Millions of parents across the country have learned firsthand how much bullying can affect the victim. Most advocacy groups gear help toward the target of bullying rather than also the children who do the bullying.  However, children often switch roles of bully and target. Here are a few steps you can take to get to the bottom of things if your child is called a bully.

A Range of Emotions

Whether you’re contacted by the school’s principal or guidance counselor, your child’s teacher, or another child’s parent, being told that your child is called a bully is one of the hardest things you’ll ever hear. You’ll probably experience a wide range of emotions, which start with shock and disbelief, but may turn into anger, insecurity, and even an inherent need to defend your child. However, in order to help your child, there are some things you should take to heart. First and foremost, remember that a child who bullies is not a bad child but someone who needs your understanding and guidance.

Kids Change Roles… Often

The kid that was bullied yesterday becomes the bully today and vice versa. In fact, your child may be bullied by someone on the bus, but bully someone else on the playground. The truth is that you can’t be with your child 24 hours a day, and neither can their teachers. Oftentimes, the only ones who know what really happens are the children themselves. Don’t immediately defend your child and assume their innocence, and don’t immediately punish your child and assume their guilt.

What To Avoid When Your Child is Called a Bully

Once you’ve received that dreaded phone call, there are some things you should avoid at all costs.

  • Don’t try to justify your child’s actions. Two wrongs will never make a right, and bullying is never acceptable behavior in any situation.
  • Don’t assume you know how your child acts at school. Almost every single child out there has two different sides. There’s the home side, and there’s the school side. This is true from preschool all the way through college.
  • Don’t place blame. It might be tempting to blame other people for your child’s behavior, but it won’t help you and it certainly won’t help your child.

Steps to Take to Understand the Situation

The first thing you need to do is tell your child what you’ve heard and ask them if any part of it is true. This way, your child doesn’t feel attacked and is far less likely to lie. Then, the following steps can also help.

  • Ask your child how they would feel if someone did that to them. Better yet, if your child has younger siblings, ask how they would feel if this happened to their sibling. This encourages your child to be empathetic.
  • Get to the bottom of the problem. Why is your child angry? What would cause them to lash out at others? Has something happened at home or in your child’s personal life that is taking a toll?
  • Roleplay the scenario with your child, and involve your other children. Use this as a learning opportunity to discuss how hurtful bullying can be, and teach your children not only to speak to others with respect, but also how to behave when they are being bullied. Go through and come up with a solution how to respond in the situation next time.

Get help if necessary. Sometimes, your child may need to speak with a professional who can help get to the bottom of any underlying issue. Millions of children need some help from time to time, and it could benefit your child’s future development.

First, if your child is called a bully, stay calm. Talk to your child openly, without judgement, and find out what is really happening. Once you have that information, you can take steps to help your child develop a sense of empathy that they will carry for a lifetime. Use Bark as a monitoring tool to understanding if there is any type of cyberbullying issue in your child’s life as well. Plus, when a potential issue is detected Bark provides recommendations in the alerts to help you navigate these issues. 

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