EXPERT Q&A

How do we prevent our kids from being a bully?

Few parents stop to ask themselves, “Am I raising a bully?” Bully prevention expert, Mirella Alexis, discusses how bully prevention starts at home. Learn more about how to prevent your children from being a bully.

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Question

I’ve found a lot of information on what to do if my child is being bullied in school, but not much information on how to prevent my child from bullying behavior. I want to be proactive to make sure my son won’t become a bully in school. What can I do?

Answer

This is a great question. The best practices in bullying prevention and response come from asking tough questions, just like you are doing. Of course, no one wants their child to be bullied, but no one stops to ask themselves, Am I raising a bully?

As we discuss bullying here, it’s important to understand the definition of bullying. The federal government defines bullying as “Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” There are several types of bullying, including:

  • Verbal bullying: Teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, and threatening to cause harm
  • Social or relational bullying: Leaving someone out intentionally, spreading rumors, embarrassing someone in public, and telling others not to be friends with someone
  • Physical bullying: Causing physical harm (hitting, kicking, or pinching), spitting, tripping or pushing, breaking or taking someone’s possessions, or making rude hand gestures
  • Cyberbullying: Causing harm over social media and online forums by sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content, including personal and private information, to cause embarrassment or humiliation.

Bullying prevention starts at home. Adults must be willing to address the bullying behaviors they see in their daily lives. Since bullying comes in many forms, as detailed above, speaking out when confronted by it shows children that it is never okay.  

Also, parents like you play a large role in bullying prevention by helping children understand what bullying is. As you discuss different types of bullying behaviors, you are making your child aware that even something as potentially benign as name-calling can be considered a bullying behavior if intended to cause harm. And be clear—these types of behaviors are not okay. Further, if you witness any bullying behaviors from others, speaking up quickly will tell your child that using their voice against bullying is the right thing to do and can create positive change.

If you witness or hear about your child’s bullying behaviors, make it a priority to discuss the situation directly with them. Ask them to describe the situation and how they felt. How do they think the child being bullied felt? And how might they have handled that situation if it took place again? This might also be a time to assess if there is a power imbalance or another underlying issue that needs to be considered, and if this type of behavior is likely to be repeated. 

Children with well-established social-emotional skills and high-functioning emotional intelligence are less likely to show bullying behavior due to their strong sense of empathy. That all starts at home and reflects how you treat others and how you let others be treated in your presence. Show your child through leading by example, and he will follow.

To learn more about bullying prevention, check out resources from the National Academies of Sciences and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Meet The Expert


Mirella Alexis

Mirella has been a family and childcare advocate for nearly two decades. With her bachelor’s degree in early childcare education, Mirella immediately started expanding her portfolio as a professional nanny, early childhood educator, and newborn care specialist. She later obtained her certification in child nutrition, positive discipline, and child abuse prevention. She expanded her professional reach more in 2016 by taking on the role of labor and postpartum doula. In 2020, Mirella became the Vice President of The Nanny Sitter Fund. She’s excited to be bringing her passion for childcare to the masses, making child welfare everyone’s responsibility. Learn more about her at MirellaAlexis.com