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What To Do If Your Child Is A Bully

As parents, it’s natural to be protective and constantly on the lookout for bullies. But, what if your child is the bully? Did you just say “cannot be”? 

We speak to Ms Tan Kai Lin, Counsellor from Singapore Children’s Society to find out how parents can identify if their child is a bully and what can be done to intervene.

Signs Of A Bully

  • How your child interact with his peers or siblings – does he exclude certain children from joining in or playing together?
  • How your child expresses himself when he is unhappy – does he use verbal or physical aggression?
  • Has little concern or empathy for the feelings of other children
  • Has difficulty making friends
  • Comes home with toys or items with unknown sources – you didn’t buy the item(s) or your child is reluctant or unable to explain the origins of the item.

Why Some Children Bully

“Children are not born bullies. most of the time they mirror what they have observed from home, on TV or at school. Most children are also unaware that their behaviours have hurt others or are regarded as bullying behaviours,” says Kai Lin.

With the constant aggression act upon another child, a bully may grow up unable to form social relationships with peers or spouses, and getting into trouble with the school or law. “Victims of bullies may suffer from depression or anxiety, have lower self-esteem, and might eventually become a bully themselves to defend themselves,” advises Kai Lin.

Why Does It Matter If My Child Is A Bully?

“Identifying the signs of an aggressor early is crucial as it is easier to correct their behaviour at a younger age. It will also help them understand the impact of bullying, empathising with others and be aware of their own behaviours”, says Kai Lin.

What Can Parents Do To Stop Bullying?

Teach your child values such as responsibility, respect for others and empathy for others. Kai Lin also suggests increasing communication with your child and avoiding physical punishment. “Address aggressive behaviours on the spot and not let it go for the first time. When parents brush it off for the first time is as good as giving a ‘green light’ for their child to continue with the bullying behaviour”, says Kai Lin.

Kai Lin recommends these six steps:

  1. Tell your child that what he is doing can hurt “Boy ah, what you did was unpleasant. Kicking another person hurts.”
  2. Address some of the reasons for his behaviour. Remember: do not call him a bully or call it bullying as this will make him feel that he’s at fault. Say: “What happened?” “What made you do that?”
  3. Help him feel what the other party feels when he acts negatively; “How do you feel if James kicks you?”
  4. Understand him: “I understand what James did was unpleasant, too, and it upsets you.”
  5. Help him find other ways to address his emotions: “If this happens again, what can we do differently?”
  6. Children tend to mirror how adults behave in situations. Thus, we should be more aware of how we ourselves react in difficult situations. Always remember, kindness begets kindness.