You hear a lot about how to help kids when they’re being bullied—but bullying isn’t a one-direction equation. Here’s a look at the topic from a different perspective: what to do when it’s your child who’s doing the bullying—as difficult as that can be to confront.

If this happens, it can be absolutely heartbreaking. Parents can be left wondering how this behavior started and how they didn’t notice it sooner. At Bark, we know how stressful and upsetting this can be, which is why we’ve done some research on what to do if your child exhibits bullying behavior.

Why do some kids bully, anyway?

There are many different reasons why relatively well-adjusted children may treat others antagonistically. It’s important to remember that kids aren’t as emotionally or intellectually developed as adults, so their actions may seem frustrating or irrational. Some of the common reasons kids bully include:

  • Wanting to fit in
  • Being bullied at home
  • Looking for attention
  • Being naturally more assertive

We have to always remember to watch our language.

It’s crucial to remember that kids don’t bully because they’re “bad kids.” Kids are still learning and maturing until well after high school. Bad behavior isn’t a reflection of who they are as a person.

Because of this, it’s important to use child-centered language. Try not to refer to your child as a “bully.” Say that they “have bullied” or “are engaging in bullying behavior.” This way, it doesn’t become intertwined with the child’s identity. The same goes for recipients of bullying — say “the bullied child” instead of “victim.”

Talking to your child about bullying

If you discover that your child is bullying others (most likely news you’ll receive from another parent or a teacher), the most important thing to do is sit down and communicate. Listen to your child’s side of the story and see how they react.

Some kids may be able to articulate why they act in certain ways (to fit in, for example). Younger kids, on the other hand, may not know why they do the things they do. It’s important to emphasize that you love them and want to help them be a better friend.

How to address bullying where it’s happening

Parents, school staff and community organizations can all help address bullying and ensure the behavior stops. Here are a few strategies to help curb bullying behavior:

  • Make sure the child knows what’s unacceptable.
  • Take bullying seriously.
  • Uncover the reasons a child is bullying.
  • Teach empathy.
  • Demonstrate that there are consequences.
  • Model respectful behavior.

If your child cyberbullies

Schoolyard bullying in today’s generation still exists, but more and more often harmful activity occurs online. Cyberbullying is quicker, easier and can occur around the clock and from any location. In a previous blog post, we discussed just how different cyberbullying is from the bullying you may remember as a child.