Experts like Barbara Coloroso, author of The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander, says bullying is not about anger or conflict, it's about contempt or feeling worthless.
Some parents are surprised to find out their child is a bully, and then even more surprised to learn that it stems from a lack of self-confidence or even a feeling of self-hatred.
Coloroso says there are 5 key ways to prevent your children from bullying others or to stop them if they already are.
1. Watch your own behavior. Be careful how you treat other people, like waiters, other drivers, or store clerks. If you are rude, cruel or make sexist or racist jokes you set the wrong example for your child. They will mimic your actions even if you try to tell them otherwise. Actions truly speak louder than words here.
2. Try to encourage empathy and sympathy. Make sure your kids know that behaviors have consequences and that it's better to try to help others rather than make fun of them or take pleasure in their problems. I am so proud of my son, Jake on this one. His teacher just told me that even though Jake is one of the most competitive athletes in his class, he is the first one to stop the game during recess when he sees someone is hurt. And instead of continuing the game, he walks the injured student to the nurse's office himself to make sure they're okay. That's what empathy is.
3. Keep a close eye on what kinds of TV, video games and music they see and hear. The lyrics and tone of many shows and songs can create a "culture of mean" that sends the wrong signal. The programming might not create a bully, but if it's not limited or put into context, the mean-spirited nature of it may subconsciously tell your child that kind of behavior is normal, acceptable and expected.
4. Teach friendship skills. Bullies are often great leaders, but they don't know how to be real friends because their peers usually can't trust them. Volunteering at a church, homeless shelter or soup kitchen will help your child see how lucky they are and will give them an outlet for their leadership qualities.
5. And engage them in high-energy activities. Instead of bullying their siblings, teach your child to put that energy to positive use by learning sports, bicycling, rock climbing, dancing, etc.