DENVER—A Denver mom lames bullying after her 9-year-old son tragically killed himself after coming out as gay. Child Psychologist Dr. Sheryl Ziegler says it’s not easy for parents to have this conversation, but it’s important to know the signs if your kid may be a bully.
“The first barrier is just parents being in denial, no not my kid,” Dr. Ziegler said. “Of all the issues, this is one that makes them feel like a failure. Well if I admit to that, then there’s something wrong with us, or there’s something wrong with the way that we raised them.” Ziegler says it takes a community approach to stop bullying, but the parent plays a big role in that.
“The label of bully is just it'll just put parents on the defense,” Dr. Ziegler said. “At least start with just listing out what you're concerned about, and then talk about a plan.”
Dr. Ziegler says there is no single trait that defines a bully, but the signs come in clusters. She says bullies can lack empathy at times and find it hard to imagine what it’s like in others’ shoes. Ziegler says other signs include: being aggressive at home, teasing and criticizing others, craving attention whether it’s positive or negative, shrugging off responsibility and challenging authority. In terms of addressing it, Ziegler recommends a firm approach, but not one that shames the child.
“Don’t berate them but certainly give them consequences, and go out if your way to really teach empathy,” Dr. Ziegler said.