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Is My Child a Bully? Signs to Watch for and How to Help


No parent expects to hear that their child is a bully.

At home, they might act like every other kid. They do their chores, obey your orders, and seem to get along with siblings.

Perhaps it is the opposite.

Maybe your child is out of control at home, doesn’t listen to you or respect your authority, and you feel overwhelmed.

Now you must deal with the stress of realizing your child might be a bully at school, too.

To help your child, you must first understand why kids bully others. From there, it is a matter of enlisting professional help along with your child’s school to stop the bullying.

Why Causes a Child to Bully Others?

Bullying, like most aggressive behaviors in children, stems from a lack of attention.

Sometimes, a child will bully others to get attention at home. Other times, children who engage in bullying have plenty of attention at home – sometimes too much – which forces them to take out their aggression on others.

Some children bully because they see the acts in others, including their parents. A parent doesn’t have to be physically abusive, either. Sometimes, being angry, not handling conflict well, or continually attacking a child on an emotional level can cause them to bully others at school.

Children bully because they want to dominate, blame, and use others as an outlet, says the Stop Bullying campaign. These acts might occur at school or after school, such as at the playground.

Regardless, the risks of bullying are serious. Children who are the victims of bullying are at risk for depression, anxiety, decreased achievements in school, and health complaints. Some children who are the victims of excessive bullying are at high risk for suicide.

Those who bully are also at risk. The effects of bullying on the child doing these acts can result in long-term violent and risky behaviors. They might abuse drugs or alcohol, get into physical altercations, engage in early sexual activity, or become abusive to loved ones as they get older.

Bottom line: If you suspect your child is a bully, seeking help early can stop the vicious cycle of adverse effects before they even begin.

5 Signs of Bullying Not to Ignore


Is your child dominant or a bully? Sometimes it is hard to isolate bully-specific behaviors over a child that has a dominant, aggressive personality. If you are unsure, here are five critical signs to never ignore as a parent:

1. Frequent Altercations with Classmates
One of the most visible signs is reports that your child is engaging in physical or verbal fights with classmates. These fights often start as verbal altercations, but they may escalate into physical violence. Whether it is a shove on the playground or your child strikes with a closed fist, this is not a symptom to brush off as “kids being kids.”

2. Carrying Extra Money or Items That Are Not Theirs
Did your child suddenly come into $10?

Did he or she come home with a Gameboy that wasn’t theirs?

When your child comes home with personal belongings, money, or even food that they didn’t leave home with, ask them where they got it. Often, this is a sign that a child is bullying others out of their items.

3. Teasing, Humiliating, or Gossiping About Classmates
Physical violence is not the only way to be a bully.

An early sign of bullying includes repeatedly teasing, gossiping, or humiliating classmates. Your child might call another child names, be mean to them, purposely isolate another from playing at recess, or spread untrue, mean rumors about them. When your child thinks this is funny or allows their friends to also engage in similar behaviors, they are entering the early stages of bullying.

According to Everyday Health, if your child is fixated on their popularity status, it might also be a warning factor of bullying.

4. Refusing to Take Responsibility and Blames Others
Bullies don’t think they are bullies.

Instead, they blame others, refuse to take responsibility for their actions, and look for scapegoats.

If they are caught physically hitting another child, they might blame the child for starting the fight.

Furthermore, your child shows no sympathy toward the children they bully or the effects their bullying has on the victim.

5. Aggressive, Violent Behaviors at Home
Your child might be aggressive toward you or other people in positions of authority. Does he or she go to detention frequently? Do they get in trouble often at school?

Also, being set off easily by minor incidents, showing impulsive behaviors, and becoming easily frustrated are all warning signs. In these cases, your child is already showing an inability to manage their emotions and use coping skills.

Stop Bullying Now: How and When to Talk to Your Child About Bullying Others

The second you suspect “my child is a bully,” you must intervene. They must know that bullying is not okay and never acceptable. Do not ignore the warning signs above, and do not think this is something your child will grow out of, either.

Instead, do the following:

  • Sit Down and Talk: Talk with your child about what they are feeling. In instances where children bully to get attention, this might be what they need to stop. Let them tell you why they bullied another child and discuss why it is not the proper outlet for their feelings.
  • Stay Calm: Right now, your child needs reassurance. Physically punishing them will only worsen the problem. Instead, you need to separate your child from those he or she bullies, and exhibit a calm, respectable attitude while you discuss the situation with them.
  • Talk to Them Separately: It is common to want to put the bully and victim in the same room, but this is a mistake. Do not force a victim to talk about what happened, and do not scold your child for bullying in front of their victim. Instead, sort out the facts with each child away from one another.
  • Consider Other Emotional Problems: Sometimes, bullying runs deeper than needing attention. Children might have underlying emotional issues, including depression, anxiety, coping skill problems, or other conditions causing this behavior.

Seek Professional Help and Stop Bullying Today

Bullying, regardless of the cause, cannot be left untreated. If you have this sinking feeling that “my kid is a bully,” seeking professional help might be the best step you can take for you, your child, and others at school with them.

An adolescent program with Vista del Mar Behavioral Healthcare Hospital may be what your son or daughter needs. We help children ages 12 to 17 learn better coping skills, address emotional disorders, and stop the bullying in a safe, therapeutic environment.

For more information about our adolescent program or to schedule an appointment for your child, contact our facility today at 805-653-6434.