5 Strategies For Kids Who Bully
1. Keep your cool while guiding your children to respond. When we jump on kids to apologize for a minor infraction, we may inadvertently drive them deeper into defensiveness. If they’ve just been in a conflict, their little fight or flight responses brains are already flaring from the stress of a conflict, and in no place to think things through with their prefrontal cortex. Worse, if our children associate apologies with shame or punishment, they are unlikely to spontaneously apologize in the long run. This is why Jane Nelson (author of Positive Discipline) recommends - “connecting before correcting”.
2. Guide them through a recap. Once calm, we might help kids reflect on how their behaviour made the other child feel, encourage them to reach out and see what they can do for the other child (if the other kid is willing)—whether this means an apology, a hug, or simply handing back the stolen toy. Kids who learn to make things right in this way are found to act more altruistically down the road.
3. Allow the timing to be right. Sometimes we are in a rush, especially when there are multiple kids in meltdown mode. In these moments, do what you need to do to help everyone find their calm, then later, perhaps on the drive home (one of my favorite places for non threatening conversations, and a captive audience) you can talk through or even role - play what an appropriate amends might be. Some useful questions (again from Jane Nelson) include the following:
* What happened, and why?
* What were the results, and how did they affect you and others?
* What did you learn?
* How can you make it better?
4. Know when consequences should follow an amends. Sometimes a consequence might still be in order, but if a child can make authentic amends, our validating and encouraging that prosocial behaviour is far better than punishment for its own sake. If we create a space in which children feel safe, calm, and non - defensive, they’ll be far more likely to make amends or apologize on their own.
5. Share stories of your own mistakes. Once the storm has blown over, share stories about times in life we made mistakes, wish we could have behaved differently or made a heartfelt apology or amends. Relating with our children in this way not only changes the culture of our family but also nudges our larger communities toward problem solving, connection, and forgiveness—and away from perpetuating a punitive culture of “zero tolerance” for ourselves and others. Take some time to reflect on how it feels for you to make amends. What are your values around making amends or apologies? What were you taught as a child? How do you model these for your kids?
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