Is Your Child a Bully? 7 Signs — & What To Do About Them

Recognizing “bully” characteristics in your own child can be a challenge for any parent. However, it’s crucial to examine these traits as objectively as possible, in order to help your kid turn their behavior around and develop more functional methods of socialization. If your child exhibits any combination of these 7 signs, you’ll want to take direct action to reverse their bullying tendencies.

1. Their teacher tells you about problematic, antisocial behaviors at school.

Even if your child hasn’t gotten caught bullying, their teacher may have noticed other antisocial behaviors (like withdrawing from the group, becoming territorial about their belongings, or starting arguments) that the teacher feels the need to share with you. Bullies frequently choose other not-so-pleasant ways of interacting with their peers, so if your child’s teacher has warned you about these actions from your kid, bullying behavior may not be far behind. The best way to handle these discussions is to keep an open mind and to avoid defensiveness, understanding that the teacher is sharing this information to help the students — your child included.

2. They choose to hang out with other aggressive kids.

Bullying is often a group activity, with a strong element of competition. If your child chooses to hang out with aggressive kids who constantly try to one-up each other (at the expense of other children), then there’s a good chance that they are engaging in similar bullying behaviors. While limiting your child’s access to their bully-esque friends can be helpful, your first step should be an earnest talk with your kid, in which you try to find out what draws them to this group and how they can meet those needs in healthier ways.

3. They can always come up with mental justifications for their violent actions or unkind words.

When your child does something unkind to another kid, do they genuinely apologize for what they’ve done? Or, does your kid spend their time and energy coming up with justifications for their behavior? If the latter is true, that may indicate a lack of remorse, which can perpetuate bullying. These internal tendencies aren’t easy to dispel, but encouraging your child to take responsibility for their actions and holding them accountable can positively broaden their perspective.

4. They spend significant time online but are secretive when asked about it.

The internet is a major force in the world, and kids of all personality types communicate with their friends and classmates online. But if your kid spends considerable time online but doesn’t share details when asked, then it’s possible that they are taking part in the fast-growing activity of cyberbullying. Actively monitoring your child’s internet usage and limiting their access if you catch sight of bullying can reduce this problem.

5. When faced with examples of bullying, they don’t empathize with the victims.

Bullies don’t typically empathize with their targets; they convince themselves that the bullied kids “deserve” their derision. If your kid can’t relate to the victims of bullying (even in a hypothetical sense), then they may be relating to the bullies instead. Insist that your child consider the perspectives of the victims; don’t let them ignore the pain caused by bullying behavior.

6. They’re short-tempered and easily frustrated.

Kids who participate in bullying often have quick tempers and little patience. A child who flies off the handle with even the slightest provocation may channel that aggression into bullying. Encouraging delayed gratification and providing your child with a safe and secure environment can help them quell their rage and understand the importance of waiting.

7. They have a history of being bullied themselves.

Sometimes, victims of bullying decide to reclaim their power by becoming bullies themselves. It’s a vicious cycle, but a sadly common one. If your child has been on the receiving end of bullying behavior, make yourself available for conversations on the topic, explaining to your kid that retaliation isn’t the answer.

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