At a glance
Kids who bully often have difficulty managing their own emotions and getting along with others.
Developing clear guidelines around bullying behavior can help stop it.
You play the biggest role in helping your child change any aggressive tendencies.
Does your child tease or put down other kids? Does she spend time in the principal’s office for threatening classmates? Kids with learning and thinking differences are often bullied, but they can do the bullying, as well.
Like other kids who bully, your child may feel the need to gain control. She may get picked on herself. She may have trouble managing her emotions and making friends. She may also feel frustrated and powerless over her learning and thinking differences.
Even if her behavior can be explained, it’s important for your child to know that when she picks on other kids, she’s being a bully. Teaching her to manage her emotions and actions is a step toward stopping bullying in its tracks. Here’s how.
Make it clear that you’re not OK with bullying.
Tell your child that you don’t think it’s funny, cool or acceptable to hurt others or make them feel bad. That goes for siblings as well as peers. If your child’s school has anti-bullying policies, review them with her. This can help her understand that there are rules in place everywhere to keep kids like her safe and comfortable.
Calmly talk through bullying incidents.
- What did you do?
- Why was that a bad choice?
- Who did your actions hurt?
- What were you trying to achieve?
- Next time, how can you achieve that goal without hurting other people?
Develop consistent consequences for bullying.
This shows how seriously you take it. For example: First, your child has to apologize to the victim and help fix anything she can. Then, there’s a negative consequence to her behavior. Perhaps she loses Internet, TV or cell phone privileges, or isn’t allowed to attend activities she had planned to for an amount of time.
You can change consequences over time. Just make sure your child knows that you’re changing them.
“It’s important for your child to know that when she picks on other kids, she’s being a bully.”
Stay on top of your child’s behavior.
Who does she child hang out with? How does she spend her time? What does she do online? Try to monitor how your child acts in different areas of her life. Call out bullying behaviors as soon as you notice them. This helps her begin to understand more fully what is and isn’t acceptable.
Get others on board.
Talk with your child’s school and the adults in charge of her activities outside of school. See if you can get everyone on the same page when it comes to expectations and consequences, and see if they can help her work on developing better social and problem-solving skills. If they’ve had success in stopping bullying with other kids, they may also have other good advice.
Make kindness feel like the norm.
Give your child chances to see people being kind toward one another. Model kindness to others. When you spend time together, point out when others act in a caring way. You might want to volunteer together so your child understands how it feels to help others.
It’s important to call out your child when she’s being a bully. But it’s equally important to “catch” her when she isn’t. Praise her behavior when she’s being kind or controlling her emotions. And feel good knowing you’re a key part of her positive change.
Children often bully to regain a sense of control.
When you make it clear that you’re not OK with bullying, your child gains a consistent expectation for her behavior.
Developing consequences, asking for support and encouraging compassion can help stop bullying over time.
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About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Molly Algermissen, PhD is an associate professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and clinical director of PROMISE.