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My Child is a Bully. What Should I Do?

Mother is asking what should I do?  My child is a bully.  I want to parent positively but my child can be so mean to her siblings.

My child is a bully.  What should I do?  Have you ever asked that?

One mama shared that her 8 ½ year old can be downright mean and a bully.  When confronted she breaks down, but she consistently manipulates siblings to gang up on other siblings, purposely excludes, and says mean things!  She can be so helpful and kind one minute and then she switches out of nowhere. 

What should this mother do to stop the bullying?  If your child is bullying, how can you parent positively, teaching them that it’s not okay to bully others? Find out how in this episode of the Renewed Mama Podcast.

Don’t Label Your Child as a Bully

Remember that our words speak life or death, blessings or curses.  So resist labeling your child as a bully by saying, “You are a Bully.”  A bully is not who your child is.  Yes, their actions are characteristic of a bully, meaning they are choosing to behave like a bully, but their person, who they are, is not a bully.

Remember that we call children up and not out. We call any person, for that matter, up and not out.  We call them up to a higher, better way of behaving, to making right choices, and to growing into maturity.  We don’t call them out to put them down, shame them or belittle them by name calling.

Do you see the difference? If you want to hear more about calling children up and not out, watch Episode 4 of the Renewed Mama Podcast or listen on your favorite podcast platform.

Parent a bully Gently by Asking These Questions

Ask yourself, “What is really going on here?  What does my child need?  From me?  From their dad?  What are they calling out for that’s coming out as wrong, bully, manipulative behavior because they don’t yet know the proper way to ask or to tell me that they have a need?”

If you ask these questions, you’ll be able to respond more graciously to your child and you won’t attack them with “What’s wrong with you?  Why do you treat your siblings as a bully?  Why do you say such mean things?”  That’s not going to help you parent positively.

Also ask yourself, “Who did they learn this from?  Where are they seeing this bully behavior and how are they thinking that it’s OK?”  Step back and be the fly on the wall so to speak and look over your life, your home, your parenting, and school or classmate interactions so that you can get to the root of why they are behaving as a bully.

mother and daughter smiling and having a mother-child conversation so that the mom can parent gently and positively and empower her child for success

Initiate a Mother-Child Conversation

When they are calm and the day is going good, everyone’s happy, pull your child aside for a mother-child connection moment.  Say, “I love you so much.  I’m so glad that you are my daughter and you are in our family.  I just wanted to check in.  How’s your life going?  Are you happy?  Do you need anything from me?  May I help you in any way?”

Just listen.  Ask questions to understand more.  Your goal is to reach out for connection and build trust and unity. 

If this is all you get accomplished in the first mom-child conversation moment, great.  Say two days later, choose another time when they are calm and everyone’s happy, to invite them to another mom-child connection moment and ask,

“You know those times when you choose to say mean things to your brother, how do you feel then?  What makes you angry or upset and makes you say those things?  Do you really mean it?”

“You know that time when you tricked sister into ganging up on brother and taking his dessert?”  I’m making up an example, but I’m referring back to the mama we started this episode with when her daughter manipulates siblings to gang up on other siblings.  “Tell me how come you thought to do that?  Did that honor your brother?”

Approach it with a curious, tell me more attitude, not one of attack.  Not, “Why’d you do that?  What were you thinking?” but rather a “Tell me how come you did that.  Tell me what you were feeling when you did that.”

forgiveness and restoration is important

It’s important to say to your child, “Please forgive me for teaching you that it’s OK to bully your siblings and to treat them this way.  I was wrong.  It is not OK.  We will not treat each other with dishonor as a bully does.   If you continue, the discipline will be….”

Name what that consequence is.  This is all said with a calm, positive tone with the understanding that your child was once allowed to behave as a bully because mom didn’t correct it, but now you are turning another direction and going down the right path of honor and respect. Going forward, you will treat each other with honor.

Now, while it’s easy to say this, it’s something else to be 100% consistent with it.  And consistent you must be, Mama.  No if’s, and’s, or but’s.  Stay true to keeping an atmosphere of honor and respect in your home.

It is also important that your child apologizes and asks their siblings to forgive her for treating them like a bully. Asking for forgiveness helps to restore sibling relationships.

teach your child that they reap what they sow

Teach them the principle of reaping and sowing found in Galatians 6:7 by planting some seeds together.  Ask, “If we plant tomato seeds, what will grow?  If you plant cucumber seeds, what will grow?”

If you plant seeds of bullying, what will you get more of?  Someone bullying you.  If you plant seeds of arguing, excluding, or saying mean things, what will grow?  Someone arguing with you.  Someone excluding you.  Someone saying mean words to you.  Is that what you want? 

Turn this insight into action

Now it’s your turn, Mama, to turn this insight into action and to help your child stop bullying and start honoring their siblings. Remember that if their habit or default response is to bully, to manipulate, to purposefully exclude, or to say mean things, they need help to break that habit. 

You understand this because you’ve been working at renewing your thoughts, the words you speak, and how you respond, Renewed Mama!  It takes work. 

So be gracious with your child.  Make a plan, kind of like a 911 emergency plan, to help them the next time they feel like bullying, manipulating, excluding, or saying mean things.  What should they think?  What can they say?  What can they do? 

Write it on a 3×5 card and hang it on their bulletin board or put it on their dresser or the bathroom mirror so that they see it often and remind themselves of the right way to behave the next time they feel like bullying.

Also encourage them with Speak Life Badges that say: I am Loving, I am Honoring, I Put Others First, I walk in Love, I am a good friend from the I Am Special and I am Priceless sticker award books.

mother parenting positively by giving her child who is a bully a sticker award badge from Speak Life Badges that says I put other first.

Share in the comments how these suggestions help you and your child.

If you need help with what to say to your children, with what you are thinking, and in how you respond, reach out to me through the Let’s Chat Contact page, and we’ll hop on a coaching chat together so that we can talk through your specific frustrations, what you’ve already tried with your children that isn’t working, and what you can try instead to parent gently.  We’ll go fruit to root together and help you to think right, to speak right, and to respond right.

You don’t have to do it alone.  It is so much better working through it together with another mama. We’ll pick a time to chat that works best for you, and we’ll get you the answers you’ve been praying for.

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