Signs Your Child May Be a Bully

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If your child’s school contacts you about a bullying incident in which your child is named as an instigator, keep an open mind. Although it may be hard to believe, it’s possible that your child may be at fault.

Children who bully are not just angry outsiders looking for a fight. In fact, many are popular, do well in school, come from stable families and relate well to adults. Some children bully others because they have been bullied at one time or another. Some may use bullying as a way to protect themselves, or to fit in with the group.

Common Traits Among Kids Who Bully

A common factor among children who bully is an under-developed sense of empathy and a willingness to harm another in order to advance in the social pecking order.

Ask yourself whether your child:

  • often excludes others
  • is unkind to younger children and animals
  • is physically aggressive
  • uses intimidation or taunts to get his/her way
  • has trouble understanding another’s feelings
  • blames others for bad behavior or doesn’t take responsibility for his/her actions

What Are the Risk factors for Children Who Bully?

Children who bully are more likely to do poorly in school, use drugs and alcohol, vandalize property and engage in other antisocial behavior. They are also at higher risk to end up in prison.

One study showed that two-thirds of boys identified as bullies in 6th through 9th grade had been convicted of a crime by the time they turned 24 and 40 percent had multiple arrests by age 30, according to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center.

How Can Parents Help Children Stop Bullying?

Parental involvement is essential to helping children stop bullying. offers the following tips.

Acknowledge the problem. Let children know you’re aware bullying is taking place and that it’s not OK with you. Listen as well as talk. Find out what else may be going on for your child that may be influencing their behavior choices.

Be involved in your child’s life. Know who your child’s friends are and keep track of your child’s activities at home and school. If the school has a bullying prevention program, learn about it.

Decrease violence at home. Limit access to violent TV and video games. (Note: This is a logical consequence to impose if your child has gotten in trouble for violent or bullying behavior.)

Make sure you’re “walking the talk” with your own behavior. Be mindful of setting a good example.

Teach positive behaviors. Notice and reinforce any examples of kind and compassionate behavior. Talk with children about their, your and others’ feelings. Provide opportunities for cooperation and friendship in activities that are interesting to the child. Have your child care for a pet.

Seek professional help, if needed. Sometimes a situation calls for more than parental intervention. Don’t be afraid to seek outside help.

Learn more:
What is Bullying?
Help Your Child
Importance of Bystanders