What to do when your kid is the bully

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Seventy-five per cent of people say they have been affected by bullying. Though we often hear stories about young people who have been bullied, it’s important to remember that kids who bully others need support, too.

What is Bullying?

  • Bullying is when someone uses their power to hurt, frighten, exclude, or insult someone. It is always done on purpose and is usually repeated.
  • There is physical bullying, verbal or emotional bullying (such as name-calling, teasing, or excluding someone), and cyberbullying (such as through online comments, social networks, instant messaging, forums, etc.)
  • Bullying can also take place in groups, with several kids bullying one or two others. Sometimes, kids can be involved in group bullying without knowing who started it, or why they are doing it. They might be following a peer’s lead, or feel it just “happens” when they are with certain friends or acquaintances.
  • Whatever form it takes, bullying is never okay.

Remain Calm and Acknowledge There is a Problem.

Young people who reach out for help to stop bullying others are often trying to understand their own behaviour.

Even though they might not like the way they treat others, not all kids who bully will reach out to talk about it. Sometimes, parents become aware of what is happening with their kids after being contacted by a teacher or school administrator, or through other parents.

It’s not always easy for parents to hear that their kids are bullying, but it is important for parents to understand the situation and work with their kids. Acknowledging there is a problem can be the first step in helping your kid change their behaviour.

Start a Conversation.

If you find out your kid is bullying, talk to them about it right away. Don’t ignore it or put it off until another incident arises.

After you have listened to what others say about your kid’s behaviour, give your child the opportunity to tell their side of the story. Is your kid bullying because someone bullied them first? Are they following the lead of other friends? Identify any underlying problems that need to be solved, and follow up with school staff or other adults who have been involved in the conversation.

Whatever the reason, it is important for kids to understand that hurting others is never okay. Talk to your kid about the impact of bullying, both on themselves and others. Everyone has a right to feel safe and respected.

Set an Example at Home.

Be a role model healthy for relationships and respect. Gossiping around the dinner table, posting negative comments online (especially if you are friends with your kid on Facebook), or ridiculing friends or other members of the family can send the wrong message to kids.

Follow Through.

Get clear with your expectations about the kind of behaviour you want to see from your kids, and follow through with the intended consequences if the bullying continues. Make sure they understand that bullying will not be tolerated.

Practice Empathy.

Help your kid understand how it might feel to be bullied. Maybe there is an experience that you or someone else in your family had that could be used as an example to help define fear, hurt, or humiliation.

Talk about ways your kid can apologize to the young person they have bullied. Try to have a conversation as a check-in point a few weeks later to see how things are going.

To encourage your child to become more empathetic on an ongoing basis, help them identify everyday acts of kindness: holding a door for someone, saying hello to a new student in school, or sharing a toy with a classmate or sibling can be small ways for kids to become more empathetic towards others.

Kids Who Bully Need Support, Too.

While it’s important to outline the consequences to bullying, it’s also important to remember that kids who bully might require additional support. The effects of bullying can include depression, anxiety, isolation, hopelessness, and school and relationship problems, and these can extend to kids who bully, too. Let them know that they have the ability to change – a lot of people who bully others learn how to behave differently.

If they do need more support, help is out there. Talking to a counsellor might be one option to explore.

Author: Kids Help Phone is a free, anonymous and confidential phone and on-line professional counselling service for youth. Visit their site at kidshelpphone.ca or grab their Always There app. You can also find them on twitter and Facebook.

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2 thoughts on “What to do when your kid is the bully”

  1. This is a fantastic article and resource! There are so few resources available for parents of bullies, who I’m sure often feel quite helpless. Children who bully are usually hurting or have no other tools in their toolboxes for dealing with their feelings. Wouldn’t it be easier to help them than to only teach other children how to stand up against bullies (though we need to do this too!)? I’ll be pinning this to my bully prevention resource board! Thank you again!

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