Ways to Discipline Your Child for Bullying Others

Tips for addressing bullying by your child

Girl rolling her eyes at parents

Nothing is more unsettling than learning that your child is a bully. In fact, no parent wants to get a call from the school or another parent and hear that his child is bullying other kids. But the fact is, a lot of kids bully others. Even the most well-mannered kids can engage in bullying. So do not be shocked if you get that call.

The point is not to dwell in your surprise but to move forward and take action.

Also remember, there are a variety of reasons why one child bullies another. For instance, sometimes bullying is the product of peer pressure or a sense of entitlement. Other times, it is a reaction to having been a victim of bullying. And sometimes the bullying results from your child’s inability to control impulses or manage anger.

Regardless of the reason behind your child’s actions, you have to discipline your child for his poor choices. After all, the bullying behaviors will not end unless your child takes responsibility for his actions, admits his mistakes and learns how to change his behavior. Here are ten ways to address your child’s bullying behavior.

Address the bullying immediately

Once you learn that your child has bullied another child, it is imperative that you talk with him right away. Doing so demonstrates not only that you aware of the situation, but also that bullying is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Although you do not have to list the consequences immediately, you do need to talk to your child about his actions. Let him know that he will be disciplined for his choices.

Determine the root cause.

In order to develop the correct plan of discipline for your child, you need to find out why your child chose to bully another child.

For example, if your child is a bully-victim, you will need to deal with his bullying but also help him cope with the bullying he has endured. Meanwhile, if your child bullied other kids because he wants to be popular or be part of a clique, then you will need to address the importance of healthy friendships and resisting peer pressure. But remember, the goal is not to give your child an excuse for his behavior. Instead, this information will give you an idea of how to address his poor choices and discipline him appropriately.

Remind your child that bullying is a choice.

Your child needs to recognize that no matter the reason behind his bullying behavior, bullying was a choice he made. And he is responsible for his actions. As a result, you need to be sure that your child owns his choice and accepts responsibility. Sometimes kids refuse to take responsibility. Do not let this attitude slide. Continue discussing the situation until your child can communicate that he understands his responsibility.

Develop logical consequences.

We have all heard the statement: “the punishment should fit the crime.” This is especially true when it comes to discipline for bullying. If, for example, your child was using his computer or cell phone to cyberbully others, then a logical consequence would be a loss of computer privileges and cell phone use. Likewise, if your child used his status on the football team to bully others or bullied others because he is part of a clique, then he should lose that status for a period of time. You might choose to “suspend” him from a game or two or not allow him to spend time with the friends who participated in the bullying with him. Just remember that every bullying situation is different and as a result the consequences will be different.

Take away privileges.

Losing privileges is a popular form of discipline for teens and is usually very effective. For example, you can take away electronics, the use of the family car, the privilege of attending parties or special events, social media use and even the ability to stay home alone. The list is endless. The point is to demonstrate that bullying behavior has consequences and will not be tolerated. Just be sure that once you take something away that you do not give in later. Also be clear on the length of time that the privilege will be revoked.

Support the school’s disciplinary plan.

Although this is usually very difficult for parents, it is an extremely important thing to do. When you partner with the school and support the plan they are implementing, you are allowing your children to learn a valuable life lesson. It also shows them that there are consequences for bad choices and Mom or Dad will not rescue them. The worst decision you could make is to enable his bad decisions by attempting to rescue him from the pain of consequences.

Teach your child new skills.

Pay attention to the details of your child’s bullying behavior. Are there skills your child is lacking that may prevent future bullying incidents like anger management and impulse control? Or, is your child bullying to fit in or garner attention? If so, this could be a self-esteem issue. Help your child see his value and worth outside of what peers have to say. And if bullying is related to cliques, help your child develop healthy friendships.

Avoid shaming your child.

Lately, parents have started shaming their kids as a way of disciplining them. For instance, they make their child wear a sign and stand on a street corner. Or, they take an embarrassing picture of their child and post it on a social network with a lengthy explanation of their child’s transgressions. While these actions have attracted media attention, they are not useful discipline strategies. Instead, kids learn that it is acceptable to embarrass and humiliate others. Additionally, shaming is a form of bullying and should not be used to discipline.

Concentrate on instilling empathy.

Talk about the consequences of bullying. And be sure your child takes the time to really think about how he would feel if he was the one being bullied. When kids learn to see things from a different perspective, they are less likely to bully again in the future.

Prevent future bullying incidents.

Sometimes when bullying is caught early and addressed appropriately, it usually won’t happen again. But do not automatically assume this is the case. Instead, monitor your child’s behavior and continue to discipline if necessary. If given the right skill set, most bullies can change. It just takes some time. 

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