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Is Your Teen a Bully? 4 Signs and Ways to Address the Issue

Wasatch Family Therapy TeensIn today’s media we hear more and more about the negative effects bullying has on Americas youth. As parents we do everything we can to protect our kids from  help becoming the victim of bully behavior, but what if our teen is the bully? Here are 4 signs to look for and ways to empower your teens to take a stand against bully behavior.

1- Your teen is overly concerned with social status and popularity

When popularity is top priority, teens are more likely to bully others to gain approval and social power. While most teens are keenly aware and invested in their social systems, teens that display competitive behaviors with regards to popularity are more likely to engage in bully behaviors. Parents should be observant of their teens interaction with others and know the difference between normal conflict (where individuals want and work for a resolution to the disagreement) and bullying (where the intention is to cause harm and/or gain power). Have conversations with your teen about positive conflict resolution skills like active listening and involving a third party mediator. Also, encourage them to engage in team building activities to fulfill their social needs.

2- You see increased aggressive behaviors

Verbal and physical aggression are overt bully behaviors that may be easily spotted, but typically around junior high and high school ages bully behaviors become more covert in the form of gossip, rumors, and intimidation.This often done on the internet through social media. Setting boundaries for technology with your teens and discussing why these boundaries are important is a good place to begin addressing this issue. Additionally, encouraging them to report bully behaviors rather than feed into them, helps de-escalates the situation rather than perpetuate it.

3- You’re teen has been, or is currently, the victim of bullying.

Studies show that nearly all bullies have been the victims of bullying, abuse, or neglect at some point. Helping your teen build and display empathy for others is one way to help break the cycle of bullying. Talk to your kids about their experiences with bullying as both the victim and the bully. Validate their feelings and allow them time to express themselves. Opening these lines of communication is a good way of redirecting negative energy to a more positive expression, and will help them feel supported. It is also important for you to model positive and assertive communication styles with your teen.

4-Your Teen is a “Bully Bystander”.

Being a bystander is a passive way of engaging in bully behaviors. Often times bystanders are avoiding being bullied themselves. Standing on the sidelines and watching bully behavior gives the bully the attention and power they are seeking. This reinforces the negative behavior. Not taking action sends the signals of acceptance and approval of the negative behaviors and may increase the severity and likelihood of continued bullying.  Set and verbalize positive expectations for your teens behaviors. Offer support and resources to help them manage their fears and help them build assertive communication skills that they can use confidently and safely in bully situations. Reinforce that they can, and should, ask for help! Additionally, you can talk to other parents and teachers to help establish a “Caring Community” that embraces diversity and tolerance in the class room, community, and other arenas.

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