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What to do if your child is being bullied and how to stop them being a bully

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

An important part of growing up is learning to understand and manage conflict. Bullying though, is not simply just a case of ‘falling out’. According to The Anti-Bullying Alliance, “Bullying is the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves imbalance of power. It can happen face to face or online.”

Some peer conflict is normal, right from a young age, and parents sometimes confuse this with bullying. Peer conflict usually gets resolved quickly and both parties are on an equal footing – they both have equal power. Conflict doesn’t involve violence and is a mutual disagreement between the two.

For parents, it can be awful when it is their child who is the victim of bullying and can be absolutely mortifying when it is their child who is the bully, which can make it hard for parents to know how best to deal with either situation, or means that inadvertently, they make things worse.

If your child hasn’t opened up to you about being bullied, you may be unaware, however, there are a few key signs that you can keep an eye for.

These include:

  • Your child becoming withdrawn

  • Changes to their behaviour - perhaps they are more angrier than usual

  • Not doing well at school suddenly

  • Changes in their eating habits

  • Sudden anxiety or nervousness, previously unseen

  • Damage to their possessions, such as their uniform or their bag, and items going missing without proper explanation

  • Issues with their sleep

  • Unexplained cuts or bruises

Knowing these signs will enable you to act swiftly and talk with your child.

Once you have gained the facts, it is important that you remain calm, and actively listen to your child, without getting angry and upset. Putting your own feelings aside, ask them how they would like you to help, reassuring them that it’s not their fault – the issues are with the bully.

You can then chat through the next steps. It may be tempting to tell your child to hit back or name call, but this will not solve the problem. Instead, inform school. All schools have a bullying policy in place and will be able to help your child. It is important that you work with the school and not against and avoid splashing everything over social media. It is best not to go and confront the bully either.

Finding out that your child is a bully, can be equally hard. Again, it is best to remain calm and listen carefully to what school is saying, asking for as much information as possible. It is instinctive to want to protect your child, but if they are in the wrong, they need to understand that there will be sanctions, at school and at home.

Sometimes, changes or difficulties in a child’s life can make them behave in a negative way, and may be behind the bullying - you may need to address any upset or emotional issues that they are experiencing. Talking with your child about their behaviour and exploring the feelings of the person they have bullied, will help them to understand the impact of bullying and how it can cause long term issues.

Although not a guarantee that your child will not be a bully, teaching your child about kindness from a young age will help. Be a good role model yourself, teach your child about empathy and good manners and be careful not to spoil them – don’t give into their demands and give them everything they want, so that they grow to expect the same throughout life.

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