Parents generally dread getting phone calls from their children’s school. Its either the baby is sick, got hurt or is in some form of trouble. So what happens when you get called to the school because your child bullied another child?
It is even more challenging when you are unaware that your child has any behavioural issues. You wouldn’t think they are capable of bullying. Your child might be a completely different child at home. Well mannered and respectful, but a completely different version of himself at school.
So you just received that phone call that your child bullied or has been bullying someone. What now?
Why is my child being a bully?
Many times, bullies yearn to acquire and retain power or avoid the need to deal with social issues. Children who struggle to have effective social relations with other people usually turn to intimidation. It is easier for people to be scared of you instead of you having to create a healthy relationship with them. Rather than talking to people, they should be scared of them.
This makes children feel like they have a sense of control, not only over their lives but even those of others. This is why it is easy for them to scare people off and make them jump at their commands. Which seems to help the bully maintain a sense of power over others.
How did they learn that intimidation and aggression aid them in getting their way?
Mostly due to social behavioural learning. This means that children learn from observing how adults interact with each other. If they are being bullied at home, then they will most likely try and regain the power they lost through bullying their schoolmates.
If there is a culture of “my way or the highway” at home, then this will be normalized behaviour for them.
This sounds like I am blaming parents for their children’s behaviour at all times. I am not. However, we have more influence on our children than we think.
Behavioural issues also stem from the absence of social skills. Some children have issues that inhibit them from learning these skills. So special attention has to be paid to them, or else they will navigate social settings as they see fit. And most times, without the right tools.
This inevitably leads them to display behaviours of intimidation, rather than interaction. They generally don’t know how to do the latter.
After understanding where your child’s behaviour stems from, you can then start building.
What do you do?
Firstly, make it clear in your household that accountability is key. Everyone needs to be accountable for how they behave at home, in the playground, and at school. If they are showing the behaviour of bullying at home, make them accountable for it. If you receive a phone call from the school or a parent, firstly, do not make excuses for them. They need to be accountable for what they did and apologize. Build that culture within your home.
A bully will always make themselves look like the victim. Abusive adults are the same. They always have to be ‘provoked’ to beat their partners to a pulp. It is never their fault.
The same way, your child will always point to their the other child, and not himself.
So making an excuse for them, or accepting their excuses is doing more harm than good. They need to be held responsible for their behaviours, regardless of the situation.
Secondly, it is important to teach our children the right way of managing their emotions or frustrations. If they are used to getting their way when throwing a tantrum at home, they will also act out in school when they aren’t getting their way.
Teach them healthy ways of managing conflict. Rather than acting on impulses, they need to learn to take a step back before being mean or hitting someone else.
It might sound like a therapy session, but we need to instil these lessons very early on in their lives. Its the same as teaching them to share with others, or being told “no”. If they don’t know how to do these things and find themselves in environments where these behaviours are required (schools), they will struggle a lot.
Managing our emotions is still a challenge for us as adults. We sometimes struggle resolving social issues and conflicts and we resort to aggression or defensiveness. This is also a reality for our children. So they must be taught this life lesson if this is the reason why they bully other people.
Bullying others does not mean you are a bad person. Our children sometimes have underlying behavioural or social issues they need help resolving. Let us help them before this trickles into their adult lives.
Karabo Motsiri is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. She loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of Saturday Citizen. She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo, which is South Africa’s biggest parenting expo.