Although every parent worries their child may eventually fall prey to a bully, I think it is even more scary to think your child may at some point be the bully. It doesn’t take a bad kid to bully another kid, but sometimes conditions and situations lead to the perfect storm, and it happens. How can you respond when you realize your child might be bullying another?
Don’t jump to being defensive
Every child is capable of bullying, even if they are overall very kind and social children. Many parents jump to the “Not my child!” speech, but this is rarely productive or helpful for anyone involved. Take the time to listen to whoever has the concern, and try to be open-minded as you process the information. It is possible that it was a simple misunderstanding, or that your child said or did something on accident that was taken as mean, but you will never know if you don’t take the time to listen.
Talk to your child
Once you have had some time to process the information, try talking to your child about what you have seen or been told. If they made a mistake or it was a misunderstanding, brainstorm with them how to prevent it happening in the future. If they refuse to discuss it or admit they have been bullying others, try to get to the root cause of it. Could they have been bullied by others, and be using it as a defense mechanism? Do they not understand that it hurts other people when they are mean? Are they afraid of something? Try to really have a heart to heart with them, and stay calm as they talk to you. Make sure they know that, while there are some real-life consequences for their actions, they can always come to you if something is hurting or scaring them.
Figure out future steps
Some of this may be out of your control if the bullying happened at school or daycare, but it is worthwhile to talk to anyone involved about what future steps may be. If it was in the classroom, consider setting up a meeting with the teacher to discuss when and how it happens, and what may prevent it in the future or how it should be handled if it happens again. Set up consequences for your child if they are mean again, and let them know why those consequences are there. Make sure there is a range so the consequence fits what is done.