What do you do if your child is a bully?

Parents who fear their child is a bully have to get to the root of the problem instead of ignoring it or reacting with anger, writes Jackie O’Callaghan

All types of bullying are wrong. It is an insidious and horrible issue which has far reaching consequences for the victims and their families.

This fact was made agonisingly clear once again this week.

As such, it is time the issue is openly discussed and dealt with to ensure no one else has to face a tragedy like the one that has rocked Erin Gallagher’s family.

It is incumbent on society as a whole to ensure that bullying is wiped out. Parents are particularly key to this.

As a parent, you would hope to inculcate in your children a sense of what is good in others, in society, and — most importantly — in themselves.

So, what should you do if you realise or somebody tells you that your child is a bully?

Firstly, you should sit down with your son or daughter and ask them what is happening — not accuse them of the issue you have discovered.

Hear them out and then present the version of events as you see it.

You need to ascertain whether your version is true or whether what your child is telling you is the truth. Most parents will instinctively know if their child is telling the truth or not.


If it turns out the accusations are true, then you need to address the problem in a non-aggressive manner.

You need to ask: “Why?”

Why would you be mean to, or verbally or physically abuse, another person?

Why would you inflict pain, in any shape or form, on anyone else?

Why would you do to someone else something bad without putting yourself in their shoes?

Why would you have such a lack of respect both for yourself and towards someone else, without instigation?

You need to get to the root of the behaviour in order to move forward and find the hurt or worry within your own child, in order to understand what made them do whatever it is they have done.

Make them realise that even, though you are disappointed, you will help and support them in getting to the root of whatever is troubling them.

They will have to accept responsibility for their actions and realise the impact that such actions may have on their victims.

They will have to go to those they have bullied and apologise.

They have to see the implications of their action first hand, no matter how hard it is for them to deal with.

You then need to make them realise their action brings with it an equal and opposite reaction, and that there will be sanctions.

These need to be relevant to the bullying and to what would impact on them most, such as the removal of their mobile phone, internet access, or socialising for a length of time which you feel is appropriate.

Our children need to learn respect for themselves and for their peers, and then perhaps they would think twice before inflicting anything negative on any other human being.

To this end, society and our Government need to look at legislation governing social media sites — and the providers of such sites need to look at the moral obligations they have to their users.

And to the families of those who have at any time been affected by bullying to the verge of death, our sincere, deepest sympathy.

* Jackie O Callaghan is spokeswoman for the National Parents Council, post-primary section

* Read more:

Quinn urged to enforce anti-bullying programme for schools
What do you do if your child is a bully?
Children need to be trained in dealing with online harassment, says FF
Garda interview over Erin could be used by coroner
Schoolgirl laid to rest after ‘society failed her’

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