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Major warning signs your grandchild is a bully

Major warning signs your grandchild is a bully

With one out of every four children getting bullied, it's a growing epidemic. But what if your child is the bully? Experts share the signs that indicate your child might be the one causing the trouble.

They justify bad behaviour

Bullies may attempt to shift blame to the victim rather than themselves. Licensed professional counsellor Jay Clark says a behaviour that tends to correlate with bullying is when a child fails to recognise their actions may be contributing to a problem. Emotions may quickly escalate in intensity in a child with bullying tendencies, and they feel justified in treating another child badly. They may feel the other child ‘has it coming’.

They have friends who act aggressively

Children who bully often don’t have a shortage of friends. In reality, they usually have a large network of friends and a smaller, intimate group that encourages bullying behaviour, according to the Pacer Centre. No parent wants to find out their child is ill-behaved towards other students. However, if your child’s friends are mean towards other kids, or if they engage in some other type of bullying, your child might be participating in bullying as well.

They have difficulty sleeping

A 2011 study by the University of Michigan, published in the Sleep Medicine journal, revealed children with aggressive or bullying tendencies were twice as likely to exhibit sleep-disordered breathing problems like snoring or daytime sleepiness. While this study doesn’t prove sleep disorders actually cause bullying, it does show a possible link between sleep problems and contentious behaviour. A lack of sleep impairs mood and decision-making. If you think your child has sleep issues, a visit to the doctor might be a beneficial step to curb potential bullying.

They get in trouble at school

When Tori Cody received a call from the assistant director of her son’s preschool telling her she needed to talk to her son because he was “messing” with another boy, she felt shocked, saddened and embarrassed. “How could my four-year-old be a bully?” she asked. Realising she needed to take his aggressive behaviour seriously, she sprang into action. She began frequent talks with her son challenging him to consider how he would feel if someone behaved towards him in the same manner he behaved towards his classmate. Though it’s a work in progress, Cody has seen an improvement in her son’s actions at school.

They have behavioural problems

“Certain behaviours, if elevated, tend to correlate with bullying,” says Clark. Children who are hot-tempered, easily frustrated, impulsive, prone to fighting, and lack empathy towards others have a higher risk of being bullies. Some children may even brag about handling conflict by fighting.

They live in a violent home

If a child is in a home where they’re seeing violence, or they too are victims of violent behaviour, they are more likely to react violently in pressure situations.  Frustration builds up in kids who experience violence, Clark says. When an explosion of anger is modelled in the home, similarly, they might be inclined to take out their own anger on other children.

They have experienced bullying first-hand

Occasionally, children who have been the target of bullying will become bullies in an effort to regain some control over their lives. This was the case for Mischa van Loder, whose seven-year-old daughter began getting in trouble after she was the victim. Van Loder credits encouraging her daughter into friendship groups with positive role models as a key to curtailing her daughter’s behaviour. “Parental presence is everything in this situation,” she says. “Without support, love and lots of investigation, the problem is difficult to solve.”

They act aggressively towards their siblings

Clark suggests if you have more than one child, monitor how they’re treating the other siblings. If they display aggression towards their siblings, it’s likely they may also demonstrate aggression towards their peers.

They spend a lot of time online

With cyberbullying on the rise, Clark cautions parents to monitor their child’s internet use. There’s a level of anonymity that occurs online, allowing children to say things they might not otherwise say to another child face-to-face.

They’re intolerant towards children who are different

Licensed clinical social worker Carmen Berzinski says some children she works with show a lack of ability or willingness to accept kids who are different (diverse ethnic backgrounds, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation, etc). In an attempt to exert some control over these differences, a bully might engage in name-calling, sending harsh messages via text or social media, and fighting. For parents, Berzinki has this advice, “Nurture empathy and create opportunities for your child to do good. Reward your child for the positive steps forward they take.”

Written by  Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio. This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.