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How to Teach Kids Not to Bully

Posted Mar 19 2012 7:17am

There are a variety of factors for why kids bully. For some it arises out of feelings of insecurity and bullying a perceived weaker kid instills feelings of superiority or control. In other cases, kids bully because they haven’t been taught social skills and that it is unacceptable to pick on someone who is different because of race, ethnicity, or physical appearance. 

Bullying may also be a symptom of an on-going behavioral issue, such as defiance or aggression. These children will need to learn how to more effectively handle feelings of anger or frustration. Professional counselors are often called in to help these children cope with their strong emotions and improve their social skills.

It may also be the case that children who are school bullies are mimicking behavior they witness in their home environment. Children who are exposed to violence in their homes and families often come away with the message that it’s okay to treat others that way.

Strategies to Help Children Stop Bullying

  • Take Bullying Seriously. The first task is to teach your child that bullying is unacceptable behavior and that there will be consequences at home and at school if the behavior continues. To be effective, the consequences must have meaning for the child in some way. For example, if your child is bullying people via Facebook or another social media site, take away computer privileges for a certain period of time.  Try to understand the underlying causes of the bullying and seek professional help when needed.
  • Teach kids to treat other people with respect. Teach children that it is wrong to poke fun at those who are different in terms of race, culture, physical appearance, socioeconomic status, etc.  Consider getting involved in community groups where there are children of different races and cultures, such as a YMCA Youth program.
  • Be aware of your child’s social life. Look for any clues in your child’s school environment that may be contributing to their bullying behavior. Speak with the school principal, teachers, other parents and students to find out the cause of the bullying. Perhaps the behavior arises out of peer pressure or excessive stress.  Talk with your child about any problems they are having at school and address any issues mentioned with appropriate school staff.    
  • Use Positive Reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is much more effective than punishment in stopping unwanted behavior. While you may employ consequences when your child engages in bullying behavior, also be sure to praise and encourage your child every time s/he shows kindness and respect to a friend or school mate. 
  • Provide a good example. Be mindful of how you speak in your home and resolve family conflicts. If you act aggressively, you are sending a message to your child that this type of behavior is acceptable.  Instead, engage in calm discussion and negotiate differences while being respectful of every family member. The lessons that children learn at home are very often the ones that stick the longest so be mindful of what you are teaching
    Tip: If you have an older child in college, they are often a role model for their younger siblings.  Helping your college-age children manage personal finances can help lower the stress level in the household. Read our recent Discover student card review .

Daniela Baker is a mother of two.  She's a social media advocate with the credit card comparison website, CreditDonkey , where she helps families make informed and responsible decisions about credit.

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