Is your child bullying?

Girl pushing boy playfully
Being told that your child is bullying is very difficult to come to terms with. We offer some expert advice and support on how to cope and help your child.

In a survey of 3,000 secondary school children, carried out between 2005 and 2007 by anti-bullying charity BeatBullying, a shocking 71.4 percent admitted to being the perpetrator of a bullying incident.

As a parent, being informed that your child has been bullying is not an easy thing to come to terms with. You may feel defensive, that it couldn’t possibly be true, and you may also feel confused and anxious for your child. What is important, however, is that you are prepared to meet and discuss the allegations with your child’s school.

Why do children bully?

Children may bully others for all manner of reasons. In the BeatBullying survey, reasons given for being a bully included a fear that if they did not do it first it would happen to them, because their friends did it, or anger at another individual. A small number of children – two percent of those surveyed – did it because they thought it made them popular.

Signs that your child may be bullying

  • Physical – if your child is using their strength or physical presence to intimidate, influence, and impress others
  • Emotional – a lack of empathy or conscience, refusal to accept responsibility for their actions, and an overriding desire to be in control
  • Behavioural – they may have low self esteem which they cover up by bragging, they may display low-tolerance for others, and reveal negative attitudes towards others

Although a child who displays these indicators may not necessarily be a bully, they are nonetheless reflective of negative behaviours which may signify that something is not quite right with their emotional health.

What can you do if your child is a bully?

  • Approach your child about this serious issue. Discuss it with them and explain why it’s so important. Unfortunately very often a child may deny they are bullying.
  • Speak to your child’s school. Listen carefully to the teaching staff and be open to communication with them. Do ask to view the school’s anti-bullying policy if you feel it necessary. And don’t be afraid to ask the school for advice on helping change your child’s behaviour.
  • Do consider your child’s experiences at home - have they been through an emotionally difficult time recently? Do you and your other family members model respectful, tolerant, positive behaviour to your child?
  • Consider their peer group and who their friends are in school. If needs be, encourage them to make new friends, and involve the school in your concerns.
  • Try to get to the bottom of their difficulties by spending time with your child. Encourage them to explain their behaviour and feelings.
  • Give plenty of praise to encourage good, positive behaviour.
  • Do agree some ground rules with your child on acceptable behaviour and discuss what might happen if they do not follow these rules.