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“If I don’t want to believe . . . that my child is a bully, I can go to great lengths to explain away behavior that seems obvious to everybody else – everybody who isn’t too emotionally invested to accept it, anyway.”
– Chris Mooney (2011, p. 43)

Much of the bullying that occurs in schools is not committed by psychopaths or budding juvenile delinquents, but otherwise ordinary kids (perhaps even your child) who for one reason or another have gotten themselves caught up in the harassment of a peer. Thus parents can do their part to prevent bullying simply by monitoring their own child’s behavior, and taking steps to intervene when they witness questionable behavior.

How to Question A Child About Their Role in Bullying

“Be warned: Once a kid is certain he was protecting himself, he’s often frighteningly good at convincing his parents that he’s completely innocent.”
– Rosalind Wiseman (2010, p. 97)

1. Pay attention to how judgmental or mean-spirited your child is towards others in phone calls or among conversations with friends. If you hear her talking judgmentally, ask your child directly: “is this how you talk to those kids at school?” Put them on the spot. If nothing else, it should at least get them to reflect on their own behavior. Kids can grow accustomed to hostility when they are around friends who treat it as normal. Simply by raising concerns about their behavior you can get your child to do a character check on themselves.

2. Ask a child: “If the other person were right here telling me this story, what would he say?”

3. Don’t ask children if they bully others at school. Even kids who are regular bullies are unlikely to recognize themselves as such. Instead, ask about hostility in a more roundabout way: “Did you do anything to the other child – whether intentional or accidentally – that they might have seen as aggressive?” This allows children an escape outlet to open up more about what they might have done without openly admitting to bullying, and may help you get more of the truth.

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