This is a simple empathy-building exercise in which a bullied child plays the role of the bully, and vice-versa. For the child who usually bullies, it can help him understand how his actions affect his victims. For a child who is often bullied, the role reversal should include some speculation about why the bully does what he does. This can help the child identify ways to communicate with a bully in a non-confrontational way.
Not all bullies are open to empathy and communication. Bullyproofing role plays teach children to deal with that kind of bully. In this situation, an adult or trusted older child plays the role of the bully. The bullied child practices avoidance and escape skills in the context of the game. This kind of repeated practice can help the child understand how to avoid being bullied, and to apply those skills under the pressure of a real situation.
Bullying usually happens in public, because bullies do what they do for the attention and praise their behavior elicits. In a stepping up role play, participants play the role of the bystanders in a bullying situation. They practice de-escalating the confrontation, coming to the aid of the bullied child, or simply refusing to give positive feedback for the bully's behavior. Children who practice this skill may then be ready to do the same in an actual bullying situation.
In a school environment, bullies can get away with bullying because schools require specific documentation of bad behavior before they can punish a child. Because children aren't noted for their excellent, objective recall of details, a role playing exercise where they play the role of a bullied child, then remember and report what happened, can be useful to both the child and the adults responsible for his safety. In this kind of role play situation, an adult should always play the role of the bully to keep feelings and even physical behavior from getting out of hand.
Lack of Supervision, Substance Abuse
Homes that lack effective and positive parental supervision may create an environment that produces children with bully-like tendencies, according an article on the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) website, "Bullying: Facts for Kids and Parents." In addition, in homes where alcohol abuse exists and where maternal attachment in toddlerhood might be compromised, there may be elevated risks of bullying behavior in children, according to a study published in the "Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology" in 2010. The study, “Parent Alcohol Problems and Peer Bullying and Victimization: Child Gender and Toddler Attachment Security as Moderators," found "a direct association between fathers' alcohol symptoms and bullying of peers, as well as indirect association via toddler-mother attachment security."
A lack of consistent consequences and parenting can also lead to children exhibiting bully behaviors, according to the NASP website. When a child acts out in an aggressive or hurtful manner toward someone else, it’s crucial to correct this misbehavior and apply consequences to teach the child that aggression is not acceptable or appropriate. If parents fail to provide consistent consequences to bullying behavior, or they don’t attach any negative feedback to such behavior, the end result is reinforcement of the bullying behavior.
Victim Becomes Bully
Children who regularly receive physical punishment from parents may bully other children, the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension reveals in an article, "Why Do Some Children Bully Others?" Spanking, hitting, shoving and other forms of physical punishment or abuse can teach children to deal with their problems or challenges by using methods of aggression. Because it’s common for children to emulate behaviors and actions that occur in the home, parents who engage in bully-like behavior with children will likely produce children who repeat such behaviors with others. According to Education, a website filled with resources for teachers, authoritarian parents, those who parent with strict rules and harsh punishment and little affection, may parent in a style that encourages bullying behavior.
Some parents encourage children to develop a fight-back attitude in response to the wrongs done to them. The Education website states that condoning physical responses can influence children to develop tendencies to use aggression and physical responses to resolve differences. Whereas, teaching children a more peaceful response might reduce the risk of children engaging in bullying behavior.
Learn the Facts
Sit with your child in a relaxed and loving setting to discuss the bullying. Ask questions to learn as many details and facts as possible about the bullying problem from your child before you speak with the teacher. Questions to ask include the time period of the bullying, names of people participating and where the bullying happens. Take notes as you talk to your child so you remember all the important details, advises author and talk show host Paul Coughlin in an article on the Christian Broadcast Network website. If any details are unclear, ask questions until you feel confident that you understand the entire situation.
Schedule a Meeting
Once you have the facts call your child's teacher to schedule a conference. Mention the purpose for your request on the telephone, as school policy might dictate an administrator presence at the conference due to the nature of the issue. It might also be of benefit to have a school guidance counselor present at the conference.
You should remain calm when you approach the teacher. High emotions or anger on your part will not solve the bullying problem. Instead, stay focused on resolving the problem. Keep a proactive attitude with a problem-solving demeanor. This approach is more effective for resolving problems -- and the school officials are likely to appreciate your positive attitude.
After outlining the details and facts as explained to your by your child, including the names of students involved and the specific times the bullying occurred, ask the teacher if she has noticed any situations that support your allegations. You should also ask if she's ever noticed your child seeming isolated or at odds with her peers. You should further query the teacher as to whether she suspected a bullying situation in the classroom. Finally, ask her what steps the school will take to put an end to the bullying behavior to help your child feel safe. It's reasonable to expect the school to confront the children involved to remedy the situation.
After the initial conference, you will need to have ongoing communication with your child's teacher to ensure that the bullying situation stops. Talk with your child daily to see how things are going. Call or email the teacher if your child communicates problems or issues. Ask the teacher for her perceptions and opinions about how your child is getting along with his peers.
One of the most common causes of bullying behavior is family life, according to James Lehman, M.S.W., child behavior therapist, writing for the Empowering Parents website. Bullies often learn bullying behavior at home. When family members use bullying tactics in the home, teens are more likely to use the same tactics throughout their lives. Growing up, parents and other close family members are a child’s primary examples of what appropriate behavior looks like. This means that if your family treats bullying as acceptable behavior, your child will probably do the same.
Children and teens who suffer from behavior disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, have a difficult time controlling their impulses and emotions, which makes them more likely to become bullies. Teens in this spectrum tend to act before they think, which often means they have little regard for the appropriate treatment of others. Additionally, if their parents are too permissive and allow their defiant behavior to occur because they consider it part of their disorders, these teens are even more likely to bully others.
Lack of Social Skills
Some teens bully simply because they don’t have the social skills to treat other kids with respect. For example, a teen who never learned how to appropriately problem solve different life issues might resort to bullying others to get his way rather than taking a step back to think about how to approach the situation correctly. He might turn to aggression and abuse of others to make up for his own lack of adequate social skills.
Bullies are more often than not the more popular students in high school, according to the Boston Children’s Hospital website. They often feel a desire to dominate over the other kids in their schools. Some bullies just like the attention they get when they bully. For example, they might like it when bullying someone makes other students laugh, or they might find it amusing that their peers are too afraid to stand up for themselves. Bullies often suffer from self-esteem and confidence issues -- and bullying makes them feel better about themselves.
Talk about some common rumor tactics that your child might encounter with peers. Making personal or sensitive information public knowledge is a standard rumor, states the Scholastic website. A rumor might also begin with an outright lie or just a crafty exaggeration that stretches the truth enough to devastate a victim.
Discuss rumor-mongering methods to provide an overview for your child. If one child intentionally lures and manipulates a victim into sharing personal information or divulging a secret, this sets the stage for a story to spread through the peer network. Tell your child that rumors can spread by face-to-face contact, text message, social media and by instant messaging.
Explore with your child how the victim of a rumor probably feels when lies or embarrassing stories are circulating about her. This victim might be embarrassed, fearful, angry, distrusting and powerless to stop the progression of the rumor. Ask your child to imagine for a moment how she would feel if a rumor circulated about her.
Describe how other people can perpetuate a rumor, even unintentionally, by doing nothing to stop the spread of the rumor, according to the KidsHealth website. If people stand by in the face of rumors without standing up to them and trying to stop them, the rumors continue.
Explain to your child that it’s not necessary to like everyone and be friends with everyone. But even the people your child isn’t friendly with don’t deserve rumors to circulate about them. Using rumors to hurt others, retaliate, or elevate the self is a dishonest way to act, warns the KidsHealth website.
Encourage your child to treat others respectfully, kindly and fairly. By treating others in a respectful manner, your child is likely to gain solid friendships with peers.
Tell your child to report rumors to a school official or to you if she discovers a rumor circulating. If a rumor is a part of a bullying circumstance, the victim needs adult intervention to help stop the rumors and the behavior that fostered the rumors.
Contact the teacher to set up a conference or a time to chat. Instead of ambushing the teacher after school, let her know about the problem and that you would like to speak with her about finding a solution. Call or email the teacher, explaining about the bullying parent, and ask her to schedule a time to meet either before or after school. While meeting in-person is preferential, a phone call can substitute for a face-to-face conference if there is absolutely no way to set one up.
Explain the situation in a calm manner. While it's challenging to keep your anger at the bullying parent under wraps, yelling at the teacher -- who may have nothing to do with the specific situation -- won't help to solve the problem.
Provide the teacher with all of the facts surrounding the situation, including examples and specific incidences. This includes calls that the other parents may have made to you, emails, threats and aggressive acts towards you or your child.
Keep the conversation centered on your problem. If the bullying parent has other victims, allow them to bring this up with the teacher. This is a time to solve your problem, not add gossip or second-hand stories to your own.
Offer a few suggestions or solutions instead of leaving the whole thing up to the teacher to solve. Ask if she feels that a group meeting at the school to talk things out would work.
Learn the school's policies about bullying and parental involvement. The bullying policies for the children may not include a section on adult or parent bullies. Look through your child's school handbook or talk to an administrator about parent-specific policies.
Assess if the parent-bully is simply acting aggressively or there was an incident that set her off. Find out if she is reacting -- or rather, over-reacting -- to something that your child did to hers, such as name calling.
Don't confront the bullying parent if she is acting aggressive. If she is engaging in physical or verbal aggression, simply walk away and wait to talk to the teacher.