As parents we all hope and pray to raise children that are kind to everyone. It is very painful for us to watch our children hurting others.
Our questions here are: why they do it and is there anything we can do to free them up to be their best selves?
Why Children Bully
Let’s address the first question. Why do children bully? Nobody is born a bully. Bullying happens when a person feels the need to expert power over someone else. If a person is fully aware that every human being is tremendously valuable, they would never feel the need to prove their value. Basically bullying stems from an insecurity. The person bullying believes that in order to be valuable, they need to prove that they are more, and the way to accomplish that is by knocking down others. Intentionally or not, the other person gets hurt, and nobody has a green light to hurt others.
How Parents Can Help
Our next question is: can we do anything as adults to help the bully? Thankfully, the answer is we can do A LOT!
In order to help the child who has been hurting others out if the bully role, we must use a two- pronged approach:
- See the child’s soul, and speak only to the soul, never to the behaviors.
- Set limits.
The first prong is a requirement in any and every relationship. People perform best with people who believe in them. No matter how low your child has stooped, if you maintain an unwavering position that you know 100 percent that these behaviors are not who the child really is, your child will get warm encouraging vibes. Say sincere things like, “The real you would never want to hurt someone on purpose,” or “You bring so much joy into our home.”
Many years ago, I encountered a seventh grader who had a long history of bullying the girls in her class. During our first interaction I told her that I knew that the real her doesn’t want to hurt people. She answered, “You don’t know me. I don’t care about anyone except myself.” I answered her back, “There’s nothing in the world you can say or do that would make me believe that.”
I also explained to her that while I understood that this wasn’t the real her, we were going to structure things differently in the classroom so that she would be held accountable for her behaviors. This brings us to the second prong, which is setting limits.
We tell children that BECAUSE we believe in them we will be holding them accountable. We tell them that they will hate it at first, but then will feel amazing once they are successful. At the end of the day we all feel better about ourselves when we are doing the right thing.
If you see your child engaging in any form of belittling, hurting, etc.,
Wait at least an hour, and then say,
- “I know you don’t mean to___. when you said___to ___, it really hurt him/her.
- “Can I get a commitment from you to try your best to be careful about not saying hurtful things?”
If you notice improvement, let your child know (often) that you see him/her becoming stronger and moving into the healthy CHAMPION role, being his or her “real self.”
If other children are still being hurt, say the following:
“Let’s think together. I know you don’t want to hurt people, and it seems it’s hard for you to remember which words/actions hurt. What do you think would be a good way for you to take responsibility in case you forget again?”
See what your child comes up with. Believe in him or her and follow through with whatever limit you and your child decide on. It’s never too late to start a new fresh day!