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Five Things to Do If Your Kid Is Acting Like a Bully

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT
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What should you do if you find out from another parent or a school representative that your kid has been bullying other kids?

First, accept the fact that it’s happening and engage the situation directly.

Second, leave your emotions out of it.

Look at bullying as a behavior that needs to be modified with the input of you, the school, possibly other parents, and your child. Freaking out (internally or on your kid) is not going to help. Your rational, adult decision-making skills, however, will help. Be ready to face facts and take action: start with the list below.

Your Action List

Five Things to Do If Your Kid Is Acting Like a Bully

  1. Communicate. Communicate with the teacher, school representative, or parent who calls you. Listen objectively and get the facts. Then communicate with your child about what you’ve heard. Listen to what they have to say, first without judging, scolding, or trying to solve the situation: just listen.
  2. Reassure. Remind your kid that you’re on their side, no matter what. That doesn’t mean you’re on their side about the bullying. It means your kid needs to understand you love them unconditionally, but the bullying has to stop immediately.
  3. Find the Cause. Get to the root of what’s going on. Your kid may be seeking attention from you or their teachers. They may be trying to fit in with a group of peers. They may be handling uncomfortable emotions. Validate those emotions and brainstorm alternative coping strategies for getting attention, fitting in with peers, or processing feelings.
  4. Develop an Action Plan. Talk to you child about consequences or outcomes if they continue with the bullying behavior. State facts rather than threaten punishments. Let them know that if they continue bullying, then it will result in specific things: they may lose screen time, social time, or other privileges.
  5. Teach Social and Emotional Skills. With bullying, focus on empathy, compassion, and teaching your kid about the effects their actions have on others. If they’re having serious problems handling emotions like anger or experiencing difficulty controlling harmful impulses, then consider seeking professional help from a licensed and credentialed child psychologist or psychiatrist.

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We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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