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How to Prevent Your Child From Becoming a Bully

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They're everywhere. You can find them in every race, every age and every city. Long after our encounters with them we remember how they impacted our lives.

Bullies. It's not just a schoolyard label, but that is where it begins. How can we as parents make the world a better place, free of those who criticize, antagonize and harm others physically and emotionally? It's not an easy task, but we can begin by understanding why bullies become bullies and then offer our children the antidote to this cruel mentality.

Loss of Control

When children are abused at home or expected to care for themselves, family members or siblings at an early age they begin to feel the pressures of adulthood much sooner than they are developmentally ready. Once this feeling of pressure becomes daunting, they feel a lack of control over their lives and lash out angrily toward others in any situation they feel they can control.

To offer the remedy to a loss of control, it would be wise to allow your children to make some decisions of their own. Allow them to choose what they want for breakfast, to choose their own clothes or choose a restaurant to visit. Allow them the freedom to make a decision every now and then so they will feel that their opinions and presence are important.

RELATED: I Was Bullied As a Teenager

Lack of Attention

Some children lash out toward others because they have recognized that the only time people pay attention to them is when they are being corrected or disciplined. Even though this type of attention is negative, it is attention just the same. If a child wants to play with you but you say you don't have time, yet they will get a full 20-minute lecture when they hit someone, it might be their way of having face time with you.

Set aside a half hour each day to ask them about their day. Allow them to lead the conversation, and, if they don't have anything to say, ask them what they think about certain topics or people. This activity will reveal a part of their personalities that you may not have noticed before, and it will teach them that their opinions are valuable.


Bullies often criticize others because they are heavily criticized at home. To be fair, it is our job as parents to set limits and guidelines for socially acceptable behavior, but when the only time we speak to our children is to correct them they will begin to have a negative self-image. The words you speak to them will become the words they whisper to themselves for decades to come.

Try affirming your child by recognizing when they do something correctly. Build your child up by speaking words like, "I knew you would make an A in English, that is who you are, you're brilliant."

When children are given too much of anything, they begin to demand it from the world.

Feeling Unsafe

Many children become bullies because they feel unsafe at home. If you have a deep voice or an extremely stern home or are prone to yelling or striking your children without warning or without explaining why you are punishing them, they will begin to see the world as a harmful and unsafe place. They become defensive and in turn lash out with sarcasm or criticism toward others in the hope that they can hurt the other person before that person hurts them.

Try to send your child to bed with a soothing word or experience. A simple, "Goodnight, baby," will work, or try tickle time just before putting them to bed. Hug your children. Stand up for them in the face of adversity when appropriate. Limit your child's exposure to the horrific news stories and adult-themed films. Create an experience for them that will make them feel that there is safety in mommy's eyes.

Unrealistic Expectations

We love our children and we often seek to offer them the things that we did not experience as children. Unfortunately, this overkill of re-parenting ourselves through giving to our children can have an adverse effect on their lives. When children are given too much of anything, they begin to demand it from the world. This can lead to them developing into a bully who demands that others concede to their wishes at all times.

RELATED: When Your Kid Is the Bully

While we want our children to have a positive expectation about life in general, it is wise to encourage them to understand that sometimes things do not happen as we plan them. Teach them how to transform any situation into one that benefits them. Teach them that if plans fall through, they can create another plan. Show them how to adjust their expectations and still have fun in life.

Explain to them that at some point, everyone is going to disappoint them because no one is perfect and they shouldn't expect life to be a straight arrow or fairy tale either. Create a vision for them that life is an adventure and every adventure has scary moments and moments of bliss. Help them to understand that they can be happy regardless of the outcome of any situation and most importantly, teach them the same lesson by allowing them to watch you react to situations in the same way.

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