Meltdowns & Anger

5 Things to Do When Your Child Is the Bully

You might be used to your child being the victim of bullying — but what about when he becomes the aggressive one at school? From prevention methods to role-playing, here are five ways to keep your kid from being the bully.

Many parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) worry about their kid being bullied at school. But some children with ADHD are bullies. According to a recent study, a child with ADHD is three times more likely to bully other kids than a child without the condition. Here’s how to stop bullying in its tracks.

Don’t accuse your child of bullying.

Avoid the temptation to yell. Instead, calmly say, “That was your teacher on the phone, and she said you were seen pushing Johnny on the playground. What’s your side of the story?” Don’t be surprised if he admits nothing and shows no remorse. “You should remind him of how he felt the last time someone was mean to him,” says Robert Sege, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Give her something constructive to do.

“Bullies are natural leaders,” says Sege. Talk with the teacher about giving your child a job to do when she usually acts up. Examples: Starting a playground clean-up crew or delivering notes to the office.

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Prevent bullying before it starts.

Ask the teacher where the bullying occurs. If it’s on the school bus, try assigned seating — putting your child near the bus driver and away from his target. If it’s at recess, have your child play only in a well-supervised area.

Help your child control her emotions.

If your child lashes out when others tease her, use role-playing to help her regulate her feelings. “Say, ‘ I love you and think you’re wonderful, but I’m going to taunt you as part of a game,'” says Alan Kazdin, Ph.D., director of the Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic at Yale University. “‘No matter what I say, ignore me and don’t get aggressive.’ Then you might say, ‘You’re weird.'” If your child doesn’t reply, praise her. Then say, “I’m going to call you more names, and you are going to walk away.” If he does, praise him again.

Don’t feel like you’re a bad parent.

If a teacher calls complaining about your child’s aggressive behavior, you may want to make excuses for his actions. Don’t! Gather information — the who, what, when, and where — so you can help your child and end the call on an up note, says Kazdin.

The more secure your child feels, the less likely he will bully others.

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