Finding out that your child is bullying others can feel unsettling and distressing. However, any child might engage in bullying behaviors, and it doesn’t mean they’re a bad kid or you’re a bad parent. By learning to spot “bully behaviors” and correct them in healthy ways, you can give your child the tools to learn and grow.

Watch Out for These Signs

Little boy crying
Image by Annie Spratt is licensed with Unsplash License

Of course, you want to tackle any bully behaviors your child exhibits so your child can better manage their relationships with peers and any conflicts. School officials and teachers, other parents, and even other kids may share signs they see that indicate your child might be participating in bullying behavior.

Even if others don’t tell you about bully behaviors in your child, you’ll want to be on the lookout for certain indications that your child is participating in problematic behaviors. Signs your child might engage in bullying others include:

  • Being bullied themselves: Your child may attempt to recapture their sense of power by participating in bully behaviors themselves if they’re being bullied, whether that’s at school, at home, or somewhere else.
  • Being unable to regulate emotions: If your child can’t fully manage or regulate their emotions, they can start to act out or exhibit inappropriate behavior.
  • Having a lack of empathy: Kids who don’t understand how others feel can have trouble seeing how their behavior can affect other people.
  • Focusing on their popularity: Kids who want to fit in may attempt to assert their place at the top of the social hierarchy by putting others down.
  • Using exclusive language: If your child is using language inclusive to the “in crowd” at school, a majority group, or group they belong or want to belong to and using less-tolerant language for other groups, they might be participating in bullying. Exclusive language can look like gender- or racial-orientated or more general put-downs.

Fortunately, if you think your child is bullying others, you can take certain steps to put a stop to this behavior. As a parent, you can take specific action to combat your child’s bullying and help boost their self-esteem and empathy, so they can learn better strategies for coping with what life throws at them. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About It

Yes, it’s uncomfortable to think your child is a bully. However, simply avoiding the conversation won’t make the situation change. Listen to your kid’s side of the story, but be direct. Tell them what you saw or were told, let them know you’re worried and want to know what happened, and ask them if they can tell you what’s happening. Listen to what your child has to say so you can see things from their point of view and figure out what is behind their behavior.

Don’t Shame Your Child

When you’re having this tough conversation, try to make sure you come from a place of curiosity instead of punishment or shame. Of course, you may have to give consequences for your child’s actions. However, if your child feels ashamed, they might try to lie to protect themselves. Present the conversation as trying to find out what’s happening for your child, and help them see change as a chance to learn.

Give Meaningful Consequences

You want your child to make clear connections between their actions and consequences. If you give a consequence, link it directly to your child’s problematic behavior. While placing a ban on TV might not directly correlate to what your child did, taking away access to technology until they show acceptable behavior could be a good fit if they’ve engaged in cyberbullying.

Make Sure Your Child Fixes Things

Your child also needs to learn how to resolve mistakes they have made. Reparations can take forms like direct apologies or actively including the person they bullied in a social setting. Helping your child see how to fix what they’ve done also helps remove shame from the equation.

Bolster Self-Esteem

Sometimes kids lash out and bully others because of their low self-esteem. If you think that’s the case with your kid, take action to build their positive sense of self and confidence. You might start by acknowledging the great traits of your child and the things they do well. You can also create projects they complete at home that help your child feel good about accomplishing and achieving something.

Help Your Child Feel Like They’re in Control

Kids may bully because they don’t feel they have control of their lives. If they’ve been bullied themselves, they might feel like their power was taken away. Other times, kids feel powerless after a big move or illness in the family. You can create opportunities for your child to feel like they’re in control in healthy ways. For example, let your child choose the dinner menu and cook the meal with you, plan a family excursion, or pick their clothes.

Reflect on Family Dynamics

Kids who encounter intimidation or aggressive interactions at home are likelier to mimic these behaviors with their peers. If your child is bullying others, take some time to reflect honestly about whether family members call names, use put-downs, or make jokes about other groups of people. Foster an environment at home that reflects behaviors you want your child to exhibit.

Practice Appropriate Behavior

Sometimes kids bully because they don’t have the tools to navigate difficult social situations. If they’re bullying because they have difficulty regulating emotions, help them learn strategies for calming down and managing big feelings. This might look like problem-solving, walking away, or taking deep breaths. You can also help your child practice kind, helpful words or behaviors in social situations.

Increase Your Child’s Empathy

Empathy means thinking about other people’s feelings and understanding other people’s perspectives. You can read books with diverse characters to or with your child, ask your child how they think characters in a show or movie feel and why they feel that way, share your own emotions, and name your child’s emotions when they display them to help foster empathy.

Crème de la Crème just gave you strategies to spot and correct “bully behaviors” you might see in your child. Have you experienced this situation? Do you have helpful tips for other parents? Let us know so we can share with the Crème de la Crème community.