Bullying takes many forms in children and teens, but often parents are unaware of the signs that their own child is the one who is doing the bullying. Observation of any of the following signs or a combination of signs should draw the attention of parents that their child may be the one who is doing the bullying.
Exclusion of a former friend
One of the first signs to be aware of is when your child excludes other children. If someone used to be a friend who would be invited over or to birthday parties and suddenly is no longer on the list, parents should look deeper into why that friendship has stopped. Sometimes in order to gain status with others who are more popular, children, especially girls, will stop hanging around friends who they used to be close with. Now it may be that the friend has cut the friendship also, but this is one of the first signs of power shifts and desire for popularity and status.
Emphasis on popularity
When a child starts putting more emphasis on popularity than on loyal friendships, parents should be alert to this as a sign. Parents may feel even a sense of pride in the fact that their child is popular and has lots of friends, but often there is another side to the coin, unpopularity. It means that your child’s status is higher at the expense of someone else. There is almost always a hierarchy of popularity in a school system. For a student to rise in the hierarchy, someone is likely falling in the hierarchy at your child’s expense.
Negative comments about other children
Be watchful for when your child may make negative comments about another child. Often evidence of disdain for others comes across in comments about how another child dresses, their weight, or some other perceived physical flaw in the child. This is a sign that your child is gaining personal status on being superior to the child with the perceived flaw. Comments may be that a child is “weird” or “I don’t like ____”. These are signs that parents should look deeper at the possibility that this child who is unlikable or deemed weird could be being bullied.
Usually bullying takes place in between classes, at lunch time, and during recess. While a parent is often not able to observe behavior during the school day, a parent can arrive at school early to pick them up to watch how a child behaves when leaving school. Watch for if your child walks in a crowd while pointing or laughing at another child. Watch for if another child walks alone, while your child has a group of friends to exit the building with. Other observations may be teasing such as temporarily taking a stocking cap or a backpack, roughly tousling a student’s hair, or more physical contact than is necessary.
Acquisition of new items
The traditional stereotype of a bully is stealing a kid’s lunch money. There is some truth to the stereotype. If your child seems to suddenly be acquiring new items that the parent or child have not paid for, there should be a question about where those items came from. Sometimes it can be by taking items from the bullied child.
Secretive behavior with social networking
Social networking sites are one of the most brutal places where bullying takes place with the pre-teen to teenage crowd. Be alert to what your child is posting on social networking sites. Spontaneously check on one the child is posting. Require your child to show their posts to you periodically. The child who is not posting anything offensive will not mind a parent looking at the social network. If the child doesn’t want the parent to see it, odds are that there is something on there that may be inappropriate. Now sometimes that does not mean bullying, but it can be where bullies gain courage to say words that they would never say in person. It is also easy to gang up on someone on these sites also, in order to try to improve personal status.
Lack of empathy
Showing a lack of empathy toward those who are less fortunate or who may be different than your child can be a sign of bullying. If in conversations, parents hear their child name-calling or making comments about certain students deserving what they are receiving, those are signs that your child is the bully. When your child, can’t relate to what another child may be feeling in these situations, it shows a lack of empathy which is common in bullies.
Former bullied person
Sometimes the worst bullies are actually children who were once bullied themselves. Sometimes parents see it as their child is standing up for themselves or is suddenly popular and it is a relief. In actuality the child has decided to become the bully to avoid being bullied. Watch for a transition from being the one excluded or teased to suddenly hanging around the kids that used to bully your child. That is often a sign that your child has joined the bullies to pick on another child.
Another sign that your child could be the bully is your child’s body language. Often bullies who tend to physically bully other kids, have a physical swagger or intimidation to their body language. This is frequently observed in boys more than girls.
Aggression at home
If there are signs of aggression at home that can be a sign of both bullying and being the bully. If your child is taking aggression out on siblings, pets, toys, or even parents themselves, it can be a sign of bullying. The child can either be continuing the behavior at home or imitating the bullying behavior at home where the child feels he or she may have some status above others in the home.
Accusations from other parents or the school
Sometimes parents are in denial that their child could be exhibiting bullying behavior. If parents are calling to discuss behavior of your child or the school is informing the parents of questionable incidents, there are probably more incidents that are never reported. Bullying is an activity that thrives in intimidation to keep it quiet. Make sure to take any observations by other children, adults, or professionals seriously. Do not make excuses for the behavior and allow the behavior to pass. Often with early intervention in minor bullying offenses, parents can prevent their child from escalating the cruelty of the bullying behavior.
Parents often do not want to face the reality that it is their own child that is being the bully, but by observing the signs of bullying behavior parents can apply intervention strategies that can prevent another child from suffering from this cruel behavior.