The best way to stop a bully is not allowing one to develop; parents have the greatest opportunity to prevent a bully from emerging. Rather than making the assumption a child knows better than to bully another child, wise parents are proactive in teaching their child social relational skills, acceptable behavior, and ‘otherness’ concepts throughout their child’s growing up years.
Bullying behavior can rear its ugly head at any age or stage in the life of a child. Provided below are some ideas to prevent bullying – listed according to developmental ages.
Toddlers Take Charge
Toddlers will be toddlers – see a toy, take a toy – paying little-to-no attention that another child had it first. While toddlers will behave according to their age, they are also extremely trainable. As a parent, do not underestimate all that your toddler can learn to do. Before bully tendencies set in, parents can consciously direct their toddler in right actions and away from wrong actions.
When there is an altercation with another child, the toddler’s parents should intervene, addressing their child’s inappropriate action towards the other person as unkind and unacceptable behavior. Yes, little ones can learn how to treat others kindly. To proactively counter a toddler from those bullying impulses, parents can practice the following at home.
- Play games – Teach a toddler in a fun environment (a period of non-conflict) how to share, take turns, wait patiently, and win and lose graciously. Show him or her the joy of success, how to cope with disappointment, and how to be a good sport. These occasions allow for social skills like cooperation to be understood practically. In addition, the child learns about following rules, integrity, and honesty.
- Praise and affirmation go a long way at this age (or any age). When you ‘catch’ your child being loving, kind, and compassionate to another person, affirm his or her actions through verbal words of encouragement and praise. Include smiles, hugs, and kisses. With your words of praise, include the specific virtue or action you saw displayed. Look for moments to speak life, love, and affirmation often.
- Pre-activity reminders. When your toddler will be in a setting with other children, before entering the scene provide an encouraging reminder to be loving and kind to the other children. Share that loving, kind behavior towards others pleases God, is the right thing to do, and it makes Mommy/Daddy’s heart happy. Toddlers really do want to please.
- Prefer others by example. Display for your child what it looks like to be kind, caring, compassionate, etc. Be aware and alert of your example in the home, at the door, while driving, and at the store. Little eyes are watching – a positive and consistent parental example speaks volumes. At all ages, more is caught than taught. Be aware of your ‘modeling career’.
Elementary Bully Block
Being a student of your child is a must for parents. Although a bully can be sneaky – subtly, covertly operating – some parents fail to recognize the tendency of their child to bully others. While it may be good to view their child’s influence over other children as a strength (strong leadership skill, etc.), it is also important for parents to honestly study and assess their child in social situations to recognize strengths and possible weaknesses.
Warning signs that your child could be a bully:
- Notoriously responds physically or verbally
- Blames others
- Does not accept responsibility
- Strongly competitive; ‘sore loser’; must always win
- Aggressive tendencies
- Frequently involved in fights but has an innocent demeanor
- Is drawn to a ruffian crowd or peers
As parents we praise and encourage right behavior while warning and halting wrong, foolish behavior. A change of direction will happen with elementary children when consistent consequences are applied to discipline issues — including bullying offenses. Discuss with your spouse appropriate consequences so you both parent with a unified front for the good of the child. If you desire further assistance, request help from a certified Contact Mom through Christian Family Heritage (CFH) at www.ChristianFamilyHeritage.org.
Even a bully will change his demeanor when sincere life-giving words are spoken to him and his home environment is routinely filled with life and love.
Additionally, be sure to praise your child when he or she demonstrates courage to stand up to a bully – calling wrong what it is. Praise, as well, when you observe your child standing alone against a bully who has drawn a subject into his web. A bully can only bother someone who can be bothered. Halt or block a bully by teaching your child not to engage him or her.
Be cautious and observant that your child does not bolster the bully naively. When kids respond in a favorable way to the bully’s abuse – by finding humor in hurtful deeds, or joining in with the bully’s teasing, or even just watching, giving the bully an audience —the bully’s behavior is fueled.
Pay attention to your child’s actions and interactions with people – both with kids similar in age and other people in general, including adults. These observations will inform parents where they need to focus their character training energies. Additionally, don’t excuse, ignore, or deny any report from teachers, coaches, or others who have the fortitude to report to you disturbing relational behavior they’ve observed from your child while your child was in their charge. Take it seriously and deal with it with consistent consequences as you would any other discipline issue.
Tweens and Teens Bully Inhibitor
If your teen is displaying bullying behavior, intervention is imperative. It could involve pastors, youth leaders, counselors, or potentially a counseling facility.
Make changes in your home environment …
- Fill your home with confidence.
- Routinely let the teen know they are loved and valued
- Speak life – communicate unconditional love, acceptance, and belonging
- Focus on family identity
- Examine friendships; move away from unhealthy relationships
- Get under regular Bible teaching as a family
- Memorize Scripture [Find scripture suggestions related to bullying in Part 3.]
There are two sides to the bullying equation — the bully and the bullied. Part 3 will delve into how to encourage a child who is on the oppressed side of the bullying equation.
Karen Kurtz is a mom of 4 Babywise/Prep for Parenting babies. All of them slept through the night as prescribed in the Ezzo’s parenting books. As a Contact Mom, Karen enjoys helping other parents train their babies and children. Karen and her husband Don, make their home in NE Ohio and all four babies are now young adults.
To view Part 1 of this series, Bullying ~ Unmasking a Bully: https://christianfamilyheritage.org/bully-power-unmasking-a-bully/