Many children bully others while they are growing up. Most grow out of it with the right guidance, support and education.
Here are some things that you can do if your child is bullying other children:
Talk to your child
- Stay calm, and focus on changing the behaviour, not labelling the child as ‘a bully’.
- Discuss what bullying is. If you are concerned your child is cyberbullying, you can find more information on dealing with the issue here.
- Acknowledge what has happened; don’t deny it or pretend it was ‘no big deal’.
- Make sure your child knows bullying is unacceptable and why.
- Be clear that the bullying must stop at once, and that you’ll be checking to see that it does.
- Get your child to help you understand why they bullied, and what they thought was happening at the time.
- Encourage your child to think about how the victimised child must have felt, and to put this into words if they can. Some children are still learning to empathise and be kind to others; these are skills you can help them build.
- Apply reasonable family rules about behaviour and consequences.
- Make sure your child knows how to join in games in a friendly way, how to say ‘no’ if their friends are doing something harmful, and how to handle conflict or boredom without trying to dominate or embarrass other people.
- Work with your child to develop a plan for what to do if they find themselves in a similar situation in the future.
- Reflect on what’s been happening in your child’s life that might have made them angry, bored, or looking for attention. Are there other problems that need to be addressed?
Work with the school to solve the problem
Many schools now use restorative approaches rather than punishment, where students involved in the bullying situation reflect on the issues. The student who has been bullying then has to confront the person they have bullied and look for ways to repair the effects of their bullying and restore their relationship. Children who bully require greater support for behaviour change through targeted approaches. Children who chronically bully may also have mental health issues that require specialist intervention.
Reflect on your family’s behaviours
Children copy their role model’s behaviour, and those they spend a lot of time with. You must set an example and look candidly at the behaviour within your family, addressing stressors or potential motivators for bullying if they exist. Bullying arises from the complexity of children’s relationships with family members, peers, and the school community and culture. Families, especially, play an important role in bullying behaviours.
Importantly, children who bully are not doomed to bully all of their life. Effective and early treatment may interrupt the risk of progressing from school bullying to later adverse life outcomes.
Addressing and fixing bullying behaviour from your child is a challenging task, but with a levelled and well informed approach at educating your child, the behaviour can pass. To help inform your actions on teaching your child about bullying, the Australian government provides advice that can be found here.
If you are concerned about a child or young person, please seek help.
Speak to a trusted GP, school wellbeing staff, or a helpline such as:
Dolly’s Dream Support Line 0488 881 033
Parentline in your state or territory
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
headspace 1800 650 890
Lifeline 13 11 14
Report Cyberbullying to the eSafety Commissioner here