As a licensed professional counselor at Legacy Counseling Service in Broken Arrow and a previous school counselor, I often hear from parents of children who have been bullied. They are looking for ways to help their child overcome the trauma of having been victimized by a bully. Less often, I hear from parents who have recognized that their child is the one doing the bullying. They have seen texts consistent with cyber bullying or have been called to the school office because their child is in trouble for picking on another child. They are trying to understand why their child victimizes other children and how they can help their child overcome the need to bully.
Why Children Bully
While not all cases are the same, there are some common reasons why children bully. Any number of these factors could be influencing your child to bully.
Feeling of Inadequacy
Feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem have been sighted many times as the basis for bullying behavior. Perhaps your child struggles academically, socially, or physically. To overcome the feeling of inadequacy, a child may look to find someone he/she can put down and thereby make himself feel better because he “is not like that retard, Mary.” Jealousy is a vicious tool in the hand of the bully. Isolating the victim from his or her friends gives the bully a sense of control and worth. When a child cannot seem to live up to the expectations of others, she will sometimes find another person to pick on so that she can feel successful.
Inability to Feel Empathy
For some bullies, the thought that they may be hurting someone’s feelings does not even come to mind. They feel justified in their actions and are unable to see how their behavior is hurting someone else. If they do see that actions are hurtful, they don’t care. The lack of compassion keeps the bullying behavior going.
History of Being Bullied Themselves
While it would seem having once been victimized himself, the bully would not want others to face the same hurt. The truth is, though, that many bullies have been bullied themselves. Why these victims go on to bully others can be traced back to those feelings of inadequacy which are amplified the bully’s own victimization.
Part of a social network of bullies
There are some who would not be bullies were it not for the influence of their peer group. When a young person hangs out with a group of bullies, chances are he or she will eventually begin the same behavior. Whether it is pressure from their circle of friends or just wanting to impress those friends, peers can influence even negative behaviors.
While this is certainly not all-inclusive, these factors can be the basis of your child’s bullying behavior. And, do not forget – bullying behavior comes in all sizes, races, genders, and family backgrounds.
How Can Counseling Help?
Finding the basis
Remember that bullying isn’t who the person is, but what the person does. The first step in changing behavior is recognizing the need for change. We, at Legacy Counseling Service in Broken Arrow, OK, are licensed professional counselors trained in behavior modification and mental health issues. We can work with your child to find out what motivates his or her behavior.
Identify new behaviors
Once we understand what is motivating your child to bully, counseling can help identify new and more positive behaviors. Some behaviors are so ingrained in a child that they have not even considered other, more positive behaviors. Or the child or parents doesn’t see how changing their current behaviors can impact them academically and socially. Working to identify new behaviors and practicing them with their trusted therapist is the beginning of change.
Build new relationships
Building new relationships is often key to helping the bully remain firm in the changes he or she has identified and learned. Having a supportive family makes the process easier and sometimes that means family therapy may be necessary. Family therapy helps identify areas that need improvement in the family relationship so that the child can have the support he or she needs in the changes he has chosen to make. Getting away from the poor influence of old friends and finding new friends is hard for kids, but it is vital if the child is going to grow in the new behaviors. That same trusted therapist can support both the child and the family as they work through the process of change.
Counseling is such an important tool in helping change the behavior and the attitude or thought processes of a bully. Look for a mental health provide who is skilled at helping both your child and your family. At Legacy Counseling Service we have many different counselors who can help your child and your family. Visit us today at www.legacycounselingservice.com to learn more about us and how we can help.
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