Q:

During parent-teacher meetings, I had a conversation with my son’s teacher, who told me there is a bullying problem in my son’s class. I was really upset when I heard about the problem. I didn’t want my son to spend his day in a hostile environment. You can imagine my surprise when the teacher then told me that my son was the problem!

She said that since the beginning of the year, my son has been getting progressively more aggressive in the classroom. He started with small taunts and jokes and has now moved onto pushing and tripping. At home, Menachem is the youngest of eight, and I have never had any problems with his behavior.

Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do to stop his bullying behavior?

A:

Many parents who are told that their child is a bully tend to ignore the teacher because they do not believe their child could actually be a bully. One of the hardest things for parents to contemplate is that their cute, innocent child is acting in a way that is hurtful to others. But there are several signs you can look for within your own home. The Committee for Children reports that a child who bullies may exhibit some of the following behaviors:

Frequent name-calling

Regular bragging

A need to always get his own way

Spending a lot of time with younger or less powerful kids

A lack of empathy for others

A defiant or hostile attitude

Easily takes offense

Possibly, understanding that these drives are natural and instinctive can help parents deal with this difficult behavior.
Dr. Michael Thompson explains, “All human beings have aggressive impulses, even children. And kids show their aggression through teasing and intimidation – it can begin when they’re as young as two and a half.”

The best thing that parents can do to help children socially is to support their friendships. Welcome their friends to your home and allow your children to spend time with their peers. Let your child know that you want him to pursue friendships, and, if he chooses, help him arrange playdates and outings. Of course, don’t push your child beyond his comfort zone. However, the best solution to bullying is good, strong, healthy friendship.

Bullying can have devastating consequences, not only for the bullied victims, but also for the bully. Many times, children who bully continue this behavior until adulthood and therefore have trouble developing and maintaining relationships. Just as you would work to ensure that your child was not being bullied in school, it is extremely important to guarantee that your child is not bullying others.

Tips to Help Your Child

Stop Bullying

Confront your child’s behavior. Let your child know that aggressive and mean behavior is unacceptable.
Dr. Harvey Karp, the author of The Happiest Kid on the Block, suggests explaining to your child, “Just as I wouldn’t let anyone hurt you, I won’t tolerate you hurting anyone else.” Make him aware in no uncertain terms that his behavior is completely intolerable.

Be a role model.Don’t let your children hear you bad-mouth other individuals or groups. It’s unreasonable to hold your children to a higher standard than you
hold yourself.

Find out what’s going on at school. If nothing has changed at home, ask him if anything has changed in
his social life. Maybe he is struggling to keep his friends,
or perhaps his friends are pressuring him to pick on another child.

Remind him to say no. If his friends are the ones insisting that he bully others, teach him through role-play that he can say no. It’s important that he learn how to assert himself in the face of peer pressure.

Right the wrong.Talk to your child about how he can repair the damage he inflicted on another child. Perhaps he can write a letter apologizing to the other child, or, if the other child is amenable, invite him for a playdate in order to create positive interactions.

Schedule an appointment with your child’s school. School staff that work with your child every day may be able to help you understand why your child is bullying and provide you with some tools to help you work with your child.

Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld, founder and director of the SOS program, is an educator and educational consultant with specialization as a keriah and reading coach.