Teen bullying dates back to caveman times, but the tragic occurrences at Columbine and other schools has given it new significance. As a parent you can take steps to prevent your teen from becoming either a bully, or a victim of one. Bullies crave power. They use aggression to fulfill their desires. Bullies do not necessarily suffer low self-esteem. They use physical violence or threats, or emotional attacks such as spreading rumors or scheming behavior.
Essential parenting will prevent your child from becoming a victim or a bully. The bonds you form with your teen aid them in forming healthy relationships. Such interactions teach your child to understand and deal with many diverse people. They want to get along with others rather than pick on them. If your child has a network of friends to stick up for them, bullies will leave them alone.
Whether your child is a bully or a victim, standing on the sidelines is not the answer. Bullies feed on fear, and bystanders seem afraid. Teach your teen to stick up for the victims of bullies, and to let other adults know what is going on. If your teen is a victim or a bully, arranging a conference with school officials and the other teen and his or her parents is a good idea.
But what happens when you get a call from a school administrator who informs you that your teen has been bullying other children at school? Parents who find out about their teen’s aggression towards other children are often faced with a barrage of emotions. Some parents feel embarrassed and ashamed that they somehow didn’t raise their child well enough or they weren’t able to control their children’s violent streak.
Why Do Teen Bullies Need Discipline?
Some parents may even be hesitant to admit that their children’s bullying is something to be punished and dealt with severely. These parents think that the real problem is if their children are at the receiving end of bullying.
Why do parents need to give careful consideration about punishment for teenagers who bully? It’s mainly because bullies themselves are affected by their own actions. They tend to develop a healthy disrespect for authority figures, have poor social skills, perform poorly in school, and generally just get into more trouble as time passes by. When bullies grow up, they have a hard time relating to other people and developing meaningful relationships with others. Typically, teen bullies are more popular while they are young but their social group thins out as they grow older and wield less control over the other children around them. They also tend to be more depressed and more likely to abuse substances.
Bullying is a bad pattern that needs to be broken as early as possible. If parents don’t address this pattern early, their teens will end up bullying people at home, at work, etc.
How Do You Handle Teenagers Who Bully?
- Make the punishment fit the crime – Parents who think of punishment for teenagers who bully other children often react out of anger. Bullies can handle the tough talk. Most actually thrive on it. Taking away privileges may work better. Punishing cyber bullies by taking away internet privileges and confiscating mobile phones, or limiting computer use (maybe even moving the computer to the family room) can be more constructive.
- Correct signs of bullying at home – Some parents may not notice that their children may have already been showing signs of aggression at home. By talking back to you or being harsh verbally and physically to siblings, your teen is showing signs of uncontrolled aggression. Making it clear that this kind of attitude towards people at home is not acceptable is very important.
- Encourage good behavior – Catch your child while doing something good, point this out and praise him/her. If you see your teen being extra patient to a sibling, point this out to show that you see this effort and approve of it.
- Give more responsibilities – Help your teen channel his/her energies to more useful and productive activities. During summer breaks, consider sending your child to wilderness or therapeutic camps where they will not be able to spend most of their time on the internet or on the phone but will instead be occupied with useful, character-building activities. Therapeutic camps or boarding schools also provide intensive counseling and therapy for troubled teens which will help teen bullies come to terms with whatever is causing the aggression.
- Work with your teen’s school – Discipline and punishment for teenagers who bully will be a lot more effective if you are in agreement with the school. This provides consistency and a way to monitor your child’s progress when he/she is not home.
Teens who bully will not change overnight. It took time to learn this kind of pattern, so it will also take time to unlearn it. Consistently modeling respect, taking your child to counseling, giving positive reinforcement and confronting bad behavior will, in time, help your teen find a better pattern that can help them become better-adjusted adults.