Could This Be Your Child?

What to do if your kid turns out to be the bully.

You get a call from the principal at your son's elementary school. There's been a fight and now your boy's in the office, nursing a black eye. You're halfway out the door when you ask the principal, "So who's the bully? I hope he's getting punished."

"He is," the principal says. "I've decided to suspend him for two days. And you're on your way to pick him up right now. It's your son."

The principal keeps talking, but you're in disbelief. My son? A bully?

Yes, it's possible. Consider the statistics: The Committee for Children found that 78% of 3rd through 8th graders polled had been bullied in the previous month. Somebody's doing the bullying. And it could be your child.

Clearly, bullying and teasing can have a tremendous impact on the victim. But children who intentionally hurt other children—whether with their fists, their words, or their actions—also need help from the adults who love them. We parents need to be willing to recognize that even our own precious angels can sometimes hurt other children—physically or emotionally.

If you discover that your child has been antagonizing other children, try to root out the cause of your child's behavior even as you work to change it. Here's how:

Accept Responsibility

Almost universally, school administrators say parental involvement is critical in changing a child's behavior. But first, parents have to be willing to admit there's a problem.

"Parents often refuse to accept that their child could be a bully," says Dr. Jerry Daniel, administrator of Trinity Christian School in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Naturally, we want to think the best of our children, but we have to be willing to listen to other adults in our children's lives. We need to recognize that nearly every child is capable of cruelty.

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