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How to parent a bully

How to parent a bully

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SALT LAKE CITY — No one likes a bully. Bullies are arrogant, overbearing and intimidating to smaller or weaker people. So when you find your own child a bully to others, what can you do? Here are a few tips that can help parents deal with their own children’s bullying troubles:

1. Parents should be observant

If you are suspicious your child has been bullying other children, watch the actions of your child when they don't know you are looking. This can be very informative in pinpointing the bullying behaviors and catch the experience firsthand. Ask the child’s teachers or friends if there is a problem. To be certain, ask yourself the following questions from

  1. Does your child frequently disobey you?
  2. Does your child have a temper or is easy to provoke?
  3. Does your child’s teacher complain of regular disruptions caused by your child?
  4. Does your child enjoy violent video games, movies or music?
  5. Does your child show a lack of warmth or caring towards you or siblings?
  6. Is your child easily frustrated?
  7. Is your child left alone often?
  8. Has your child been injured in a fight?
  9. Does your child often disagree and argue with you?
  10. Does your child act out violent scenes from movies or video games?

Children learn by example even though parents might not think they are paying attention. Make an effort to observe your own behaviors for a few days as you interact with your children.

Answering these questions truthfully can help you understand what needs to be done in order to help your child realize how their actions hurt other people. There might be more to your child’s bullying than you originally realized.

Once you have pinpointed the problem of what your child is thinking, you can alleviate concerns and frustrations with behavior modifications and the bullying will disappear.

2. Parents shouldn’t bully their own children

In some cases children are bullies because they are bullied by their own parents. Children learn by example even though parents might not think they are paying attention.Make an effort to observe your own behaviors for a few days as you interact with your children.

One question therapists typically ask families with bullying problems is: Is the authority figure in your child’s life overly permissive or extremely harsh? With either side of the coin children don’t have a full understanding of appropriate behavior towards other people.

According to, if a parent is overly harsh to their own children, there is a good chance they will in turn be overly harsh to their peers. Fathers especially can be guilty of this oversight, which causes children to be mean when no one is looking.

3. Parents need time with their children

From a study conducted by Andre Christie-Mizell of Vanderbilt University, school-aged children were found to have an increase in bullying if their fathers worked over 40 hours a week and they felt their fathers didn’t spend enough time with them. Now that idea could be an unjustified excuse for children to take advantage of other children, but many times children feel great frustration when there is no close relationship to their parents or parental figure.


Children need the security of knowing their parents care about them and will spend some time with them. Practicing appropriate behavior with your child can help them realize how others feel when they are bullied.

4. Remind children of values

Attending church regularly, children learn scripture stories and moral lessons to help them be a better person. This can be a great reminder for children who seem to pick on other children and treat them unkindly.

Remind them of these values during a family night discussion, post reminders on the refrigerator or centrally-located place, or talk about them in the car. Do whatever helps the child.

It’s important for parents to pay attention to their children’s growing up years. Jobs and other distractions tend to keep parents away from making sure children of all ages are happy and healthy. Bullying other children should not be part of anyone’s life. Wise words from Jackie Kennedy Onassis ring true: “If you bungle raising your children, nothing else much matters in life.”

Valerie Steimle is the mother of nine children living in Alabama and is the author of four books including "Of One Heart: Being Single in the LDS World."

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