Is my child a bully?

By Dr. Poonam Khanna, D.O./Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

Some aggressive behavior actually is a normal part of growth and development. However, with time, children learn to control impulses that make them hit, fight or lash out at their peers. By being a role model, you can help your child to recognize the impact words and actions can have. But if you’re concerned that your child might be a bully, look for these signs:

  • Your child acquires material things while at school, such as toys or books
  • Your child is mean when talking about other children.
  • When playing, your child purposely excludes other children from participating.

Again, stop this behavior when you see it happen, and tell your child that it won’t be tolerated. It’s better to address the behavior the first time it happens, to lessen the risk of it becoming routine. Ask your child about his or her life—it could turn out that he or she is being bullied, or perhaps doesn’t know how bullying can affect others. If needed, you can talk to the parents of your child’s friends, his or her teachers, and any other adults that observe or interact with your child regularly.

Keep in mind that you are your child’s greatest example. Think before you act. Try to control anger and frustration, and exhibit empathy, patience and respect for others. When you do have to discipline your child, do not hit or spank him or her. This reinforces the idea that aggressive behavior is effective. Instead, speak calmly and in plain terms, and help your child understand the error in his or her behavior.

If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, consult teachers, principals, counselors, or your family doctor. They can all help assess your child’s behavior and recommend licensed professionals who can work with your child.