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Bullying Caused by your Child

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is bullying?

Bullying is a pattern of abuse designed to harm or control another person. Verbal bullying means name calling or other words used to hurt the person, or threatening to hurt him or her. Physical bullying means hitting or other physical attack. Social abuse includes anything designed to keep the person from being accepted by others. An example is starting rumors about the person. Bullying that happens through e-mail, the Internet, or text messages is called cyberbullying.

What are the signs that my child is bullying another child?

You may not know your child is bullying someone until you get a call from his or her school or from another parent. You may find e-mail or text messages, or Internet posts your child sent or created. You may also hear him or her threatening another child on the phone. Your child may tell you he or she was only joking. Do not dismiss any incident. Be firm in telling your child his or her behavior is not acceptable.

What increases the risk that my child will bully other children?

  • A history of being abused or bullied, or seeing someone abused
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Access to guns or other weapons that can be brought to school or easily hidden in clothing
  • A recent rejection or humiliation

What are the warning signs of behavior problems that may lead to bullying?

  • Aggressive behavior at home, such as hitting a brother or sister
  • Blaming others for damage he or she caused
  • Frequently getting into trouble at school, or being disruptive in class
  • Starting fires, being cruel to animals, or destroying property
  • Angry outbursts, especially without warning
  • Being impulsive (not thinking of the consequences before he or she acts), or becoming frustrated easily

What can I do to help change my child's behavior?

  • Take your child's behavior seriously. Do not dismiss bullying behavior as a normal part of childhood. Tell your child firmly that bullying is not acceptable and that he or she must stop. Be consistent. This will help your child realize his or her behavior will not be tolerated.
  • Be consistent with punishment. Do not let a bullying incident go without punishment or tell your child that he or she will be punished the next time. Your child may try to test you, or he or she may believe you will not follow through. Do not use physical punishment. Spanking or other physical punishment teaches your child to be physical with others. You may need to take away a privilege, such as a game he or she enjoys playing. Children often respond well to this type of punishment.
  • Make changes to prevent bullying. You may need to have your child's Internet, e-mail, and text accounts changed or closed to prevent cyberbullying. You may also need to have his or her schedule changed to keep him or her separated from the person he or she is bullying. Always tell your child why you are making a change, such as to his or her school schedule or e-mail account. He or she needs to understand that the change is because of his or her actions. Do not promise him or her the changes are temporary. Do not give him or her something else to make up for what you took away.
  • Talk with your child about his or her behavior. Ask your child why he or she is bullying another child. Be direct and keep asking until you get a direct answer. Tell him or her that bullying is never okay, even if he or she tries to tell you the other child started it. You and your child may also be able to talk with someone at his or her school. The school may offer programs to help stop bullying.
  • Have your child work with behavior experts. A mental health expert can evaluate your child for signs of aggressive or abusive behavior. Experts can help your child learn to control his or her emotions and take responsibility for his or her actions. The experts can help him or her learn healthy ways to deal with anger or frustration. They can also help him or her talk about problems he or she is having at home or school that may be connected to his or her bullying behavior.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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