We are well into the school year. This means that along with the 3 R’s, parents and school officials are seeing bullies. In fact, According to 2011 data from The Institute of Education Sciences (http://mces/ed/gpv/fastfacts/display.asp?id=719, nearly one-third of middle and high school students report being bullied and cyberbullied.
“It’s Him, Not Me!”
Nobody thinks that their child is a bully. It’s always someone else’s child who is calling other kids hurtful names.
Like Parent, Like Child
Hate and behavior begin at home. While it may seem incongruous that a lesbian or gay child would bully others, sometimes they do, particularly if they are in the closet, and want to thwart a bully from targeting them. For whatever reason, you don’t want your child to be a bully or be bullied for that matter.
Here are some ways you can lessen the likelihood of your child being a bully:
Be a Good Example
Make sure your own actions are friendly, compassionate and courteous. If you do slip up, be sure to admit your mistake and point out to your kids how you could have reacted differently.
• Mirror the behavior you seek. Don’t act like a bully yourself. Do you yell a lot or use verbal threats? Do you try to manipulate your child with physical violence? Avoid nagging, threats, and bribery. Those anti-social behaviors have no boundaries and will follow your child to school and other haunts.
• Does your child act like a 2 year-old? Me, me, me! Does he/she throw a fit? Threaten? Is uncooperative and mean to siblings? Is he controlling? Do you throw “hissy fits?”
• Criticize his behavior, not him. Don’t be afraid to discipline. Children need to know that if they violate the rules, there will be consequences. It’s important to squelch bullying behaviors the moment they appear instead of writing them off as a “stage” or “normal part of childhood.”
• How do you react to your friends? Do you hold “grudges,” try to seek revenge when you feel you’ve been wronged? Do you curse at other drivers? Slam the phone down on advertising sales people? Are you curt to waiters?
Talk to Your Child About the Effects of Bullying
• How does your child talk about others? Does he/she call them “lame,” “gay?” Does he/she make fun of them or gossip? Does he hang out with a group you don’t believe are nice and respectful of others? Explain how labels hurt feelings! Encourage empathy for people who are “different.”
• What do bullying behaviors look like? These behaviors will not be tolerated in the family!
• Make sure your kids know that bullying is hurtful.
• Have the Talk About Cyberbullying
• Talk to your child about not becoming a cyberbully herself. Let her know that comments and posts, even offhand ones, can make people feel bad.
• Emphasize to your child that she will become part of the bullying if she passes on hurtful comments or laughs at or talks about the victim.
• If your child is a bully, you can help teach them other ways to feel powerful. Give plenty of opportunities to be competent and valued and send a clear, consistent message that picking on people in any way is absolutely not right. Let the child tell you what should be the consequences if people are hurt and listen enough to hear whatever need in their life they are filling with being a bully.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.