop the Bully-Victim Cycle

Ideas for parents to deal with kids who are both bullies and victims

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One of the most complicated types of bullying to address is that of bully-victims. Bully-victims represent kids who are both bullies and victims. They bully others because they too have been bullied.

Because bully-victims face a complicated set of consequences, it is essential that parents and others recognize the challenges they face and design interventions to match their needs. For instance, these kids may benefit from programs that focus on cognitive restructuring, problem solving, conflict resolution and emotions management.

Here are some ideas for helping bully-victims break the cycle of bullying and victimhood.

Work on attitude. Often, bully-victims have negative attitudes and beliefs about themselves and others. Work to change those beliefs. Help your child see that there is good in him and that there is good in other people. For instance, building resilience and self-esteem can accomplish this. If bully-victims have confidence and are assertive without being aggressive, they will have a better chance of breaking the cycle of bullying.

Impart social skills. Many times, bully-victims struggle with social interaction. They also may lack problem-solving skills. Identify the areas where your child struggles and help him overcome these challenges. Provide examples of different challenging situations and brainstorm together how these situations might be handled. The goal is to give him several options for dealing with difficult situations.

Help them make friends. Peers not only negatively influence bully-victims, but they also reject and ostracize them. Look for ways to help your child make a few friends. Not only do friendships prevent bullying, but they also provide the social support that bully-victims are often lacking.

Teach them to manage emotions.

Bully-victims often struggle to manage their emotions. Frequently, they have a heightened sense of awareness of what is going on around them. As a result, they respond quickly and aggressively to even normal conflicts. They also react strongly to name-calling, teasing and bullying. Provide your child with the skills needed to respond in a calm and rational manner. Lashing out is a response others are looking for. So work with him to change his responses.

Impart empathy. While you want to help your child heal and overcome bullying, it’s also extremely important that your child understands that the choice to bully was his. Being bullied by others does not excuse his actions nor does it give him a reason to pick on other people. Because your child knows what it feels like to be a victim, stress that his bullying also inflicted pain on another person. Try to get him to see what it feels like to be the other person. Another good option is to have your child repeat back to you what he did wrong.

You also should implement consequences for his bullying behaviors. The key is to do something to ensure that your child understands that bullying is a choice and is never acceptable.

Focus on academics. Generally, bully-victims struggle with academics. The challenges they face with being both a bully and a victim often keep them so on edge and preoccupied that their studies will suffer. Instead, try to find ways to make academics take center stage. Teach them ways to stop ruminating about the bullying or the victims they are going to target and instead focus on what is most important about school. And if a bully-victim struggles in a particular subject, look for ways to help him improve. For instance, would an online program or an after-school tutor help? Explore all options to determine what is best for your child.

Seek outside help. Because bully-victims are bullied consistently, you also need to help your child overcome any effects of bullying. Be sure to look for signs of depression, thoughts of suicide, eating disorders and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Meanwhile, if the bullying is related to cliques or peer pressure, then help him navigate those experiences as well. Don’t be afraid to contact a counselor or your child’s doctor for help. These outside professionals can help your child learn to deal effectively with negative emotions and consequences of bullying. They also can help your child learn to refrain from bullying others by managing anger, changing his mindset and learning self-control.

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