10 Do’s and Don'ts for parents if your child is a bully

05 Jun 2024

As parents, one of the most gut-wrenching realisations can be discovering that our child is a bully. It's a moment that can leave you feeling overwhelmed, or confused, or uncertain about how to proceed.

In this blog post, we'll explore ten essential do's and don'ts to help navigate this complex issue with compassion, understanding, and ultimately, positive change for your child and those they may have hurt.


1. Take it seriously: Take action as soon as you become aware of the bullying behaviours. By doing so, you're demonstrating not only that you aware of the situation, but also that bullying is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Clearly communicate that bullying behaviour is not okay, and outline the consequences if it continues. Establish clear, but reasonable rules and boundaries for behaviour.

2. Have open conversations: Encourage your child to talk about their feelings and experiences without judgment. Talk to your child about their behaviour in a calm and non-confrontational manner. Listen actively to their perspective and try to understand why they are engaging in bullying, and whether something is troubling your child either at school or at home - they can be upset, jealous, unhappy, or perhaps has been bullied themselves.

3. Teach them about empathy, diversity and inclusion: Help your child understand the impact of their actions on others. Encourage them to imagine how it would feel to be in the victim's shoes. Teach them to respect and celebrate differences among individuals, including differences in race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, and abilities.

4. Monitor and supervise: Keep an eye on your child's interactions with others, especially in social settings like school or extracurricular activities. Offer guidance and intervene if necessary to prevent bullying behaviour.

Be mindful of the media your child consumes, including television shows, movies, video games, and online content. Discuss any negative or aggressive messages they encounter and help them critically evaluate media portrayals of bullying.

5. Encourage positive behaviour: Teach your child healthy ways to interact with others, such as communication and cooperation. Equip them with strategies for resolving conflicts peacefully and assertively, without resorting to aggression or bullying behaviour. Notice and praise your child's efforts to show kindness, empathy, and respect toward others.  


1. Ignore the behaviour: Turning a blind eye to bullying behaviour sends the message that it's acceptable, which can perpetuate the problem. Pay attention to any signs that your child may be experiencing difficulties or distress, such as changes in behaviour, mood, or social interactions. Address underlying issues proactively.

2. React with anger: Responding with anger and aggressiveness may cause your child to become defensive and less likely to open up about their actions. It can also escalate the situation and model negative behaviour for your child. Take time for yourself to process how it makes you feel, so that you can stay calm when talking to your child.

Approach the situation with empathy and understanding and avoid using harsh language or blaming your child for their behaviour. Instead, focus on understanding the underlying reasons, addressing specific behaviours and helping them develop healthier ways of interacting with others.

3. Make excuses and blame others: Avoid justifying your child's behaviour. Don't blame others ("She didn't learn that at home. It must be the school's fault!"), especially the victims for your child's actions by suggesting that the other child "deserved" to be bullied. Victim blaming can further harm the bullied child and fail to address the root cause of the bullying. Take responsibility as a parent and work together with your child to address the problem constructively.

4. Dismiss or minimize the behaviour:  Avoid brushing off bullying behaviour as "just a phase" or downplaying its seriousness. Even if it's "just once", even if your child won't engage on bullying behaviours in the future, another child is being hurt and the consequences can be devastating.

Take reports of bullying seriously. Don't say, "I know my child and he/she would never do that!" You don't necessarily know "who" they are on the playground or at a slumber party. Investigate the situation and take appropriate action. Even if the bullying seems minor, it's essential to address it seriously to prevent it from escalating.

5. Use harsh discipline: While consequences are important for addressing bullying behaviour, avoid overly harsh or punitive discipline that may exacerbate feelings of shame or resentment in your child. Instead of jumping straight to punishment, take the time to understand why your child is behaving this way. Address underlying issues and work together to find solutions.

By following these dos and don'ts, parents can effectively address bullying behaviour in their children and help them develop empathy and respect for others. It's important to remember, changing behaviour takes time and effort. Be patient and supportive as your child learns new ways of interacting with others.

If your child bullies someone, here's a guide on what you can do as a parent: https://bit.ly/3WOUggC.

If you or someone you know is bullied, this article gives you some tips on how to deal with bullying: https://bit.ly/3V6WWF4.

If you are concerned about a child or young person being bullied, please seek help. Speak to a trusted GP, school wellbeing staff, or a helpline such as:

Dolly’s Dream Support Line 0488 881 033

Parentline in your state or territory

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

Headspace 1800 650 890

Lifeline 13 11 14