Family Fundamentals: What to do when your child is bullying others (August 2012)
Late last school year, I was
surprised when my son’s school said he was bullying another student. He is
about to start the fourth grade and I’m not sure what to say to him to make
sure he doesn’t do this again. Any advice?
First, it sounds like you have already
taken an important first step: Admit that your child was in the wrong. It’s a
difficult mindset for many parents to adopt, but it’s vital to get past the
stage of denial so you can begin to address the problem.
Child development professionals
say that children who become bullies are often modeling behavior they see in
others. Has your son himself been bullied? Has he witnessed or been the victim
of acts of aggression, intimidation or violence at home or at school? Don’t
make the mistake of assuming you would know if your son had been exposed to
such experiences. Children are often afraid or embarrassed to tell adults about
their victimization, or believe it wouldn’t do any good anyway.
- Studies on children who bully
others has found that bullies tend to:
- Have higher levels of anger.
- Believe that manipulation or
intimidation works better than nonviolent strategies when dealing with others.
- Be good at hiding negative
behavior from adults.
- Accept aggression as
- Enjoy feelings of power and
- Be unhappy at school and lack
a sense of belonging there.
- Be impulsive.
- Have feelings of depression.
- Have problems at home.
- Blame others for their
It’s important to try to
understand where the bullying behavior is coming from, but it’s even more
important to address the issue directly with your son:
- Make it clear that bullying is
unacceptable. Establish clear rules and consequences for breaking those rules,
and be consistent in your follow-through. Be sure to use non-violent,
non-physical methods of discipline.
- Be sure you’re modeling
appropriate behavior in your own actions with your son and with others. Be
assertive, not aggressive, and treat others with kindness and respect.
- Help your son find non-aggressive
ways to interact with others.
- Talk to your son about how it
feels to be bullied, and help him build empathy for others.
- Keep in close contact with
your son’s teachers and the school counselor to seek help in changing your
- Spend more time with your son
and praise him when he acts appropriately.
- If the bullying persists, seek
professional counseling or an evaluation by a mental health professional.
Family Fundamentals is a monthly
column on family issues. It is a service of Ohio State University Extension and
the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Family
Fundamentals, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1044, or
Dear Subscriber: This column was reviewed
by Tasha Snyder, associate professor of human development and family science in
the College of Education and Human Ecology and Ohio State University Extension.
OSU Extension, Human Development and Family Science