8 Ways to Avoid Raising a Bully

Tips on Raising Kind, Empathetic and Bully-Free Children

Mother talking to daughter in bedroom.

Blend Images - KidStock / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

There is nothing worse than getting a call from a teacher or an administrator letting you know that your child has been bullying other kids at school. Despite all your best parenting efforts, your child has learned that controlling, intimidating and harassing others helps them get what they want.

It may seem shocking and unfathomable that the child you love and adore has resorted to bullying others. But the truth is, bullies come in all shapes and sizes. And even the best-parented kids can become bullies, especially if they think they can get away with it.

Gone are the stereotypes that bullies are big, burly kids from the wrong side of the tracks. Any child is capable of bullying others, even those kids with no risk factors. But, there are some things you can do to make sure your child treats others with respect and kindness. Here are eight ways you can prevent your child from becoming a bully.

Take an Interest in Your Child

This seems simple enough, but many parents do not actively engage in their child’s life. Instead, they spend more time directing and correcting than they do listening and getting to know their kids. It's important for parents to take an interest in their children's activities and education. So, take the time to find out who your children are apart from who you want them to be.

Teach Your Child to Respect Others

Be sure your child knows that all people are unique and that everyone should be treated with kindness. Also, set clear expectations on how to treat people, especially those who are different in some way. Ensure that your children know that even if they do not like someone, this does not give them the right to be mean.

Every person deserves to be treated courteously.

Don’t Ignore Sibling Aggression

While it is normal for siblings to argue and tease one another, chronic mean behavior, both verbal and physical, should never be ignored. Many times, kids who engage in sibling bullying at home will bully (or be bullied by) others at school. Other times, the non-aggressive sibling will transfer that behavior to other kids at school. Even if the bullying is limited to the home, sibling bullying should be addressed because it has significant consequences.

Get to Know Your Child’s Friends

Invite your child’s friends over to your house or invite them to attend events with your family. Even offer to carpool from time to time. You will be amazed what you will learn about your children, their friends and the school from the front seat of your vehicle. And if your child develops a friendship with a bully or a mean girl, be sure you talk to your child about what is respectful and kind and what isn’t.

Just be careful about asserting too much control over your child’s choices because it could backfire. Try to guide your child through her friendships instead of making demands about who spends time with. In the meantime, keep an eye out for mean behavior. Remember, your children’s friends often have a huge influence on their behavior and peer pressure is a very strong force when it comes to bullying.

Talk With Your Kids About Bullying

Consistent communication is the key to good parenting and it is especially important when it comes to bullying prevention. Remember, you cannot shelter your kids from every malicious influence, but you can prepare them for tough situations by talking with them about bullying. Be sure your children know that life is full of disagreements. Just make sure they know how to handle these situations productively. Hitting, name-calling and blaming are never the answers.

Foster Empathy

Many bullies lack empathy. As a result, be sure you are working with your kids to recognize how their behavior affects others. Be sure to ask your child how he would feel in a similar situation. And, point out when you see other people hurting or in need of assistance and encourage your child to offer help in some way.

Another way to develop empathy is to help your child process emotions. Many times, understanding how others feel begins with knowing how she feels first. If your child can identify her own feelings, then she will be better able to identify the feelings of others.

Know the Signs of Bullying

Not only is it important to know the signs of bullying to prevent your child from bullying others but, it’s also important for your own child’s health and safety. Sometimes kids bully others because they too are being bullied. Be sure you know how to stop the bully-victim cycle if you find your child in this situation.

There is nothing worse than trying to deal with your child's bullying behavior while allowing them to heal from being bullied by others.

Put an End to Bullying Behavior

If you find your child is a bully or your child is a cyberbully, take steps to put an end to the behavior at once. You need to take swift action with appropriate consequences. And if the bullying was reported to the school, work with administrators to enforce any disciplinary action that your child receives. As difficult as it is, it is important that your children receive consequences for bullying behavior. Do not try to shelter them or they will never learn from the experience.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gadsden VL, Ford M, Breiner H. Parenting Matters: Supporting Parents of Children Ages 0-8. Washington, District of Columbia: The National Academies Press; 2016.

  2. Bar-Zomer J, Brunstein Klomek A. Attachment to Parents As a Moderator in the Association between Sibling Bullying and Depression or Suicidal Ideation among Children and AdolescentsFront Psychiatry. 2018;9:72. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00072

  3. Doehne M, Grundherr MV, Schäfer M. Peer influence in bullying: The autonomy-enhancing effect of moral competenceAggressive Behavior. 2018;44(6):591-600. doi:10.1002/ab.21784

  4. Noorden THJV, Haselager GJT, Cillessen AHN, Bukowski WM. Empathy and Involvement in Bullying in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic ReviewJournal of Youth and Adolescence. 2014;44(3):637-657. doi:10.1007/s10964-014-0135-6

  5. KidsHealth. Dealing With Bullies.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.