Bullying is a subject most parents know about and frequently discuss, but usually from the victim’s perspective. When the possibility arises that their own child may be one of the “mean girls,” parents often become less receptive to discussion. Keeping an open mind and listening to your child is important, but you must also hold her accountable for her actions. Read on for more information about bullying, its warning signs and appropriate ways to respond.
The Reluctance to Confront Reality
Rosalind Wiseman, the author of bullying curriculum used in schools throughout the United States, explains that today’s parents are often unwilling to confront the possibility that their child is harming others. The very prospect causes parents to experience fear, anxiety and defensiveness. Wiseman encourages parents to keep an open mind, however, and to be willing to consider and discuss the possibility. It doesn’t reflect on your character or parenting skills, but refusing to take action once you’ve been alerted to a problem may be harmful to your child.
Two Sides to Every Story
In the past, parents tended to believe teachers and other parents when they reported bad behavior. Today, parents tend to believe their children, becoming defensive with other adults question their child’s virtuousness. Before you take a stand, remember that kids who bully, especially girls, are adept at manipulating adults. It’s common for girls, if they believe they may suffer consequences for their behavior, to proactively relate a modified version of the story before their parents have a chance to hear it from someone else. Parents must hold their children accountable for their actions, even if they believe there was justification for her actions.
Even if you are skeptical that a problem exists, make an effort to open the lines of communication with your daughter as well as school administrators, teachers and other parents. Kids usually become bullies as a result of unexpressed anger, but it may also happen if they have been bullied or abused by someone else.
Talk with your daughter about anger and try to find the root of the problem. Help her understand empathy and why it’s important. Focus on your overall family dynamics as well. Children who see parents and family members model respect, dignity, introspection and healthy methods of expressing anger and emotion will follow suit. Respond to problems calmly and with compassion.
The fact that your child behaves badly is not a reflection of your parenting skills, but you owe it to her to help her learn from the experience and to grow into a caring and loving adult. If the situation continues to escalate, however, be proactive in seeking professional help.
If you find yourself unable to handle the developing behavior problems of your daughter or another young woman in your care, contact Havenwood Academy. Their residential treatment programs for teen girls are geared toward helping young women and their families through crises and emotional challenges. Their experienced, professional counseling staff can help you understand more about bullying and help you develop appropriate coping skills.