What to do if your child is bullying others

It can be upsetting to find out that your child has bullied others. However, there are things you can do which can help your child.

Image: Try to understand why your child might be behaving in this way.

Video - The Upstander

Duration - 1:00

The Upstander

Read the transcript for The Upstander video.

Bystanders can contribute to the problem. An upstander is someone who offers support to the person being bullied.

Focus on positive solutions

Children who bully others need help to:

  • understand the effect of their behaviour
  • take responsibility for their behaviour
  • learn to repair the harm their behaviour has caused
  • develop their social and emotional skills - especially conflict resolution
  • treat others with respect.

Talk with your child

Try to understand why your child might 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.

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

Think about any issues or problems your child might be experiencing at school or home 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 understand what it is like for the person being bullied.

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

Consider what else might be happening for your child

Have any major events taken place recently to upset your child? Is bullying happening because your child is feeling sad or stressed? Do other issues need to be resolved? Contact the school counsellor or school psychologist if you need to talk about support for your child.

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. Children can learn conflict resolution skills at home and at school.

Children may see examples of people dealing with conflict aggressively or trying to convince other people that their way is the best by force or argument. Such conflict can occur on television, in movies, in the school playground, at home, on a sports ground or on the news.

The following steps are useful in helping children find peaceful ways of resolving conflict with other people:

  • Let your child tell you about the issue.
  • Acknowledge how they are feeling and assure them you will help them find a positive solution.
  • Ask clarifying questions to check your understanding of what your child has told you.
  • Cultivate empathy by asking them what they think another person might be feeling.
  • Encourage your child to discuss what they would like to have happen. Ask them to come up with different ideas.
  • Develop a plan of action with your child and share with other relevant people, including school personnel.
  • Put the ideas into action.
  • Talk regularly with your child about how they are going and help them to fine-tune the plan if needed.

Discuss the behaviours with the school

It's important to have a consistent and co-operative approach at home and school.

If you have any concerns about what is happening at school, take them up directly with the teacher or principal.

Getting 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. The school's counsellor or psychologist is also available if required.

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

If your child wants to talk to someone other than the school, or you think added support would help, you may refer them to Kids Helpline. They can also call them for free on 1800 55 1800.


Useful websites include:

Office of the eSafety Commissioner

Bullying. No Way!

Kids Helpline

This has been republished from ReachOut - Australia's leading online mental health organisation for young people and their parents - with their permission. You can find the original article here. Check out their full range of practical support, tools and tips at ReachOut.com


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