As I said bullies aren't born, they are created. The parents' first inclination that their child is mean, a troublemaker or a bully usually happens when the child is around other children. For example, "biters" in preschool cause pain for other children. Parents understand this happens, and some parents have a story of their child being bitten by another child. The school or program the biter attends usually helps stop the aggressive behavior and these kids grow older, stop biting and learn how to get along and socialize with other children. This is not true with a child labeled as a troublemaker.
Children who are labeled as troublemakers have more than one offense on their young school record. If you were to attend school meetings with mom and dad, you would see a consistent pattern with teachers telling parents the same thing, "Your child is a troublemaker." When this happens a normal reaction is for parents to overact. They may act out on their child with punishment, they may verbally attack the teacher, they may do a lot of things, but what they seldom do is what they should do the first time they hear it.
Below are seven suggestions of things you should do if you hear or have heard that your child is a "troublemaker." Troublemakers don't go away, they worsen until the issues they are acting out are resolved.
1. Do take your child to their pediatrician and tell the doctor what is going on. Hearing loss, poor eyesight, allergies and many other medical conditions can cause anxiety, anger and sadness in children.
2. Do talk to the teacher one-on-one and take notes. Make sure you are very clear about what happens when your child misbehaves.
3. Don't be defensive. Feeling defensive comes from guilt, and if you're a working mom or a single mom or dad, you may feel guilt. Every parent I know feels guilt at some time. It comes with the territory.
4. Do watch your own social interactions with your spouse, ex, or friends. Children learn how to get along by watching parents and family. If they see violence, they will act violent.
5. Don't hit your child or ground them for days that you cannot monitor and follow through with. Follow through with any discipline you enact.
6. Do invite kids over and be there to observe. If you see your child getting aggressive, step in and correct the behavior. You want to teach your child that hurting others is not okay.
7. Don't assume you know what your child is feeling. Listen to them, and take them to a trained licensed counselor for additional help.
When your child acts out it's because they have anger or feelings they do not know how to express. They act out to get your attention. Prioritizing more one-on-one family time, while excluding social media as well as other distractions will help your child get back on track (if the mentor bully is a parent, then talking to your spouse or ex about how their behavior is affecting their child is important). It is not the school's job to re-parent parents' mistakes or lack of discipline. No one will ever be invested in a child's welfare as deeply as the parent. The sooner you erase a "troublemaker" label from your child's record, the better. -Mary Jo Rapini
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