What to do if your child is the bully

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What do you do when you get the dreaded phone call that your child is a bully?.

Your first reaction when you hear the principle on the other end of the phone tell you that your kid has been bullying others may be: "No way, that can't be true!" No parent wants to hear that their child is the bully, and many initially are actually unable to. Bullying, however, should be taken very seriously, even if it is hard to believe that your child is the perpetrator.

This article offers five important ways of handling the accusation that your child may be bullying others at school.

1. Listen. When you get that phone call, take a deep breath, and just hear the person out. Even if you cannot possibly fathom that your child may be bullying others, it is crucial that you do not immediately become defensive and just hear what the caller has to say. Thank them for the call and let them know you are taking it seriously. Schedule a time to meet.

2. Acknowledge that there is most likely a problem. You may feel inclined to write it off as normal teasing or harmless fun, but if you are receiving a phone call, your child's behavior is likely harmful to others.

3. Speak with your son or daughter. Let them know you received a phone call from their school and that you were told they have been bullying. Ask them about what has been going on, whether that is true, and listen to what he or she says. If your child denies everything the caller says, ask them if any small part of what was reported is true.

Your child may be inclined to lie, but it is crucial that they are held accountable for their behavior. Tell them that you love them no matter what, but honesty is very important. Of course, let them know that teasing, hurting or threatening others is intolerable. Try to help them understand what it would be like on the receiving end of the bullying, so that they can have more empathy for the children they are targeting.

This also helps improve their emotional intelligence.

4. Meet with the teacher or principle. Again, listen non-judgmentally. Let them know that you will actively be involved with your son or daughter to stop the situation. Inquire about guidance counseling at school and what kind of mental health support is available.

5. Get to the bottom of the problem. What is going on with your son or daughter that causes him or her to bully? Someone who hurts others is typically hurting on some level him or herself. Look at his or her role models: How is anger and aggression handled at home or places where your child spends a lot of time? Is there something your child is angry about? Try to have an open discussion with your son or daughter about this.

Kids frequently will not open up to their parents. Do not take it personally, but do not let the issue go because your child is not opening up to you. Counseling can be extremely helpful. Choosing a therapist can be difficult, but it is most important that your child feels comfortable with his or her counselor.

Interview a few with your child to find the best fit.

Stopping the problem with your child before it becomes a bigger one is the best plan of action.

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