I don’t want my kids to be bullies

My husband posted a thought-provoking video recently featuring Wil Wheaton talking about bullying. Mainly from the point of view of the victim. It is definitely worth a view.

I have read a lot of posts about protecting our kids from bullying. Posts about how to build their resilience. Posts on how to respond, what to do, how to manage such a situation. But I haven’t seen many at all about working to prevent your child from being a bully themselves.

While I’m worried about my kids being bullied because of their differences, I’m also acutely aware that they, like any child, have the potential to be bullies themselves. I want to raise them to stand up for themselves but also to respect others so they don’t inadvertently become bullies too.

The NSW Department of Education and Communities defines bullying as “repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological behaviour that is harmful and involves the misuse of power by an individual or group towards one or more persons”. I have to admit there have been times that I have seen this sort of behaviour exhibited by my own children. And it scares me.

Gilbert can be verbally aggressive at times. Lately it has been pretty much all the time here at home. Mostly he will respond with anger to a request and end with “you moron”, “you idiot”, etc. It is not acceptable behaviour and is a bad habit that I really don’t want him to get into. That response, at school or in another social environment, could easily be considered bullying.

Likewise, Matilda is tall and solid for her age. She can be physically intimidating and has, on occasion, been physically aggressive to others when angered. She is instantly contrite and does not have a mean or malicious bone in her body but I am worried that she will inadvertently hurt someone one day. Again, that response, at school or in another social environment, could easily be considered bullying.

In both cases, I feel helpless. With the added complication of them both falling on the autism spectrum, it makes getting through to them that much harder. It’s difficult to get them to understand that their behaviour is unacceptable or why they need to control their responses or even that there will be consequences for everything they do.

So where do I start? How do I help my children to take responsibility for their actions and not inadvertently become bullies?

1. Model acceptable behaviour

Children are like sponges – they will take in and absorb everything that you see and do. The best way to guide their behaviour is to be their model. Show them acceptable ways to behave. Always display healthy ways to deal with relationships, even the difficult ones. This will give them the best chance to adopt appropriate behaviours from an early age and become less likely to become inadvertent bullies later on.

2. Develop resilience skills

I have written before about building resilience in our kids. It’s a vital skill that will help them develop and maintain healthy self-esteem and assist them to build positive relationships with others. Resilience helps people bounce back from disappointment and put problems into proper perspective. Ultimately a child with good resilience skills will be more likely to better handle difficult situations and deal with them in an appropriate manner.

3. Be firm

Examples of inappropriate behaviour need to be identified and nipped in the bud immediately. It needs to be made very clear that aggressive behaviour will not be tolerated. My kids struggle with the idea of consequences and often removing something they value in response to inappropriate behaviour can lead to meltdowns. However, I also recognise that these behaviours need to be managed – they need to be made aware that such behaviour is just not on.

4. Use positive reinforcement

You need to balance the negative with the positive. We need to encourage our kids to make the right choices and reward them when they do demonstrate appropriate behaviour. Again, be on the ball and immediately let them know when they have made the right choice. It’s really a very effective way to reinforce the behaviour you want them to display.

5. Listen to your kids

Possibly one of the best ways to prevent bullying is to have a real conversation with your kids. Talk to them about what’s going on in their lives. Listen to what is worrying them. Know their friends. Take the time to understand what is important to them and what makes them happy and sad and scared. You will then have the chance to understand them better and help them make the right choices.

I honestly don’t know if these strategies will be enough to help my kids but I’m going to try. They deserve that, at the very least.

What are your thoughts on ways to prevent your kids from being bullies?

Linking up with Jess for another round of IBOT.

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18 Responses

  1. Lydia C. Lee says:

    I don’t know if you can prevent it, but you can call them out on it and take action. My son told a story that sounded like he and his friends were ganging up on a kid, and my son didn’t even get it was wrong or mean. I went nuts at him, and said if it is ever more than one on one, then it’s not nice and he’s to tell his friends to stop or walk away and not be part of it. I went and saw the boys mum and told her the story and said if her son every told her my boy had done this type of thing, she was to tell me and I would come down on him like a tonne of bricks, as that behaviour was not acceptable. The worst part, the woman then burst into tears, said her boy was being bullied but not by my son…

    • Kirsty says:

      Oh no Lydia. I think you are right, I’m not sure you can prevent it but I’m determined to do my best to raise my kids to have respect for others and understand the consequences of their choices and actions.

  2. Lydia C. Lee says:

    In fairness to my son, he thought it was a game, and it was just the numbers vs one that made me uncomfortable….

    • Kirsty says:

      He sounds like a good boy – it shows you have a lovely relationship for him to feel comfortable in talking to you about that x

  3. It is a tough games, prevent not only bullying but stop your children from being bullies. My daughter is quite small so some of the bigger children can use their size to get want they want. I think you are right though in talking to your children, most bullies have a reason behind why they do it, they are often feel unheard or out of control in a situation. Great post and thought process.
    Eleise @ A Very Blended Family recently posted..How an Accountant Budgets

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks Eleise – this post has been on my mind for quite a while now. I really hope I can help my kids grow into compassionate, caring and beautiful souls x

  4. I’ve been in that somewhat-awkward situation with Miss 11, and while I made it VERY (VERY!) clear that in our family we don’t tolerate any kind of mean, nasty, bullying or excluding behaviour, it was tough because the parents of the other girls in the group that were involved largely took a ‘My child is perfect, my child isn’t a bully…’ approach so to Maya it felt like she was the only one being punished. At the end of the day, I don’t really care about what other people teach their kids though, I care about what I teach my daughter, and about the choices she makes.
    Emma Fahy Davis recently posted..Milestones and Memories

  5. I have often worried about the same thing with my girls when they go to school, praying that they don’t give in to peer pressure to bully someone else, but all of your tips are the best things we can do as parents to avoid our kids turning into bullies.
    Bec @ The Plumbette recently posted..The Best Mixer Tap for a Young Family PLUS Giveaway

  6. Tegan says:

    I don’t know if we can ever really absolutely prevent it but I think keeping an open dialogue means that the behaviour can be nipped in the bud quickly if it arises. I think finding that fine line between believing your child and listening to what others are saying is important. The trouble I often have with kids who target Dyllan is that their parents just don’t care, which doesn’t help the situation at all.
    Tegan recently posted..Conversations with a 4 year o

    • Kirsty says:

      I sometimes wonder if I’m too much of a helicopter parent as it seems I care way more about my children’s behaviour than a lot of other parents do. But I can’t imagine not caring in a situation where your child may have hurt another, so it’s hard for me to understand why there are so many people out there who seem to just not care.

  7. I’ve wondered about this myself before. I don’t think any of my kids have what it takes to be a bully, but that’s definitely not a reason to not keep an eye on them, or maintain that it’s never ok to bully another person.
    EssentiallyJess recently posted..Conversations I Have With Myself #IBOT

    • Kirsty says:

      I think it comes down to maintaining good communication with your kids and leading by example so any hint of inappropriate behaviour can be discussed and managed. If you do that, you’ve got to be heading in the right direction x

  8. It’s a scary subject this bullying and I can see my oldest picking on her brother at times and then him picking on his younger sibling. It’s a fine but thanks for reminder they are sponges, I must remember to be the person I want my kids to be, can be hard at times though! x
    Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me recently posted..You are not alone.

  9. I commend you for looking out for these signs; so many parents of bullies would (rather?) not believe their kids were capable of such behaviour, especially when they get older and more able to cover up. My boy, also on the spectrum has been on the receiving end of much of this sort of thing and I am eternally grateful he is not the kind of kid who lashes out. #teamIBOT
    Twitchy Sharon (@twitchycorner) recently posted..Domestic Bliss It Ain’t  

  10. These are all great ways to prevent bully. I certainly don’t want me kids to be bullies either. I was bullied at school and it is just awful.
    Sam Stone @ A Life on Venus recently posted..Changing Tracks – 100% Pure Love

  11. Zita says:

    Fantastic tips… Great post Kirsty!!
    Zita recently posted..for the challenge to end.

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