Long Island Parent Talk

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How to know if your kid is a bully in the making

One of the signs of a bully in

One of the signs of a bully in the making is that he appears to enjoy feeling powerful, in control, dominating or manipulating classmates. (Credit: iStock)

When it comes to my 9-year-old, the worm has turned in the friend-making department. He’s got wonderful friends. And he’s got rotten ones. They can be nasty, throw their weight around and behave as if being cool means acting like a jerk. I don’t like it.

I want to tell some parents I know that their kids are mean, but I remain silent. Until something serious happens as a consequence of the behavior I’ve observed, I feel it’s just not my place. It’s hard to criticize someone else’s child, even if they’ve been disrespectful to me, or worse, loathsome to my kid.

So I offer this list of warning signs that a child may be at risk of becoming a bully, followed by ways to prevent it from happening, as suggested by Peter J. Goodman, author of “We’re All Different But We’re All Kitty Cats” (DreamBIG Press, $16.95), a new children’s book series for elementary school children about issues such as bullying, confidence and making friends (I've seen almost all of these warning signs in action):

-Appears to enjoy feeling powerful, in control, dominating or manipulating classmates

-Equates being powerful and respected with fear

-Is skilled at sneaky behavior

-Blames others

-Exhibits little compassion

-Frequently on the defensive

-Behaves in defiant and oppositional manner toward adults

-Seeks unusual amount of attention and attracts it through negative behavior

-Displays impulsivity and lack of coping skills

“There is a real fear that the child bully, without the help to overcome the tendencies to bully, will grow up to become the adult bully, and have opportunities to do real harm,” says Goodman. “Redirecting these at-risk children, and providing them with the needed tools and coping mechanisms to take the positive route instead of the negative, would have an impact on our society.”

He suggests parents do the following:

-Notice and describe the bullying behavior in private without hesitation and in a firm voice

-At the same time, communicate compassion and avoid bullying the child who bullies

-Teach anger management/relaxation skills, competition skills, and social skills

-Provide opportunities for child to shine and/or experience success

-Use consequences that include opportunities to practice new, more appropriate coping and social skills

-Provide private recognition of improved behavior.

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