Pros and Cons of Calling a Bully's Parents

Upset man making a phone call

When your child is bullied, you often find yourself wondering how to handle the situation. You know you should call the principal and the teacher to report the bullying, especially if the bullying is occurring at school. But what about calling the bully’s parents? Should you contact them? Although most experts advise against contacting the bully’s parents, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of contacting them.

Reasons for Calling a Bully’s Parents

While the majority of the time, calling the bully's parents will end badly for you and for your child, there are the rare exceptions when contacting them produces the desired result. Here are some reasons why parents might want to call the bully's parents.

Get the issue out in the open. When your child is being victimized by a bully, you naturally want to do what you can to bring an end to the bullying. And if you personally know the parents of the bully, you may feel like you are being deceptive if you do not address the issue directly with his parents. In this situation, many parents feel like calling the parents is the best course of action. They would rather that they hear about the incident from them rather than from the school. This plan of action also gives the other parents the opportunity to address the issue before the school administrators have to get involved. In some ways, it is a courtesy call extended friend to friend.

Feel better knowing the other parent knows. Telling the bully's parents what is going on also can bring you a sense of relief. Afterward, the issue is out in the open where hopefully it can be resolved. But keep in mind, that not every parent is receptive to hearing something negative about their kids, despite how close your friendship is. So be prepared for some pushback when you address the issue. The best thing to do is to go into the conversation without any preconceived ideas on how the other parents should discipline their child for bullying.

Makes you feel proactive. When your child is bullied, every parent wants to feel like they are doing something to not only end the bullying but also to protect their child. This is especially true if the school is particularly slow in addressing the issue. As a result, contacting the bully’s parents naturally makes you feel like you are doing something to bring the bullying to the end.

Keep in mind, though, all of these positive reasons for contacting a bully’s parents are more about helping you navigate the situation than they are about helping your child. Rarely does contacting a bully’s parents impact your child in a positive way. In fact, sometimes it can make the situation worse. Here is a closer look at the reasons why it may not be a good idea to contact the bully’s parents.

Why You Shouldn't Call a Bully’s Parents

You may not get the response you want. Rarely do parents respond the way you hope they would when you confront them about their child's bad behavior. As a result, it is unrealistic to expect a calm response from the bully's parents. Even if they do remain calm while on the phone with you and seem receptive to what you have to say, once you hang up and they have had time to think about the conversation, they may not be so rational. If you intend to call the bully's parents, be sure you are prepared for a negative reaction. If your goal is simply to get the issue out in the open, focus on that and not on the parents' response.

It might feel like you do not get closure. Many parents assume that once they contact the bully's parents that things will improve for their child. This is not always the case. As a result, after the conversation, you may feel like things are not really resolved, which can sometimes make you feel like there is no closure to the issue. This is especially true if the bullying continues or escalates.

It might ruin a friendship. One of the biggest risks with calling the bully's parents is the impact it will have on the friendship. Even if you think you know how your friends will respond, you have to realize that when you bring up something negative about their child there is a risk that it will not go over well. Most parents are extremely protective of their kids and often have a very hard time acknowledging that their kids might be less than perfect. Add in the negative connotation associated with bullying and that amplifies the risk that your friend will not be receptive to what you have to say. If you do decide to call the bully's parents, you need to accept that you might lose a friend in the process.

It may escalate the issue (both for you and for your child). Sometimes when a bullying issue is addressed, it will escalate before it gets better. This fact may be especially true if you contact the bully's parents. Once the bully is confronted by his parents, he may escalate his harassment and mean behavior toward your child. Additionally, the bully's parents may try to do a little damage control and spread rumors or gossip about you or your child in order to deflect attention away from their child's poor behavior. What's more, some parents will engage in bullying, and sometimes even cyberbullying, of their own. If you decide to call the bully's parents, be sure you are prepared for things to get worse before they get better.

There's a chance that you end up taking away some of your child’s power. When you take the lead and go directly to the bully's parents, you take away some of your child's power. Ideally, you want to empower your child to handle the bullying situation. Rushing in to fix things for him does little to help him grow or learn from the situation. In fact, it keeps him rooted in victim thinking. Instead, it is better to equip your child with ideas for addressing the bullying situation directly. Brainstorm on how he can respond the next time he is faced with a bullying situation and equip him with ideas on how to handle the situation in the future.

If You Do Call the Bully’s Parents

Generally, it is not a suggested strategy to call the bully's parents unless you know the other parents and anticipate they can listen to you objectively. But if you do decide to call them anyway, make sure you describe their child's behavior without passing judgment. In other words, just list what the bully has done without describing the actions as unacceptable or mean. It's also not a good idea to use the word bully if you really want someone to hear what you’re saying. Many parents immediately become defensive if they feel you are labeling their child in some way.

You also may want to ask your child for his opinion. If your child is particularly afraid of retaliation, you need to be sensitive to this concern when addressing the issue. Make sure that talking with the parents will not put your child at more risk for bullying.

The point here is to have a conversation that will have a positive impact on the situation. Do what you can to avoid ticking off the other parents. Remember, many parents naturally come to the defense of their child and may have a difficult time believing their child is engaging in any type of bullying behavior. Also, hearing negative things about their child can be embarrassing and can even make the parents angry. Keep in mind that they may be more receptive when this news comes from an objective party like a school counselor or principal. But if you insist on calling the bully's parents, be kind and patient when talking with them.

What You Can Do Instead

So after much reflection, you have decided not to call the bully’s parents. But do you just sit idly by and do nothing? Absolutely not. Your focus should be on helping your child overcome the consequences of the bullying he or she has experienced.

Start by helping your child learn how to stand up to the bullying. You also can discuss how he or she can defend themselves should it happen again. Other options include building his or her assertiveness skills and fostering healthier friendships. Any friend who bullies your child is either a toxic friend or a fake friend, and it is best if your child finds new people to socialize with.

Also, be sure you have contacted the school to report the bullying. Work with the teachers and administrators to develop a safety plan for your child in order to prevent additional bullying from occurring. And finally, if your child is showing signs of distress from bullying such as depression, dropping grades or thoughts of suicide, then be sure to get your child evaluated by a doctor, pediatrician or counselor.

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