10 Ways to Discipline Your Child for Bullying Others

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Nothing is more unsettling than learning that your child is a bully. In fact, no parent wants to get a call from the school or from another parent and hear that their child has been bullying other kids. But the fact is, a lot of kids bully others. Even the most well-mannered kids can engage in bullying. So do not be shocked if you get that call.

If you do learn that your child is bullying others, try not to dwell in your surprise. Instead, move forward and take action. Remember, there are a variety of reasons why one child bullies another. For instance, sometimes bullying is the product of peer pressure or a sense of entitlement. Other times, it is a reaction to having been a victim of bullying. And sometimes the bullying results from your child’s inability to control impulses or manage anger.

Regardless of the reason behind your child’s actions, you have to discipline your child for their poor choices. After all, the bullying behaviors will not end unless your child takes responsibility for their actions, admits their mistakes and learns how to change their behavior. Here are nine ways to address your child’s bullying behavior.

Address the Bullying Immediately 

Once you learn that your child has bullied another child, it is imperative that you talk with them right away. Doing so demonstrates not only that you aware of the situation, but also that bullying is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Although you do not have to list the consequences immediately, you do need to talk to your child about their actions. Be sure to stay calm, avoid any shameful language, and show your concern—but make it clear they will be disciplined for their choices.

Determine the Root Cause

In order to develop the correct plan of discipline for your child, you need to find out why your child chose to bully another child and create a conversation that encourages kids to talk more openly. For example, if your child is a bully-victim, you will need to deal with their bullying but also help them cope with the bullying they have endured. Meanwhile, if your child bullied other kids because they wants to be popular be part of a clique, then you will need to address the importance of healthy friendships and resisting peer pressure. But remember, do not give your child an excuse for their behavior. Instead, this information will give you an idea of how to address their poor choices and discipline them appropriately.

Remind Your Child That Bullying Is a Choice

Your child needs to recognize that no matter the reason behind their bullying behavior, bullying was a choice they made. And they are responsible for their actions. Be sure that your child owns their choice and accepts responsibility. Sometimes kids refuse to take responsibility. Do not let this attitude slide. Continue discussing the situation until your child can communicate that they understand their responsibility.

Develop Logical Consequences

We have all heard the statement: “the punishment should fit the crime.” This is especially true when it comes to discipline for bullying. If, for example, your child was using their computer or cell phone to cyberbully others, then a logical consequence would be a loss of computer privileges and cell phone use. Likewise, if your child used their status on the cheerleading squad to bully others or bullied others because they are part of a clique, then they should lose that status for a period of time. You might choose to “suspend” them from a game or two or not allow them to spend time with the friends who participated in the bullying. Just remember that every bullying situation is different and as a result, the consequences will be different.

Take Away Privileges

Losing privileges is a popular form of discipline for teens and is usually very effective. For example, you can take away electronics, the use of the family car, the privilege of attending parties or special events, social media use and even the ability to stay home alone. The list is endless. The point is to demonstrate that bullying behavior has consequences and will not be tolerated. Just be sure that once you take something away that you do not give in later. Also, be clear on the length of time that the privilege will be revoked.

Support the School’s Disciplinary Plan

Although supporting the school can be very difficult for parents, it is an extremely important step. When you partner with the school and support the plan they are implementing, you are allowing your children to learn a valuable life lesson. It also shows them that there are consequences for bad choices and Mom or Dad will not rescue them. The worst decision you could make is to enable them bad decisions by attempting to rescue them from the pain of consequences.

Teach Your Child New Skills

Pay attention to the details of your child’s bullying behavior. Are there skills your child is lacking that may prevent future bullying incidents like anger management and impulse control? Or, is your child bullying to fit in or to get attention? If so, this could be a self-esteem issue. Help your child see their value and worth outside of what peers have to say. And if bullying is related to cliques, help your child develop healthy friendships.

Avoid Shaming Your Child

Lately, parents have started shaming their kids as a way of disciplining them. For instance, they make their child wear a sign and stand on a street corner. Or, they take an embarrassing picture of their child and post it on social media with a lengthy explanation of their child’s transgressions. While these actions have attracted media attention, they are not useful discipline strategies. Instead, kids learn that it is acceptable to embarrass and humiliate others. Additionally, shaming is a form of bullying and should not be used to discipline.

Concentrate on Instilling Empathy

Talk about the consequences of bullying. And be sure your child takes the time to really think about how they would feel if they were the one being bullied. When kids learn to see things from a different perspective, they are less likely to bully again in the future. In fact, raising your child's emotional intelligence and instilling empathy goes a long way in preventing bullying.

Prevent Future Bullying Incidents

Sometimes when bullying is caught early and addressed appropriately, it usually won’t happen again. But do not automatically assume this is the case. Instead, monitor your child’s behavior and continue to discipline them if necessary. If given the right skill set, most kids who bully others can change. It just takes some time.

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  1. Macklem GL. Bullying and Teasing, Social Power in Children’s Groups. Springer Science & Business Media; 2012.