How to Identify if Your Child is a Bully (Or Being Bullied)

BNKID16For most children who experience bullying, the hopeless battle against a bully is fought alone, isolated from the wisdom or help of their parents or other adults and role models. Kids and teens learn to respond to bullying in their own ways, sometimes carrying the scars with them in hidden parts of their lives so parents and others cannot see the hurt surrounding them. Helping kids deal with bullies is impossible without acknowledging the warning signs, and parents can feel helpless when so much of a child’s suffering goes unnoticed.

If your child is bullied, it means that a peer or peers are intentionally causing her or him pain – according to Character Education Partnership. Peer abuse often slips through the cracks, affecting a diverse range of children and teens. Approximately 160,000 children skip school every day because they are afraid of being attacked or intimidated by other students.

A growing issue for children and teens

Behavioral experts agree that bullying continues to plague schools as a serious problem, as reports indicate that the issue starts at a young age and can become more aggressive as a child grows. Cruel behavior can increase with age, a troubling reality that no parent wants to consider. Some children are repeatedly victimized and in clear emotional pain, however, other children mask their suffering to appear strong and independent.

What happens if parents fail to recognize the warning signs that their child is being bullied – or what if they fail to recognize that their child is bullying others?

Be an advocate for your child

Knowledge is power – and in this particular instance, parents must learn how to acknowledge the problem if they suspect their child is a bully. Only through gaining a better understanding will a caregiver or parent know how to get his or her child the psychological help needed to stop the cycle of bullying. This kind of help often involves a rebuilding of the word empathy, and gaining a better understanding of what this word means for themselves and others to lead a happy life.

Whether your child needs protection against being a bully or being bullied, the first step toward a fresh start is to foster a strong core and deep understanding of themselves. Bullies and individuals coping with bullies are often unable to withstand peer pressure. This fear or insecurity causes bullies to mask their authentic self, and as a result, children are unable to cultivate coping skills. There are different, unique reasons why a child may start bullying another child, and many of the issues are complex.

As a parent, remain vigilant by recognizing potential indicators that your child is being bullied. These signs may include the following:

  • Change in patterns
  • Pretend illnesses to stay home from school
  • Change in clothing or physical appearance
  • Signs of scratches, scrapes or injuries
  • Reluctance to talk about what is bothering him or her
  • Changes in sleeping or eating as their nervous system is in overdrive

The following are red flags that your child may be the one bullying others:

  • Intense feelings of hopelessness, shame and depression
  • Tendency to solve issues with conflict and violence
  • Lack of empathy toward others who are bullied
  • Overly competitive and worried about reputation or popularity
  • Possess unexplained extra money or new belongings
  • Tendency to harshly blame others
  • He or she does not accept responsibility for his or her actions

Kids who act as bullies are often handling bullying on their own as a response to painful feelings of hopelessness and depression that seem to be constant and unavoidable. As a result, the more intense, darker feelings begin to make sense, sprouting a new fascination with destructive behavior. Research indicates the perspective that all forms of bullying and peer victimization are clear risk factors for depression and suicidal thinking. Students are most vulnerable to cyber-bullying, and children and teens most frequently targeted include students with disabilities and mental health problems and individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning.

What can I do?

To end this vicious cycle of bullying, parents must encourage the growth process by acknowledging shortcomings and addressing those problems their children may have. Parents often feel pressure that their children have to be perfect, and they do not always view them as fragile beings currently in a developmental process. There are many teachable moments parents can take advantage of; however, parents can miss these opportunities when they impose these pressures on their kids.

Safe Harbor Christian Counseling is passionate about getting to the root of the problem, restoring hope among families and children through child and adolescent counseling services and adult counseling services  as well as family therapy and parenting services. The team of counselors and coaches are well-versed in how to point out individual needs, leveraging confidence for children who may feel alone, depressed or deeply ashamed. With a message of love, Safe Harbor extends counseling services through a biblical framework, helping families and individuals in multiple ways.

For more information on Safe Harbor’s counseling, coaching and therapy services, visit We invite you to join in on the faith-based dialogue found on our Facebook page and to follow Safe Harbor Christian Counseling on Twitter.


About Safe Harbor Christian Counseling

Safe Harbor Christian Counseling serves local communities by providing Christian-based, clinically sound counseling so that people experience the recovery of their hearts. Our unique approach to marriage counseling, family counseling and individual counseling includes offering an inviting atmosphere whereby a healing relationship is experienced in the counseling room. Safe Harbor consists of 7 partners with over 70 counselors trained in the mental health field.
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