Whether it was from another parent or a teacher, learning that your child might be bullying others is some of the worst news you can get. Take a deep breath. It’s natural to deny that it’s happening, but it’s okay. You’re not a failure as a parent. You just need to take some steps to help your child correct their behavior.
Start with an open conversation about the event and don’t immediately begin with punishments and criticism. Rather than immediately taking a strict tone, listen to them explain what they did and why. Bullying never happens without a cause, and can only be fixed by addressing the root of the problem. Take note of how long it has been going on as well as how many other kids it affected.
Put meaningful consequences in place for your kid’s actions. Establish what the consequences of their actions are, and hold them to it every time. An important thing to keep in mind is whether it’s a balanced punishment. Too much and your kid will give up on changing their behavior, too little and they won’t correct their behavior. Also, make sure that the “punishment fits the crime”. If your child is cyberbullying, for example, confiscating their internet devices would be a fitting consequence.
Now comes the hard part: take an honest look at behavior at home and make the changes you want to see in your child. Are there any arguments, interactions, or times you’ve lost your temper in front of them? Children can act on their own, but more often than not they are imitating something they’ve seen before. Change might mean having discussions in a different way, avoiding making specific jokes, or dealing with your anger in a better way. But always practice what you preach when you’re trying to correct behavior.
Finally, you should work with your kid to make things right for the kids that were being bullied. Have your child write apology letters, bring snacks into the class, or say nice things to the children who were wronged. If it’s a problem of feeling insecure or unwelcome in a class, help them work through it. No matter what, closely monitor their behavior afterward to be certain they won’t relapse into bullying again.