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Last Updated: October 18, 2020

It is ingrained deep in our minds that some other persons’ child is a bully and not ours. It is only after something goes terribly wrong that we begin to pay attention. Then follows the excuses, soul searching, and finally, tears. It shouldn’t happen that way though. We don’t have to wait until someone’s child is badly hurt and/or commits suicide, or our child is in serious trouble before we act.

Fortunately, we can read into a few tell-tale signs of bullying to help stem the monster growing in our children. A reminder though not every sign explained below points to a bully. Some of the signs could be indicators of other social-economic problems, that need addressing too.

1. Your Child Lacks Empathy

The ability on our part to understand and appreciate how others feel is what is called empathy. We get to understand how others feel when we put ourselves in their shoes, especially in the face of ridicule, insult, and physical abuse. This way, we learn not to hurt their feelings because we understand how it feels.

Empathy is important in the 21st Century because of the unmistakable influence of technology on parents, and children in particular. The excess time children spend with technology and online means they have little time to interact with real people, and therefore less time putting themselves in other peoples’ shoes. The exposure also means they have less time to be emotional and compassionate, ultimately leaving them with little time to understand empathy.

According to Psychology Today,

More time on technology means less time with your own thoughts and feelings, the beating heart of mindfulness. As tech dependency increases, kids live in a state of self-alienation, estranged from their emotional selves, disabling self-awareness and self-reflection. Instead of thoughtful choices, they grow more reactive and less reflective.

Children who are emotionally absent, less reflective, and reactive, are more than likely to accept bullying as normal, especially when the seed of bullying is already installed in their cycle.

As a parent, appreciate the importance of empathy, become attentive, learn, and make sure your child respects the feelings of others.

2. Your Child Courts Violence

Besides lacking empathy, there is the likelihood your child actually perpetrates violence. This is evident when your child is aggressive towards younger and older siblings, and you, the parent. The aggressions may likely lead to the destruction of property as the child seeks alternative avenues to vent anger. This attitude can be extended to everyone else out of the home, including teachers, and extended family members.

Your child may also participate in verbal aggression just as well. The verbal lash-out will be directed to other kids, siblings, teachers, and you as well. While the aggression may start small, it quickly builds up to uncontrollable levels and becomes a permanent feature.

Usually, children become violent when parents and caregivers are violent.

Children living in homes with violence between their parents are at a greater risk of themselves displaying violent, aggressive and bullying behaviours outside the home (see Hong and Espelage, 2012, for a review). Other research points to the level of physical aggression between siblings – the most common form of family violence – as influencing bullying behaviour (Ensor, Marks, Jacobs, & Hughes, 2010).

Children who bully at school

3. Your Child Likes and is Always in Trouble

If you are always invited to explain your child’s extreme behavior at school, chances are, your child is a trouble maker, and most likely a bully. Bullies find it hard to sit still and follow the rules. They are often inciting other children to cause trouble.

Usually, your child will perpetrate some of these traits at school:

  • causing classroom disruptions
  • hitting and pushing other students out of the way
  • ignoring teachers’ requests to listen, or stop talking

By causing trouble they get to lure others into bullying, and sometimes, an attempt to make friends. Though bullies may appear to have friends, they find it hard to create true friends and will resort to incitement, and aggression when turned down.

4. Your Child Has Unexplained New Acquisitions

When your child comes home with unexplained money and stuff, such as clothing, toys, and books, he or she may be participating in bullying at school. It is more than likely your child grabs stuff from those he bullies.

Ensure you understand where new acquisitions come from and have them returned. You should be concerned if the habit continues even after you intervene. More than likely, your child demands property from other children where they don’t have, or simply to exert authority.

5. Your Child Craves Popularity

Every child craves popularity at school and at home and will feel inadequate if the opposite is true. While the majority will find better ways to earn this popularity, some will go the extra mile to make it happen, i.e, by joining popular groups.

Unknown or known to the new entrants is that groups in schools and communities are usually marked by bullying. In order to remain popular at school, child groups are known to talk mean and derive pleasure in embarrassing others. Just as well, they discriminate, grab property, and beat up other children.

6. Your Child Likes Violent Movies & Video Games

While violent movies and games may seem innocent when done passively on a computer screen and gaming consoles, they actually instill violence and aggressiveness in your child. Popular video games and movies promote killings, substance abuse, foul language, obscenity, criminality, sexual exploitation, and discrimination, all of which feature in the workbook of bullying.

The American Psychological Association claims that violent video games are a risk factor in accelerating aggressiveness in children:

The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behaviour, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in pro-social behaviour, empathy and sensitivity to aggression.

Other Tell-tale Signs Your Child is the Bully

Besides the factors mentioned above, you may also want to consider the following possibilities, which highlight bullying in your child:

Your child,

  • does not want to accept responsibility for mistakes he has done
  • is secretive about online activities, which likely include online bullying
  • discriminates against others because of race, social status, intelligence, etc
  • has behavioral problems and is withdrawing from you
  • lives in a violent home, indicating you or other family members are violent
  • has violent friends
  • hurts animals – kicks dogs, cats, and exterminates any other minor biological lives

What You Should Know About Bullying!

Not every child displaying the traits mentioned above is a bully. But one important factor will make your child a bully – the repetitive nature of bullying!

Unlike the occasional burst ups and disagreements your child may have with peers, and everyone else, the actual bullying is repetitive and gets worse with years. Bullying happens when a child is repeatedly mean and constantly hurts others through emotional and physical abuse. These include teasing, utterances of mean things, telling lies, excluding others from activities, grabbing of property, and assaulting.

It is okay when some of the above happen only rarely and your interventions actually help to stop them. Also true, the behavior mentioned above may happen due to substance abuse or as a result of depression, and boredom. These too need your attention.

At the end of the day, bullying can lead to extreme emotional and physical pain, and the consequences can live with a bullied child to adulthood. It is your responsibility as a parent to make sure this does not happen to your child or anyone’s child!