As a parent, it can be difficult to accept that your child may be exhibiting bullying behaviour towards their peers.
Although it may be difficult to understand why a child would be mean online, there are things that you could do to help them address the behaviour in a positive way.
The first step is to ask them to stop and have an open conversation with them. Once you’ve done this, try the following:
Ask them whether there is a reason they are acting this way and try to resolve any issues to stop it happening. Encourage them to think about how they would feel if the comments were about them.
Tell them that this is unacceptable behaviour and they could end up losing friends, being reported to their school or even the police.
Work with your family, other trusted adults and their teacher to send clear messages to your child about the impact this could have on them and the person or people they are targeting.
Think about ways that you can encourage them to exhibit positive behaviour such as empathy, respect and compassion and discourage bullying behaviour by incentivising positive behaviour and implementing loss of privileges for negative behaviour.
Children learn from their parents so, modelling positive behaviour will help them to take on similar behaviours. Also, engaging in activities that help build empathy and understand how to resolve conflict in the right way will give them the tools to deal with difficult situations that they may face.
When your child shows positive behaviour, a word of encouragement and positive reinforcement will help improve behaviour and is usually more effective than punishment.
It’s important to note that your child may need some time to take on-board the positive behaviour so being patient with them and showing them that they have your support will really help.
It can be overwhelming if you’re faced with a situation where your child is the bully. There are certain actions that can potentially have a negative effect. You may want to avoid the following:
Don’t get upset with your child, try and talk with other adults to work through any emotions you have about the situation
Don’t ignore the situation or blame someone else. As a role model, it is best to show your child that taking responsibility for your own actions is the right thing to do
If your child was cyberbullying in retaliation, you should tell them that two wrongs cannot make a right
Be aware that any child is capable of such behaviours. Lots of parents are surprised to learn that their child could act out so negatively.