5 Tips for When Your Child Is the Bully

Katherine Cork's picture
By Katherine Cork on October 16, 2019

There’s been a lot of talk about bullying in recent years. As some parents help their kids learn how to deal with bullies and stand up for themselves, other parents have the dilemma of their own child being the bully.  

It can be a shock to learn that your child is picking on other children, whether physically, verbally, socially or online. There is hope, however. The department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Carilion Clinic asserts that when a parent commits to helping a child understand and alter his pattern of behavior, the problem is likely to improve.
 
So how can you help your child if she is the one doing the bullying? Here are some tips:

male teacher in pink shirt with clipboard talking to teen in grey sweats
Work together with your child's teacher to address bullying behavior. He has a different perspective on your child and can be a good resource.

1. Take the problem seriously. 

Children bully for a variety of reasons that can include:

  • Poor social skills
  • A refusal to take “no” for an answer
  • An inability to wait their turn
  • Not knowing how to consider another person’s point of view
  • Being intolerant of differences
  • Not wanting to do difficult things

Talk to your child about what their triggers are and the impact of their behavior. Help them understand the impact of their words or actions on the person being bullied and what that feeling would be like.

2. Set consequences for the behavior.

The best consequences are things related to restitution of the person who was bullied. A sincere apology is a good start, but first make sure your child can take responsibility and demonstrate they know why their bullying behavior is wrong.

Another effective consequence is not allowing your child to be unsupervised around other kids until they can show restraint and understanding.

3. Communicate with teachers. 

Teachers and school administrators deal with bullying a lot and may be skillful in holding bullies accountable. They also have a different perspective than parents because they watch kids interact at school every day.

Talk with your child’s teachers to figure out a plan for how to help your child.

4. Teach your child a better way. 

Once you have talked with your child about their bullying, you can be on the lookout for triggers and intervene before it happens again. Make it a practice to talk regularly about how situations can be handled differently.

Sometimes, bullies have excellent leadership qualities and simply need a place to put that energy in order to use it to help others.

Your child will learn best by watching your behaviors.

5. Think about how your child is treated at home. 

If your child is bullying, take inventory of what’s happening in your family. Is the child being bullied at home by a sibling or a parent?

Some parenting styles are more likely to encourage bullying.

  • Always letting a child have their way doesn’t help them learn to work well with others
  • Excessively strict parenting can leave a child wanting to have some control in their life

A middle-of-the-road parenting style where kids have both choices and guidance is best.

Keep in mind that your child will learn best by watching your behaviors.

It’s also important to remember that bullying is different at different ages.
 
A child who bullies in preschool because they’re bigger and more active than their peers doesn’t need the same kind of intervention as a middle schooler who is making bad judgments, or an adolescent who is angry. Bullying is complex, so parents have to be thoughtful about what’s going on to determine the appropriate response.
 
For more resources on bullying, visit the Child Mind Institute and KidsHealth.

Also, read these articles for more information:

How to Teach Your Kids To Be More Tolerant

Your Child Is Being Bullied—What Do You Do?