We often assume a “bully” is a bad kid and don’t give it much more thought. In reality, many children can exhibit bullying behavior if put in the wrong circumstances. The motivations and triggers vary from child to child. Kids who experienced bullying in the past or have significant challenges at home can sometimes exhibit bullying actions. Kinds with underlying problems — that we’ll talk about later — can show the behavior.

What do you do if the school or a parent notifies you that your child’s involved with bullying? What to do you when your child is being a bully? What steps do you take? Nobody wants that call. But if it happens, every parent wants to handle the situation correctly. You’d want to explore causes, stop the behavior, heal into a more positive mindset. But how do you get there?

What to do you when your child is being a bully
  1. Stay calm, get your head on straight, and gather information

Resist the urge to act impulsively. Maintain your crucial calm and take time to process and accept what’s happening. Clear your mind of internal distractions so you can approach fact-finding with an open mind and patience.

Learn everything you can about the behavior. Ask about specific incidents, involved individuals, and potential triggers. Find out the sequence of events and whether previous history could have contributed to the behavior.

Your goal is to build a framework for a mindful, constructive approach to the problem. Any piece of information can be helpful. Knowing more before talking to your child makes the conversation easier.

  1. Listen to your child

Maintain a safe space and peaceful environment when approaching your child. Adding tension and fear to that conversation won’t help and you need open, truthful communication from your child. Avoid accusations and don’t indulge in anger. Instead, use open-ended questions when you ask specific incidents.

Get your child’s perspective on events so that you can understand the problems.

Ask about your child’s feelings leading up to the incident and then how they felt afterward. Children may struggle to articulate motivations or convey inner dialogue but try to get a sense of what your child is thinking.

You might find some underlying issues, such as peer pressure, emotional struggles, or even toxic self-esteem problems. You may never discover a solid, simple why, but hopefully, you can get a feel for what’s happening in your kid’s head.

  1. Enlist professionals to help you child who is bullying

Depending on the severity of any incidents or the depth of any emotional challenges your child might face, consider the help of trained and certified professionals. Perhaps seek counseling or a local community member with expertise. Local programs and organizations often have supplemental therapy services available. Ultimately, choose an appropriate intervention based on what you feel is a proportional and reasonable response.

If the situation warrants it, you might consider the help of an official or authority who can help guide you through critical legal steps. The aim is to address what’s right in a healthy and constructive way for your family.

  1. Look for other associated behavior or disorders that may be leading to poor behavior.

It’s critical not to minimize the traumatic impact of bullying, but we should recognize that individuals with emotional or behavior disorders often exhibit bullying behavior. Sensory issues, social processing, or developmental disorders could all contribute to the problem.

A mental health professional might help discover and diagnose underlying challenges affecting the behavior. Schools often have mechanisms or programs to help support a child’s individual needs. Uncovering that a problem exists is the first step. If you have any instinct, your child might be struggling, this is a great way to address challenges.

Armed with fuller knowledge of any disorders, you can focus on getting your child the correct help for the problem..

  1. Monitor and supervise online activity of your kids

Cyberbullying includes a wide range of actions, usually meant to harass or intimidate a target. If bullying behavior is occurring physically, then you absolutely must check your kid’s computer use.

Regularly monitor your child’s online behavior, including social media engagement, messages, and web habits. Survey your child’s online behavior for harmful influences and toxic content. Users create the content for sites like YouTube and TikTok; you have no guarantee of its accuracy or positivity.

Parental controls are widely available and can help restrict undesirable content. They vary according to circumstance and device but even most cell carriers and internet providers offer options.

Learn about the communities and apps your child prefers. Your child might have learned some of this behavior online! Find out what interests your child and offer a healthier alternative. Look for human moderation in any community. Chat filters are better than nothing but users constantly invent new ways to circumvent them. Besides, someone can use perfectly polite language but still be harassing another. A human moderator can read the subtle cues and take action.

  1. Watch your language

Bullying is a behavior and an action, not an identity. Be careful not to just call your child a “bully.”

Assigning a label sends the message that you don’t think change is possible. But kids can grow; they evolve with encouragement and education. Help your kid learn better behavior and reinforce that effort by never using a permanent, toxic label.

  1. Be very clear and maintain accountability

Make your expectations clear to your child and highlight that you can’t accept bullying behavior. That seems obvious, but miscommunication can derail behavior improvement before it even begins.

Once you’ve laid out your expectations, build a plan for actions and consequences appropriate to your parenting style. These consequences also must be clear to your child. Focus on being constructive instead of punitive, though. Again, kids change as they grow, and you’re aiming for a healthy improvement rather than retribution.

  1. Be positive about the good

As you increasingly monitor and regulate your child’s activity, provide lavish positive feedback for good behavior. This will reinforce your expectations and encourage your kid to keep improving. Praise is often far more effective than punishment for enacting change.

  1. Keep checking in

Keep checking in with school officials, community members, and counselors. See if your plan is creating change and if your kid’s behavior is improving. If you’re not getting the results you want, alter your plans and expectations. Remember that there are online resources available to you.

Don’t let setbacks discourage you. Your child is learning a fresh approach to managing feelings and emotions. Be patient with the process.

If the bullying incident took place at school, the staff should help guide you through whatever policy or disciplinary actions are required. You can’t shrug off that responsibility, but your focus should be on helping your kid improve.

Remember, your child needs help and you are the best person for the job. With patience and meticulous work, you can help make the improvement happen. Good luck!

If you think your child may be being bullied, check this out to find out what to do next.


Michael Gray is a widowed father whose blended family includes five kids, two adults, a dog, three cats, and a few dozen chickens and ducks. His lived experiences include multiple children with rare genetic disorders, struggling through family life with cancer, and the tactics it takes to make all that work. In his past lives, his writing has been published by USA Today, the Frisky, Dallas Morning News, Tech-ish, GalTime, and many more. In his free time, he sleeps.

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