If you're told that your child is a bully, you need to control your reaction and carefully consider the situation, advises an expert. "Take a deep breath and don't panic. Resist the temptation to respond defensively with 'not my child'.
Understand that your child may be testing behaviours," said Sally Kuykendall, an assistant professor of health services at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia.
"Parents need to consider their child's social skills and whether or not they're mimicking violence they've been exposed to in the media, at home or in the community," Kuykendall explained.
Parents should to talk to their children and maintain on ongoing dialogue, she suggested.
"Confront excuses. Don't allow them to tell you they were 'just joking.' Set clear and consistent limits. Let your child know what is socially acceptable behaviour. Don't let your child blame the victim or rationalise the attacks," Kuykendall added.
In some cases, bullies are actually victims of bullying who are responding with counter-aggression, also called "provocative victims".
"If you think that your child is the provocative victim, you must get involved. Provocative victims are at higher risk for depression, school threats and drug use. Try to remove your child from the situation so that he or she is not put in a position where control is lost and attacks are imminent. Identify a caring adult who will keep an eye out and stop the behaviour when it occurs," Kuykendall advised.
Follow-up with a child is critical, she added.
"Teaching children to treat others with respect is an ongoing conversation. Don't expect to say it once and never have to say it again."
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