By Jason Broderick, wellbeing coach and counselling psychologist at Discovery Bay International School.
Young people bully for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they bully others because they need to feel more important, popular, or seem in control (to others and also to themselves). Some kids torment others because that’s what they know. This is what they see, so that is how they act. They may think their behaviour is normal because it is their normal.
Popular TV shows and characters these days even seem to promote meanness. Quite often the subliminal messages experienced from TV shows can be reinforcing to inappropriate social behaviour, for instance people are ‘laughed off’ and shunned for their appearance or lack of talent.
When looking for the influences on your child’s behaviour, look first at what’s happening at home and also within his/ her immediate friendship groups. Young people who view yelling, name calling, put downs, harsh criticism, or physical anger from a sibling, friend or parent may act that out in other settings.
It’s natural, and common, for kids to fight with their siblings at home. And unless there’s a risk of physical violence, I would suggest you don’t get involved. Importantly, monitor the name-calling and any physical altercations and be sure to talk to each child regularly about what’s acceptable and what is not. This will be dependent upon context and family agreements.
It’s important to keep your own behaviour in check too. Watch how you talk to your kids, and how you react to your own strong emotions when they’re around. There will be situations that warrant discipline and constructive criticism but take care not to let that slip into name calling and accusations. If you’re not pleased with your child’s behaviour, stress that it’s the behaviour that you’d like your child to change, and you have confidence that he/ she can do it.
If your family is going through a stressful life event that you feel may have contributed to your child’s behaviour, reach out for help from the resources at school and in your community. Guidance counsellors, religious advisors, therapists and your doctor can help.
Teaching kids not to bully
• Ask them about it. Are they aware of what they’re doing and that it’s unacceptable? Try and get them to do the talking. Listen carefully and try not to jump to conclusions or judgements
• Show your concern for the person who is being bullied, and support your children to ‘take a walk in his/ her shoes.’ Ask them to imagine how it would feel if one of their friends acted like that towards them, and talk through that without shaming them
• Ask them what they would like to do next. If they can’t come up with anything, ask whether they think starting with an apology might be helpful. Figure out how that apology will happen – in person, via email or through a meeting with a teacher
• Report the problem to the school, and work with teachers to develop a plan to prevent it from happening again
• Don’t chat when tensions are running high
• Do set expectations at home by role-modelling respectful behaviour
• Discovery Bay International School, www.dbis.edu.hk
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Tags: education, children, teenagers, bullying, bully, psychology, jason broderick