What can I do if my child is bullying people? 

 It can be a shock to find out that your child is bullying people. You might not know how to react or what to do.   

Children who bully need understanding and support.  

Why children bully

It helps to understand why your child is bullying. This can help you give the right support to help stop it.  

Children often bully others because they are:  

  • Being bullied themselves.  
  • Joining in with bullying to avoid being bullied themselves. 
  • Copying behaviour they have seen at home, on TV, or in a game. 
  • Trying to be in control of something due to low in self-esteem. 
  • Trying to stand up for themselves. 
  • Looking for attention. 
  • Unaware how their behaviour affects others. 

    Read our advice on understanding and managing your child’s behaviour  

    Online bullying

    Children and young people use social media as a huge part of their communication. Social media makes it easier for children to bully others. They might not even realise they’re doing it.   

    For example, one person in a group chat might be ignored or made fun of. That person is being bullied, but the others might not realise it.

    What you can do if your child is bullying

    If your child develops a pattern of treating others badly, it can have long-term effects on their future relationships. Breaking this pattern and teaching your child kindness and empathy will help them develop lifelong skills. 

    Stay calm 

    If you find out your child has been bullying, you might feel angry, hurt or upset. Take some time to process your reaction so that you can talk calmly to your child.   

    Find out what happened 

    Gather as much information as you can about how your child has been behaving.  

    If they’re bullying someone at school, the school should have a record of any reported incidents. They probably can’t tell you who else was involved, but can tell you: 

    • What happened.
    • Any signs of why it happened.
    • What the consequences and follow up are for your child.

    Talk about it

    Talk to your child and listen to their side of the story. Explore how they felt in the build-up, what led to the incident and what help they need to resolve it. Talk about how the other child may be feeling. 

    Your child might find it difficult to talk, because they are feeling ashamed or embarrassed.  

    How to have difficult conversations with your child 

    Talking to someone else 

    Your child might find it easier to talk to someone else about what’s going on. This could be a trusted friend or family member, or a trained counsellor. 

    Counselling might help them to: 

    • Find positive ways to interact with other children.
    • Control anger and impulsive behaviour.
    • Build their self-esteem.

    Behaviour contracts

    A behaviour contract is a set of rules and strategies discussed and agreed by you and your child.  It can help to involve the school, too. 

    You can agree things like: 

    • Consequences if your child bullies others. 
    • Benefits of positive behaviour. 
    • Strategies to help your child to be kind.  

    Make sure consequences are meaningful and relevant.   

    How to discipline your child without smacking 

    It sometimes helps for your child to apologise to the child they have bullied. This can be face to face or in writing. As well as being important for the child who has been hurt, it can help your child to think about how they made that child feel. 

    Get support 

    Think about how you model behaviour to your child and your own ways of resolving conflict.  

    You can get support online support from the National Bullying Helpline.

    For one-to-one advice on your specific issue, you can also speak to one of our parenting coaches. 

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    This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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