Recently, I overheard some moms at school. One said, “Did you hear about ‘so and so’; he’s becoming quite the bully. My kid would never do that.” Everyone nodded in agreement. Two days later, that mother’s son punched a classmate and teased a girl about her weight.
Nurture empathy. We’re all born with the capacity to be empathetic; this does not, however, guarantee it will develop on its own. Take the time to develop empathy in your tween. Effective ways to do so are just as simple as asking, “How would YOU feel if ‘so and so’ happened?”
Teach tweens positive ways to lead. Bullies actually have phenomenal leadership abilities. Teach your child to use their leadership ability in positive ways such as volunteering at the library, helping out neighbors or donating some of their allowance/toys/clothing to help others.
Monitor media, such as TV, video games and music. Media doesn’t necessarily cause mean behavior, but it can cultivate a culture of mean. Many shows feature scenes with repeated and intentional remarks, teasing and even violence. Rather than forbidding these shows, watch and discuss them with your tween. Identify certain behaviors and talk about the impact these behaviors can have.
Finally, lead by example. Let your child see you handle tricky situations. Discuss the different ways you could’ve handled the circumstance and the choice you made. This helps your tween to consider his or her own actions and choices. Plus, the more often your tween sees you taking the moral bigh ground, the more likely he or she will do the same.