​​​If your child is bullying others

It can be upsetting to find out that your child has bullied others.

Stay calm and learn more about your child's behaviour so you can respond appropriately. Children who bully others need help and support to learn better ways of relating to others.

Focus on positive solutions
Ask your child why they are behaving this way
Explain why bullying is unacceptable
Apply your family rules and consequences for their behaviour
Consider what's going on at home
Teach conflict resolution skills
Discuss the behaviours with the school
Get more help for your child

Focus on positive solutions

Children who bully others need help to:

  • understand the effect of their behaviour on others and to be supported while learning to repair the harm they have caused
  • take responsibility for their behaviour and the harm they have caused
  • develop their social and emotional skills (especially conflict resolution) and to treat others with respect.

Ask your child why they are behaving this way

Try to understand why your child may be behaving in this way. Ask them about what they think is going on, and why they are bullying someone else.

Ask them what they think might help them to stop bullying.

Sometimes a student who bullies other children in one situation may themselves be bullied in another. Bullying is complex and changing.

Think about any issues or problems your child might be experiencing at school that may be impacting on their behaviour.

Explain why bullying is unacceptable

Explain what bullying is and why it is not acceptable.

Talk about the other person's feelings and help your child to understand what it is like for the person being bullied.

Ask them how they would feel if they were being bullied.

Apply your family rules and consequences for their behaviour

If the bullying has been happening at school, decide if there should be consequences at home too.

If you have already discussed the family rules for behaviour and consequences for inappropriate behaviour, these could be applied once you fully understand the situation including your child's perspective.

If you haven't established these rules for behaviour yet, you will need to discuss your expectations with your child. Explain these to your child and that the consequences are linked to their behaviour.

Keep a balanced approach. Acknowledge appropriate behaviour and be consistent when dealing with inappropriate behaviour.

Read more about appropriate ways to manage bullying and other inappropriate behaviour in an effective way at the Australian Psychological Society's Parenting and disciplining children.

Consider what's going on at home

Have any major events taken place recently to upset your child (parents separated, death in the family, significant illness in the family, siblings bullying your child)? Is the bullying happening because your child is feeling sad or stressed? Do other issues need to be resolved?

Watching the way parents interact with other people helps children learn how to get on with others. Does your child see good examples of how to deal with issues and resolve differences with others at home?

Increase supervision of your child when they are with other children. Praise your child when they play cooperatively with others.

Take opportunities at home in sibling interactions to help children learn the social and emotional skills they need to get on with others. For example, teach them how to join in with other children in a friendly way:

  • first observe a game and the other children
  • look for a natural break in the game for joining in
  • choose a person with a friendly face and ask them if you can join in.

Parents can use fights between siblings to help the children learn to manage their strong emotions and to learn more effective conflict resolution skills.

Teach conflict resolution skills

A critical part of growing up is learning how to get on with others and what to do when there is conflict. Learning conflict resolutions skills begins at home.

It is possible for a child to learn how to sort out problems in a way that makes everybody happy.

Children may see many examples of people dealing with conflict aggressively, and trying to convince other people that their way is the best by force or argument. Such conflict can occur in the family home, on television, in the school yard, on the news.

However, there are excellent ways of dealing with conflict that lead to a peaceful solution, without 'giving in' to others.

The following steps are useful in helping children find peaceful ways of solving problems with other people.

You can change the way you ask the questions depending on the age of the child, but the general steps are the same for all ages.

  • Begin by letting children know that it is possible to find a good solution. Parents could say something like: “I’m sure if we all think about this we might find a way of everyone getting what they want”.
  • Help children identify how they are feeling, and help them to label and express their emotions. (e.g. ‘You’re looking cross – I’m wondering if you’re maybe feeling cross, but also a bit sad and hurt that you can’t join in their game. How do you feel about it?').
  • Help children to work out what they really want by asking them what they would like to have happen. Help them to work out what the underlying need is, (e.g. ‘You say you wish your friend would go away. I’m wondering if you are also wishing that you could help everyone else build the cubby’).
  • Help your child to understand the other person's point of view and to learn how to take their perspective. Ask them what they think the other person might be feeling, or how they might feel if they were in the same situation. You could get them to ask the other person to say how they are feeling and what they would like to have happen.
  • Encourage all the children involved in the potential conflict to brainstorm different ways that they could solve the problem. Encourage them to come up with several different and interesting ways that they could go about it.
  • Help the children to choose the option(s) that they think work​ best for everyone, and get them to have a go at putting them into practice. Stay around to see how they get on, and help them fine-tune the solution if needed.

Reading children books that teach conflict resolution skills through stories can also be helpful.

Discuss the behaviours with the school

A consistent and co-operative approach by both the home and school is important. Read about working with the school.

Ensure your child does not hear criticism from you about the school's management of the issue. Take any issues you have about what the school is doing directly to the school staff you have been working with.

Get more help for your child

If necessary, consider enrolling your child in a group program that helps children to manage their behaviour, learn appropriate social skills and relate in more positive ways with other people.

Your school will be able to suggest local organisations and agencies that provide suitable programs.

Seek professional help and support if you feel that your child's bullying behaviour is part of a bigger behavioural or health problem.

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