I wonder why there are so many more posts on ‘how to cope with bullying’ than ‘what to do if your child is a bully?’ Is it because parents would prefer to believe that their child is being bullied rather than accept that their child may be a bully? Or do some parents of bullies (especially in the Indian context) actually, somewhere deep inside, feel a faint sense of pride and relief that their child is on the giving and not the receiving end? Do they think, “Well, other children should learn to take care of themselves; it’s not our problem if they can’t stand up to my child.”Whatever the reasons, I thought it would be interesting to actually write about how to manage your child if you discover that he is a bully—for remember, for every child that is bullied, there is a bully out there, and he could very well be your child.
It can be upsetting to find out that your child is being labelled a bully. But learn to manage your emotions and put them behind you; focus on what you need to do for your child to ensure that this behaviour does not repeat. Whether physical or verbal, this behaviour must be stopped because it can lead to more anti-social behaviour as your child grows up and frankly, no one likes a person—child or adult—who hurts others. You don’t want your child to be unpopular and friendless, do you?
The most important thing to do is identify why your child is resorting to such behaviour. Does it arise from some insecurity at home—maybe problems within the family, a change such as death of someone close or even a mother starting full-time work, or an extremely dominating caretaker? The insecurity that the child feels is manifested as a desire to pick on someone weaker than him and thus feel powerful and in control.
Often, children imitate behaviour they see around them. So if they have an older sibling or friend or parent who is a bully and who gets away with this kind of behaviour, they will be emboldened to behave in the same manner. And of course, a child who has been a victim of bullying can very well turn around and become the aggressor when he finds someone physically or emotionally weaker than him! This gives him a sense of satisfaction and compensates for the humiliation that he has undergone at someone else’s hands.