If Your Child Is a Bully

How to get to the root of your child's bullying problem.

No parent wants to hear that her child is being a bully. But if your son or daughter is getting into trouble at school or with peers, it's crucial that you get to the root of the problem.

First and foremost, listen to what's being said about your child's behavior, and try to understand the situation. Say, for instance, "Instead of labeling my child, please tell me what happened."

Also remember that your child's bullying behavior is a symptom of something deeper. He may be feeling vulnerable, insecure, angry, or lonely; or he may be in a life situation that causes him to feel helpless and out of control. To help your child come to terms with his behavior:

1. Tell him that bullying is not acceptable in your family or in society.

2. Help him find new ways of dealing with his frustration, anger, aggressiveness, or loneliness; and teach him how to resolve arguments without violent words or actions.

3. Role-play and act out the new behaviors.

4. Work closely with your child's teacher to help reduce bullying behaviors at school, and remind your child that there are people to help him during the school day.

5. Make sure your child is not positively reinforced for bullying others; and explain to him the consequences if his aggression or bullying continues.

Finally, never bully children yourself -- either physically or verbally. Use nonphysical, consistent methods of discipline, and avoid hitting, ridiculing, or shouting at your child when she misbehaves. If you need help in handling your child's bullying behavior, or your own anger, speak to a school counselor or child psychologist.

Sources: Susan M. Swearer, PhD; Allan L. Beane, PhD; National Crime Prevention Council; American Medical Association; Coalition for Children, Inc.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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