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  • Junior Oliveira

What to do if your child is a bully? 7 actionable tips!

Updated: Feb 18

I love being a dad, and I have to say that it is an incredibly emotional experience that made a huge positive impact on my life. But I would be telling a fib if I were to say it is easy. Also, as a childhood researcher, I can state that there are many negative things going on out there, and recently I've seen lots of articles pointing out some concerning figures related to the rise of physical and emotional harassment at schools. Bullying can make children feel hurt, scared, lonely, sad and thousands of other bad things. I have to say that I fully understand that feeling; I have been in those shoes. I was bullied at high school, I was picked on for being different. I was not particularly sporty at school, and in my country sport is almost considered to be a religion (in a metaphorical sense). For this reason, I sometimes find myself overthinking that bullying could happen to my child. I am sure that you as a parent also have such unpleasant thoughts in relation to bullying.


But sometimes it happens otherwise

It’s not easy for mums & dads to know if their kids are being bullied, and it’s even harder for them to admit that their sweet child might actually be a bully. But if it happens, you need to understand the whole situation and let the school (or any other party involved) know that you want to work together for a positive outcome.

Why do some children become merciless bullies?

Understanding this critical issue from a different perspective: What inspires bullies to act the way they do? Why do some children get bullied while others become bullies? Sometimes we often wonder what causes children to bully. Why is it that some children feel the need to hurt and humiliate other children? What do they really stand to gain from this cruel behaviour? It is known that bullies have a few characteristics in common, such as:

  • Lack of social skills

  • Lack of empathy and compassion

  • Impulse control issues

  • They have been repeatedly exposed to violent video games, aggressive TV content, etc.

Thus, understanding some of the reasons why children become bullies might be beneficial: 1. Bullies often lack parents who are warm, loving, and engaged. Parents of bullies are often very competitive, placing unrealistic expectations on their children to be better than other youngsters. 2. Bullies often lack consistent discipline at home. Their parents have a hard time establishing boundaries and/or holding them responsible for their actions. 3. Unsatisfactory academic progress. Some children bully in response to academic stress. When kids are having difficulty in class and do not feel that they are being assisted, they may lose hope. When youngsters lose hope, they act out. Bullies may seek "revenge" on the higher-achieving students as a result of this. 4. Childhood abuse. There is plenty of evidence suggesting that children who have been physically mistreated by their parents usually tend to bully other children. These same children are more prone to develop anxiety, depression, and drug and alcohol issues later in life. Abuse is a cyclical phenomenon. Also, many bullies have actually been victims of bullies at another time.

5. Lack of self-esteem. Bullies lack self-esteem, find it difficult to fit in and are often criticized and neglected by their own parents and/or relatives.

Anyway, what should you do if your kid is 'the bully'? It's not easy to realize your kid is bullying others, but if it happens, you need to confront it. This is completely unacceptable behaviour, and your kid must understand this. They need to acknowledge what has happened, to understand it can be harmful, and they need to apologize for that. There is some good news in all of this. No one is born a bully; bullies are raised. We have the opportunity to raise kids who will choose to be empathetic, kind, and loyal friends. All we have to do is teach them those skills. Below are a few tips to work on building those positive relationships:

1- Teach your children empathy and compassion: A strong sense of empathy is externally beneficial not only in childhood but well into adult life as well. 2- Praise your kids more often - the key formula for this is based on praise, encouragement and rewards; see whether you can give your child some words of encouragement every day.

3- Listening to your kids is another chief skill you can use. Their views and opinions really matter, and we as parents need to listen to them.

4- Encourage them to foster strong sibling bonds. Try to minimize sibling competition. Plan some fun family activities to do together as a family and use this time to strengthen or repair the relationship.

6- Reduce exposure to media violence; also, explain that violent media content can be unhealthy for kids, even older ones, who may think that they can handle this sort of content better: any child can be negatively affected by some images. As a result, this unpleasant emotional reaction becomes habitual after repeated exposure, and children grow desensitized.

7- Building a strong bond with your child will give them a sense of safety and security. Being present as a parent means giving your undivided attention to your child, so turn off the technology when you both are together. Another good tip is to try to get involved in the hobby of your child, and it is essential to understand what your children love doing. We parents need to put in maximum effort to make our children feel safe and close to us.

With some of these practices, children would undoubtedly develop a positive relationship and bond with their parents and with peers.

Bullying is difficult and is a critical issue. It is often the result of a complicated web of interpersonal interactions, societal expectations, and physiological issues. Children who bully others are more likely to have psychological issues as adults. It is critical for parents to intervene and maybe seek professional help for their children in order to support and protect both their child and the victims.

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