Inflicting harm on other people, repeatedly harassing students or teachers, causing fights and tears at school – none of this is something parents plan for. Yet, for every kid who comes home complaining about a mean, unfair or aggressive classmate, there’s a bully or cohort to blame.
As the Education page at PBS notes, a parent’s first reflex will likely be denial. After all, when a teen isn’t demonstrating the traits of a bully at home, it may feel unbelievable that she or he could be nasty or intentionally unkind in any setting. However, the best thing a parent can do is stay calm and try to get to the root of the problem.
Help youth see the big picture. If you can walk through a situation in detail with your teen, including the context, their feelings and what caused them to feel negatively towards others, you can help them to identify where they fit in the broader scheme. This can help build empathy and reduce instances of bullying in the future.
Create a plan for teens to own up to their actions. If someone is hurt or emotionally bothered, the consequences can be very serious and long-term. Sit with your son or daughter to discuss how they can apologize and remedy the damage they caused. Help them practice exactly what they will say and how they can be kinder and more inclusive in the future.
Once a bully, always a bully? Not at all! Just because a youth acts out once does not mean they are bound to be cruel in every social situation. It’s likely that a bully is struggling to get something she or he wants – dominance, popularity or attention, for instance. Through therapy or a short-term residency program like Casa Pacifica’s Camino a Casa (formerly START), you can help your teen work through their needs holistically so that they can find new, positive ways to express their desires.