What To Do If Your Child Is Bullying

It can be devastating for parents to find out that their child is bullying. Feelings of inadequacy and failure often have them questioning their parenting ability and wondering what went wrong.

It’s important to take action and understand that children who are bullying are equally affected as those they target. Bullies are much more likely to suffer from depression, become violent or be involved in criminal activities as they get older.

The information below will help parents understand what bullying is, the different type of bullying and how they can help their child.

What is bullying?

Bullying is when aggressive verbal, physical, social or psychological behaviour is repeatedly and intentionally directed towards a person or group to inflict harm, distress or fear. It’s often someone’s way of dominating others to feel powerful.

Types of bullying

  • Face to face bullying is when someone verbally insults or physically abuses another person.
  • Cyberbullying is inflicted electronically via SMS, emails, chat rooms, forums or social media, and can have a far-reaching audience and devastating effect. Electronic messages can be posted anonymously and are difficult to remove.
  • Covert bullying is harder to detect and often goes unnoticed as it’s done indirectly by excluding people, giving nasty looks, gossiping or spreading rumours.


Some signs your child may be bullying

  • You may hear people say that your child has been teasing, dominating, excluding or gossiping.
  • Your child may be behaving differently at home or has trouble sleeping.
  • Your child is getting into trouble at school or their grades are slipping.
  • Your child has an obsession about being popular, tries to dominate others or threatens people to get their own way.
  • Your child has trouble managing anger or is playing with children who have aggressive tendencies.
  • Your child is witnessing or subject to bullying behaviour or violence outside of school.
  • Your child has stopped talking to you and your relationship has deteriorated.
  • Your child may have stopped receiving birthday invitations or play dates.

How parents can deal with a bullying child

  • Be open to the possibility that your child is upsetting others and acknowledge that they won’t always be perfect and may sometimes behave inappropriately.
  • Don’t be angry with your child. Find out why they’re behaviour is out of character.
  • There is always two sides to every story. Be willing to listen and be supportive by creating a loving and non-judgmental environment so your child feels safe and confident enough to talk.
  • Talk to your child about specific incidents and ask questions about their and the other child’s behaviour to try to understand the reason for your child’s actions.
  • Encourage your child to put themselves in the other child’s shoes and ask them how they would be feeling if they were the one being bullied.
  • Discuss different ways your child could have dealt with a particular situation for a more positive outcome.
  • Talk to your child’s teacher, well-being co-ordinator or principal so they’re aware of the situation and can monitor your child’s behaviour.
  • When your child has acknowledged their bad behaviour, ask them to write a letter of apology or apologise in person.
  • Be clear that if bullying continues that there will be consequences. Take immediate action if the behaviour continues by removing privileges or setting up a meeting with the teacher and the bullied child.
  • Once the incident has been sorted out, monitor your child’s behaviour and mood. Have conversations about what it means to be a kind person and good friend.
  • Children often mimic the behaviour they’re used to seeing. If your child is witnessing or experiencing bullying behaviour within your home or elsewhere, take steps to change the environment.
  • Purchase software to monitor and restrict your child’s online activities and keep an eye on it yourself. Make it clear that their technology is to be made available to you anytime you ask to see it.
  • Be a role model. Let your child see you treating people with kindness and respect.
  • Positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment, so recognise and praise your child’s positive behaviour and control of their emotions.

Being proactive and involved

  • Check in with your child on a regular basis but don’t make it too formal. Give them your undivided attention and really listen to show that you take their fears or concern seriously. If they have a problem, help them find a solution.
  • Invite children over for a play date so you know who your child’s friends are.
  • Ask about school and the good things that happened that day in general conversation.
  • Encourage your child to do something they enjoy. Making them feel good about themselves will reduce the need for attention.
  • Get your child involved in doing good things for others, fundraising for a cause or helping a charitable organisation. Perhaps you could do something together.

What schools can do to help parents

  • To prepare a school community, it’s important for people to understand what bullying is and realise that a one-off incident or comment does not qualify as bullying. Clarifying and offering suggestions for dealing with bullying via newsletters and take home notes will create awareness and helping parents address unacceptable behaviour.
  • Most parents will feel terrible when they hear about their child’s actions, so be supportive and assure them you’re always available to talk and help.
  • There’s plenty of support for those who are being bullied, but far less for those handing it out, so have some literature available for parents to take home and read so they can help address the situation from home.
  • Keep parents informed of what the school is doing and how their child is responding. Always seek professional advice if your child’s behaviour is disturbing or out of control.


Everyday Health