HELP, my child is a bully!

HELP, my child is a bully!
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 31-03-2023

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As a parent, discovering that your child is a bully can be a difficult and worrying experience. Bullying can have serious consequences for both the bully and the victim, and it s important to take action to address the situation. In this article, we ll explore ten things you can do as a parent to help your child stop bullying and learn how to treat others with kindness and respect.


  1. Have a conversation with your child and try to understand his/her perspective of why he/she is bullying. Some children bully because they have been bullied themselves, some children have underlying issues (sadness/anxiety/worries) and externalise this by bullying, etc. There can be many reasons and having an open conversation with your child about it will help with uncovering the underlying mechanisms of the bullying.

  2. Make sure your child knows that all feelings are acceptable but not all behaviours! And that you won’t tolerate bullying at home, at school or anywhere else. If the bullying continues after this conversation, there could be a need for an appropriate consequence such as a time-out, losing privileges, toys, TV or screen time in general, etc.

  3. Work on children’s empathy by asking them how they would feel when being bullied and how their actions would make other people feel. Role-taking games can be a good medium for this e.g. role-play where you, as a parent, pretend to be the child and the child needs to play the bullied child. When given that role, children often realise more of the impact their behaviour is having on others.

  4. Another strategy could be to create a social story about bullying and read it to your child. This way you enhance their understanding of the situation and the impacts on the bullied children. You address the topic however in an indirect way, which can lead to a decreased defensive reaction and a higher possibility your child will engage in a discussion about the topic.

  5. Help your child problem-solve how they can deal with the situation and change their behaviour. Suggestions can be apologising to the bullied child and teaching your child what to do in similar future situations.

  6. Encourage good and pro-social behaviour by rewarding it with positive praise and compliments, or tokens.

  7. Children learn through modelling so you, as a parent, can model pro-social behaviour and set a good example. Teach your kids to treat others with respect and kindness.

  8. Keep contact with the school. Inform the teachers and the principal of the actions you take as a parent regarding the bullying and discuss an action plan they can put forward at school.

  9. Ask the teacher to intervene in class and on the playground, promote and reward pro-social behaviour, and inform children more about bullying (e.g. addressing it in class as a subject, discussing what actions are considered bullying and what consequences it can have for the bullied child?).

  10. Talk to the parents of the bullied child/children and apologise, show them you don’t support your child’s actions and try and problem solve the situation together with them. Maybe the dispute between your children can be even sorted out outside of school.

In conclusion, being a parent of a child who is a bully can be challenging and overwhelming. However, by having an open and honest conversation with your child, creating a safe and empathetic environment, encouraging pro-social behaviour, involving the school, and reaching out to the parents of the bullied child, you can make a positive impact on your child’s behaviour and help prevent bullying from happening in the future. Remember, bullying is not acceptable, and by taking action, you can help create a safer and kinder world for all children.

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