What if my child is the bully?

Mental Health
March 6, 2021
3 min read

Discovering that your child is a bully can make you feel defeated, frustrated and heartbroken. It can also feel difficult to find resources and support when your child is the perpetrator and not the victim. Remind yourself that this behavior can be temporary and with the right approach you can teach them to change their actions and mindset moving forward. Bullying behavior can likely be traced back to a deeper-rooted issue in their personal life. As a parent, it is your responsibility to talk with your child and work together to find this stressor in their life so that you can implement positive changes in their life.

My child is a bully because…

Whether they are responsible for physical, verbal or cyberbullying, it is important that they understand the weight that their words and actions hold and how they are negatively impacting others. There are many reasons why your child might act out in the form of bullying. When handled properly, these experiences can serve as an influential teaching moment during their developmental years.

They may be bullying others because they feel left out, are being bullied themselves, feel an imbalance of power at home or in school or are desperate for attention from teachers, coaches, parents, etc. It is also possible that your child naturally expresses themselves more impulsively and forcefully which makes others feel attacked. They may have trouble grasping how their actions and reactions make others feel and are unaware that they could be hurting someone else. If you know this about your child, practice controlling this behavior and teach them to speak to others in a more composed, intentional manner. If your child is not usually assertive in this way, having a conversation with them is crucial in understanding what could be causing this shift in their mood.

Solving The Root Problem

Sometimes their root cause for being a bully is obvious, sometimes it isn’t. Regardless, sitting down and talking with them brings you closer and closer to solving this issue. This could require additional help from a trained child psychologist or psychiatrist. When addressing the issue in your own home, don’t beat around the bush. Explain the situation that has made you believe that they are being a bully and ask them how they perceived the situation. You may discover that they are struggling with their self-esteem, are being bullied themselves or are experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression. The good news? These are all manageable and your child is not guaranteed a future of aggressive behavior.

Once you’ve come to a conclusion about what is causing them to bully others, talk about steps they will work towards to avoid these instances in the future. Be specific.

If they have trouble being kind to their classmates with whom they are not close friends, outline detailed situations and practice appropriate responses and reactions. It can be helpful to have them put themselves in the shoes of their victim. How would they feel if someone explicitly said to them, “you can’t play with us”? What type of emotions does that make them feel? What would they have liked the person to say to them instead?

Changing Your Behavior

A child’s mind is constantly soaking up information. This includes the behavior of those in their surrounding environment. If you are able to identify interactions that happen within your own home that may be influencing their bullying behavior, what changes can your family make? At a young age, kids tend to follow by example. Work to make sure that your child is not surrounded by physical aggression, name-calling, yelling or other forms of abuse that would be considered bullying.

Ensuring Positive Change

As your children become more independent individuals, it can be difficult to keep tabs on their behavior outside of the house. With the use of digital devices and social media, their personal lives are becoming even more private. Studies have shown that 69% of people admit to cyberbullying others online.  If your child is bullying others in person, it is likely that they are participating in it online as well.

With Cyber Dive, you can effectively monitor their behavior and ensure the implementation of positive change. Stay informed about the type of content they are posting, concerning private messages they are sending and how they are interacting with others online. This way, you can put a stop to abusive behavior before it becomes a habit.

Their digital footprint will follow them far into the future so it is important to prioritize creating a positive online reputation. Remember that this bullying behavior is not permanent, is not a reflection of their character and does not define you as a parent. Addressing the problem, putting forth the effort to make positive changes and setting an example for the way your child should treat others are effective steps to correct their bullying behavior and avoid negative instances in the future.

For additional support and practical next steps, you can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness hotline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). If you are ready to schedule your child to talk with a mental health professional, visit Talkspace, an online platform that connects patients with licensed therapists.

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