Advice for parents

Why is my child bullying?

Children who are involved in bullying behaviour often do so either periodically, when they lash out suddenly and uncharacteristically, or chronically, when they have a long standing problem with bullying.

Periodic bullying

There are many reasons why a child might start bullying unexpectedly. In some cases these children have been bullied themselves and are replicating the negative behaviour they have experienced. In other cases they may be:

  • upset about a rejection or argument with a friend or family member;
  • jealous of a sibling or peer;
  • frustrated with their own abilities or special educational needs;
  • under stress because of increasing pressure at school or pending exams;
  • reacting to a problem at home such as divorce or bereavement.

Chronic bullying

Some children appear to go from incident to incident continually bullying others. These children are of particular concern as they are more likely to be excluded from mainstream education or follow a pathway to offending. 

Those who bully in this way are likely to:

  • have poor social skills and little empathy;
  • feel different or inadequate;
  • be exposed to others with a positive attitude towards violence;
  • not have firm behavioural limits in place;
  • receive harsh, excessive or physical punishment.

Related advice

Encouraging positive behaviour
Responding to a complaint
The effects of bullying

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