Is Your Child Bullying Others? Warning Signs and How to Help

It can be an alarming discovery to learn that your child is displaying bullying traits. Parents want to see the best in their kids and may resist recognizing behavior that qualifies as bullying. There is a lot of coverage on bullying these days. We want to be sure kids understand what bullying is and what to do if they feel they’re being bullied. But what about helping the kids who are the aggressors – the bullies? 

Bullying is defined as repeated, aggressive behavior that can be physical, verbal, or relational.  It’s everything from obvious physical action and threats to more subtle exclusionary, manipulative behavior. One in four kids report being bullied and approximately one in ten children have bullied others. We as parents need to be ready to step in and help all the kids involved in bullying situations. No one wants to hear his or her child is being a bully, however, there are identifying signals and ways to help the child who is bullying.

“Recognizing the warning signs is an important first step in preventing bullying” explains Peter J. Goodman, author of the new children’s book series, We’re All Different But We’re All Kitty Cats. The books are designed for elementary aged children to tackle common issues such as bullying, childhood fears, confidence, being different, and making friends.

Warning Signs Indicating a Child is At Risk for Displaying Bullying Behavior:

•    Appears to enjoy feeling powerful, in control, dominating, or manipulating classmates.

•    Equates being powerful and respected with fear.

•    Skilled at sneaky behavior.

•    Blames others.

•    Exhibits little compassion.

•    Frequently on the defensive.

•    Behaves in defiant and oppositional manner toward adults.

•    Seeks unusual amount of attention and attracts it through negative behavior.

•    Displays impulsivity and lack of coping skills.

“There is a real fear that the child bully, without the help to overcome the tendencies to bully, will grow up to become the adult bully and have opportunities to do real harm,” affirms Goodman. “Redirecting these at-risk children and providing them with the needed tools and coping mechanisms to take the positive route instead of the negative would have an impact on our society.”

Helping the Child Who Bullies Others:

  •     Notice and describe the bullying behavior in private without hesitation.
  •     Be firm, but communicate compassion and avoid bullying the child who bullies.
  •     Teach anger management/relaxation skills, competition skills, and social skills.
  •     Provide opportunities for child to shine and/or experience success.
  •     Use consequences that include opportunities to practice new, more appropriate      coping skills.
  •     Provide private recognition of improved behavior.

The best means to prevent bullying is through awareness and education – equipping children with the tools and skills they need to recognize bullying, to protect themselves, and to help others. As parents, we should consistently teach their children about respect, empathy, tolerance, self-confidence. We should teach and model to children how to express feelings and emotions without the use of aggressive or physical means. Some of the most lasting lessons a child learns come from the example set by the adults around them – parents, teachers, coaches.

Resources for parents are available through our children’s schools as well as online. Check out these links to help understand what your kids may be experiencing now or in the future.

For more information about the book:  We’re All Different But We’re All Kitty Cats, visit

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