Would you know what to do if your daughter was the “mean girl”? Dr. Liz Hale has tips to help moms spot the problem and do something about it.
There are a few common signs that your child could be vulnerable to being labeled a “Bully:”
Your Chid Has Trouble Sleeping
A recent study of 341 children conducted by the University of Michigan found that children with sleep problems related to sleep-disordered breathing were more likely to display bullying tendencies or have other conduct problems than children without the sleep concerns. If your child is having sleep problems, a visit with your doctor or a sleep specialist might be a good place to start preventing bullying or to correct bully behavior.
Your Child Has Behavioral Issues
Being hot-headed, impulsive, or easily frustrated are three common behaviors that could indicate that a child is a bully. Kids who are bullying generally become easily frustrated if they don’t get their way, lack empathy for others, and have a history of discipline problems.
Your Child Is Obsessed With Popularity
Another warning sign of bullying is a child who is fixated on being popular. This behavior underlies a lot of insecurities. They will often speak about being popular and how cool or great it is. The bullying may involve excluding children from
groups or acting in a hostile way toward any child or group of children that is somehow different from them.
Your Child’s Friends Show Aggressive Tendencies
Children who bully are more likely to have friends who bully and engage in violent behaviors. It may be difficult to pick up on some of these signs of bullying with your own child, but if his or her friends seem aggressive or mean-spirited, or if
they exhibit some of the other signs of bullying, then your child might be involved in bullying as well.
Your Child Observes Violence at Home
According to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, bullies or victims of bullying were much more likely to have experienced violence in the home.
Bullies were about four times more likely to have been hurt by someone in their family than were students who were neither bullies nor victims of bullying. Children are more likely to bully others if they feel their parents are frequently
angry at them or if they feel that they are a nuisance to their parents. Parents who have a good relationship and talk openly with their kids raise kids who are less likely to bully others.”
There is difference between boy versus girl bullying….girl bullying is more insidious?
Boys turn more to physical aggression; girls turn to social aggression. Girl bullying is marked by crimes of omission that make it very hard for girls to put their finger on what they’re experiencing but the results are pain, humiliation, and isolation.
Some of the more common relational aggressive behaviors are the following:
1) Excluding girls from get-togethers (parties or play dates).
2) Talking about get-togethers in front of girls who are uninvited.
3) Giving girls the “silent treatment.”
4) Threats to remove the friendship.
5) Using social media to gossip or start rumors about a girl.
6) Encouraging others to “gang up” on a particular girl.
7) Saying something mean, followed by “just joking” to avoid blame.
Here are some key tips to follow if your child has become a bully:
Do Not Bully in Return
This would only re-enforce that “might is right.” It is challenging NOT to threaten, punish or remove privileges when you first discover that your child has hurt another. Keep your cool; talk to a friend or professional first; this child will need love not lashings.
Walk in Her Shoes
See life from their perspective; try to understand how your child is feeling; listen to how she currently views her world at home and school. What or who is bothering her? Where is their anger stemming from? Take your time – work slowly and compassionately.
Then, encourage your child to see life from the other person’s perspective – help her see life through the eyes of the victim and imagine what it would be like to be the person who is bullied. Help your child find something in their life that they value and feel is important; it could be a puppy or a material good. Now help them establish a feeling of empathy if someone were to come and abuse or destroy this very treasure. How would they feel about being so mistreated and powerless?
Teach Effective Mood Management
One of the best ways to deal with emotion is motion. Help her to become more physical through long walks, running, or taking up a new sport like soccer. Encourage her to journal her feelings; seek out the help of a professional, if need be. Anger and frustration are a healthy part of life. The problem is not the feeling it’s the behavior behind the feeling. Model a healthy release of emotion.
Help Plan & Execute Apologies
Teach her to effectively accept responsibility for her actions. Involve the other parents, school personnel, if necessary, and the child who was bullied. Model how to accept complete responsibility for your own actions. Your child will see that owning up has its own rewards.
Express Unconditional Love
Your child will need more love from you now than ever before. It’s a fact that when we believe we are the least lovable it’s the time when we need love the most.
When your child is a bully, they need you desperately. Not as a judge, critic or punishing force….but as a parent, confidant, role-model and guide.
Dr. Liz, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, has been in private practice for 12 years specializing in marriage and family relations.