No parent wants to imagine that their child would willingly inflict harm on others. It’s a painful reality, and it can be confusing, disturbing, and downright frustrating.
That said, if your child is a bully, it’s essential to address the issue. It’s also crucial that you learn how to intervene and help your child change their behavior. Let’s get into what you need to know.
What Should You Do If Your Child Is a Bully?
Here are some tips to help you address your child if they are bullying others. But first, let's take a look at why bullying happens, so we can better understand the possible roots of the behavior.
Why Do Kids Bully?
Most kids don’t bully others because they are inherently sociopathic. Bullying behavior may be misguided, but the action aims to meet an intrinsic need or desire. Kids may bully because they
- want to fit in with their peer group;
- are getting bullied by others and want to restore a sense of power or control;
- seek attention from parents, classmates, or teachers;
- don’t truly recognize how their behavior impacts their victims;
- struggle with social skills; and/or
- want to feel good about themselves.
Understanding your child’s motives can support you in helping them change their behavior. If they can learn to satisfy their needs in healthier ways, there is less incentive to continue bullying.
Talk to Your Child Directly
If you discover your child is bullying someone else, you should intervene immediately. Don’t assume that the other person is overreacting or lying about your child.
Tell your child what you heard, but make it known that you also want to hear their opinion. Remember that it’s common to hear different sides of the same story. This is normal. Your child will likely perceive the event much differently than the victim does.
Identify and Implement Boundaries
Boundaries refer to the limits you set with your child. You can have boundaries for anything: their behavior, schoolwork, hygiene, adherence to family rules, etc. When it comes to bullying, boundaries are essential.
When it comes to disciplining a bully, it’s a good idea to implement a no-tolerance policy in your home. This starts by identifying the consequences for their behavior. These consequences may include taking away coveted privileges like their phone, car, or social media use. It may also include supporting the school or law enforcement with their bullying policies.
Focus on Building Empathy
When people can identify how a person may feel, they are more compassionate, patient, and tolerant. Even if differences exist, empathy softens the difficulties associated with diversity.
Teach your child empathy by asking questions like:
- “How do you think they felt when you did that?”
- “What do you think their self-esteem is like right now?”
- “What thoughts might they be having about themselves?”
- “What fears might they have?”
Ask these questions without jumping to answer them yourself. Allow your child to think critically. Over time, this technique can instill empathy for others.
Kylie's Success Story:
If Your Child Is a Bully, Change Is Possible
If your child is a bully toward others, it’s a sign of distress. Your child isn’t doomed to malice or cruelty, however early intervention is key.
Therapy can help your child understand their feelings, triggers, and interpersonal relationships. It also provides a safe and private place for them to practice new ways of coping with their struggles.
Get Help for Your Child or Teen
- My Child is a Bully | Signs of Bullying | What Makes a Bully | Child Mind Institute. (2019, March 21). Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/what-to-do-if-your-child-is-bullying/
- For Families: 5 Tips for Cultivating Empathy — Making Caring Common. (2018, October 13). Making Caring Common. Making Caring Common. https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/resources-for-families/5-tips-cultivating-empathy