Is My Child a Bully and What Can I Do About It?

child is a bully 1

Reading time: 4 minutes

Suitable for: Families of primary-age children

Read the secondary-age version of this QUICK READ

Seeing your child show bullying behaviour can be a hard thing to accept. You may feel upset and disappointed by their behaviour, worry you are somehow to blame for it, or feel frustrated because you've taught them that bullying is never okay.

Most children have learnt about bullying, particularly at school, and will know that it is wrong. However, your child may not realise that their behaviour counts as bullying. Children can be both the victim and the perpetrator of bullying, or a bystander, and they can move between these roles.

Bullying behaviour can also mask their own worries and anxieties or be a sign that they need support. Instead of condemning them as a bully, understanding why they are behaving this way can help you find the best ways to support them.

Talk to your child about their behaviour

Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t rush to criticise. Try to understand their situation. That means having a potentially difficult conversation about what's happening. Remember that talking about their behaviour might make them feel embarrassed or ashamed. Approach the topic slowly. You can use phrases like, "I wonder if..." and "I've noticed..." to help take the pressure off.

Try to stay calm and show them you're ready to listen when they are ready to speak. They might prefer to write things down, or talk to another family member or friend, and that's okay, too. The important thing is that they know they will be listened to rather than judged.

Let them know their behaviour is not right, and how bullying in any form hurts other people. But, throughout it all, let your child know you love them no matter what. Even though their behaviour is hurtful, you will still be there to support them.


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