8 Ways to Avoid Raising a Bully

Tips on raising kind, empathetic and bully-free kids

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 indicating that your child has been bullying other kids at school. Despite all your best parenting efforts, your child has decided that controlling, intimidating and harassing others helps her get what she wants. 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.

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 children.

This seems simple enough, but many parents do not actively engage in their child’s life. Instead, they spend a lot more time directing and correcting than they do listening and getting to know their kids. In fact, research shows that there are more protective factors among parents who share ideas with their kids than parents who feel frequently bothered by their kids. 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 different 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 others at school. Other times, the non-aggressive sibling is transferring 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. But be careful about asserting too much control over your child’s choices because it could backfire. Try to guide your child instead of making demands. 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 canoot 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. But 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. Work with your children to recognize how their behavior affects others. Be sure to ask your child how he would feel in a similar situation. Also, point out when you see other people hurting and encourage your child to offer help or assistance 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 he feels first. If your child can identify his own feelings, he will be better equipped to understand 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.

Put an end to bullying behavior immediately.

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. Be sure you 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.