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What To Do If Your Daughter Is Bullying Others

What To Do If Your Daughter Is Bullying Others
MAR 30TH, 2022
Mother and daughter hiking
At Hopscotch Girls, we’re here to support parents and caregivers of girls–no matter the situation. Finding out your daughter has been bullying others can be a bit shocking. But it’s important to know that bullying doesn’t mean you’ve got a “bad kid” or that you’re a “bad parent.” Things come up when kids are growing, developing, and learning the world around them.

But, bullying is serious and doesn’t only affect the victim of bullying. Bullying also negatively impacts the bully, those who witness it, and the adults who address it. Often children who have experience with bullying bring these experiences and learned behaviors into adulthood.

When an adult finds out their child is bullying others, it’s important to take prompt action to avoid the behavior in the future.

Types of Bullying

Stereotypes would have us believe that boys are often bullies. If the incident is a boy bullying a girl, sometimes these can be unwelcome advances, name-calling, and other hurtful actions. But girls can also bring harm to their peers through cyberbullying, verbal bullying, and even physical bullying. 

Mental Health Effects of Bullying Others

Bullying is shown to have adverse effects on a child’s mental health. A recent report claimed, “persistent bullying can lead to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair, as well as depression and anxiety.”

While there’s a lot of research on the mental health effects on the victim of bullying, there is little data about how bullying affects the bully. Statistics point out children who bully often bring a wide variety of challenges into adulthood, like a harder time landing or keeping employment, issues with drugs or alcohol, and are more likely to have a police record–all things caregivers want to steer clear of!

Those are some big challenges, and we know they can be overwhelming. But because your daughter has bullied others, doesn’t mean she’ll end up with a criminal record. Sometimes kids are kids, and they need the guidance and emotional support of a parent or caregiver to help them learn empathy, understanding, and love. Preventing these challenges from impacting adulthood starts with appropriately addressing them in childhood.

Why Do Kids Bully?

Again, we can’t point this out enough – children don’t bully because they are inherently “bad kids.” Framing bullying this way might instill a child with a lot of shame–leading to worsening behaviors. There are a lot of reasons kids may choose to bully and/or be unkind to other kids.
  • She wants to fit into a group that is being unkind to other kids.
  • She is seeking attention from teachers, parents, and other adults.
  • She is being bullied at home.
  • She doesn’t understand how her behavior makes other children feel.

What To Do When Your Daughter Has Bullied Others

Address the Behavior Promptly

Once you’ve discovered your child has bullied another, it’s important that you take prompt steps to address the behavior. Doing so informs your child that the behavior is not acceptable. While punishments or consequences may be appropriate, gauge the situation. It’s best to talk to your child to understand why the behavior happened in the first place.

It’s also best to avoid shaming your child as that can lead to more adverse behaviors. Instead, talk to them about their choices, and decide what the appropriate reaction or consequence should be.

Identify the “why”

As outlined above, children bully for a lot of different reasons. It’s not because a child is bad kid; it’s likely because of something else happening either at school or home. Talking to your child and asking them why they chose the behavior can be revelatory for both them and you.
Identifying why your child is bullying others also allows you to address the root cause of the issue instead of reacting to the behavior.

An Appropriate Response to Bullying

Think about your child’s particular situation when letting them know what the consequences will be for bullying in the future. For example, if your child is bullying others online, then it may make sense to limit or prohibit their devices. But if they’re feeling pressured to bully by a friend, a conversation and more time with the family may be the solution.

Teach Empathy, Not Shame

When responding to bullying, it’s important to focus on helping your child feel empathy instead of shame. Social researcher Dr. Brene Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

We want to lift girls up—especially when they’re struggling—and set them up for success in the future. That’s where empathy comes in. Empathy allows us to connect with the people around us through their lived experiences. We don’t have to have the same experiences to understand someone else’s feelings, but we can connect with our own feelings to understand how they might feel in different situations.

Teaching shame after your child has participated in bullying can look like this:

          “What is wrong with you, why would you do that to your classmate?”

Teaching empathy after your child has participated in bullying can look like this:

          “When you say things like that to your classmate, they feel sad. Do you remember when you felt sad?”

Teaching empathy over shame can make a huge difference in how your child connects with her peers and sets her up for success in the future.

Follow Your School’s Plan of Action

Every school has a disciplinary plan of action to address bullying. While partnering with your child’s school may be difficult at times, it’s important that she sees there are responses outside of your home that result from bullying, too.

Talk with your child’s teachers and school administrators to learn about their plan, and how you can support them as a parent or guardian.

Bullying Resources for Parents and Caregivers

Finding out your child has bullied others can be upsetting. But it’s important for you to give yourself the same empathy and shame-free advice you would give your child. Again, because your child has bullied others doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent or they’re a bad kid.

Addressing the situation and behavior in a thoughtful, discerning way can help your children and their peers grow into kind, empathic adults.


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