How to Spot a Bully … In Your Own Home

As parents, we believe our children are perfect. It takes a very courageous parent to realize that their child may have a problem. Whether it be behavioral, mental, or emotional.  Admitting a fault in ourselves or a loved one is huge and difficult, especially when it comes to our children. “Most parents want to believe they are good parents,” says Marie Newman, an anti-bullying family advocate and author of When Your Child Is Being Bullied: Real Solutions. “If they have to admit that their child has acted inappropriately, then they feel like they have failed in some way, and most parents have a hard time with that.”

I know what you are thinking … ‘Bully’ and ‘bullying’ are very strong words and are thrown out too often, and often thrown out in the wrong situations. Yes. They are. However, I have noticed during playdates or just people watching, some kids are on the wrong path, and I don’t know why, but I see it. I see the behavior, I see the faces, I see it. I am not certified, nor schooled in psychology, psychiatry, counseling, or any of that. But I see something in these kids, and I cannot explain it. But my mom instinct, my gut, my heart always seems to be right.

Having a young child, I have started to pull away from parents whose children do not treat my child the way I would like them to be treated, and honestly, they do not treat my child how he/she treats them. My child wears his/her heart on his sleeve, he/she is empathetic, he/she is inclusive, he/she is hilarious, but most of all he/she loves to love. (Side note, my child is not perfect, all kids have their moments, I am not saying he/she does not, but in general, he/she always amazes me with his/her kindness). I thought maybe I was being a helicopter mom and too sensitive, but then met parents who were like me, and realized I was not doing the wrong thing. It is my job to protect my young child from this type of treatment as much as I can, knowing that I won’t always be there to save him/her. So not only did I pull away from those families, but I also decided to help my child learn coping skills and cognitive behaviors to deal with a bully when I am not there to protect him/her.  I keep reminding myself it’s not at all the child’s fault, it’s the parents and the way they raise their children.

In children with questionable behavior, my perception is that they crave attention. Attention that is either negative or positive. It does not seem to matter which kind of attention they receive. Other possible reasons, per, are due to entitlement, peer pressure, issues with controlling impulses, and managing anger.

There are so many opinions on what bullying behavior could look like and perspective matters. But according to Children’s Hospital, this is what typical bullying behavior includes:

  1. Pushing, hitting, and/or tripping
  2. Name-calling
  3. Repeated teasing even after a child says “please stop”
  4. Spreading rumors
  5. Excluding others from playtime, conversation
  6. Stealing or damaging other’s property
  7. Sending hurtful messages via any platform (text, social media et al)

It may seem that the teasing is harmless, or that hitting is natural and part of being a kid. But what seems natural to you, is potentially harmful to others. It is also common for kids who bully to know how to go unnoticed by distracted parents and/or school staff.

So, to the parents of the ‘unidentified’ bully, the world we live in is scary enough … stop normalizing the phrase “oh man your kid needs to toughen up.” Let’s normalize, instead, that your kid needs to “sweeten up!”

Please teach your children right from wrong, teach them empathy, teach them appropriate communication skills, show them positive attention, do not disregard them, and make them feel safe so that they see how it feels and can spread that love to others.

Quiz: Is Your Child A Bully? (


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