Can a bullied child become a bully?

We all know the effects of bullying can cause children to lose their confidence and become withdrawn – but turning into a bully themselves is a less well-known side effect.

However, it might not be as rare as you think. Richard Piggin, deputy CEO of the charity Beatbullying, said: ‘There is always a reason a child bullies and it’s quite common that they’re being bullied themselves. We ask children and young people why they bully and in the majority of cases it’s because they feel bad about themselves.

‘If they’re being bullied it affects their self esteem and to reclaim that they might put someone else down to make themselves feel better.

‘We find that people who have been bullied at school might go home and take it out on a younger brother or sister. People who are bullied by a brother or sister might go to school and take it out on someone there. They sometimes copy the behaviour they’ve seen.’ 

How do I know if my child is becoming a bully?

Richard says there are some signs to look out for that might indicate
that your child is becoming a bully:

* They’re more aggressive.
* They’re having mood swings.
* They want to be in control – they don’t invite other children to play
with them or they pick on another child.
* They casually put other people down.
* They’re very competitive and dominant.

However, this behaviour doesn’t necessarily mean your child is a bully –
sometimes it’s just a part of growing up – or your child might just be
upset about something on that day.

What should I do if I think my child is becoming a bully?

Richard says: ‘If a child is being bullied, it’s never right to ignore
it. The psychological impact of bullying is often underestimated – it
can affect people for the rest of their lives. However, there are ways
of dealing with the situation without being confrontational.’

Richard suggests talking to your child about their behaviour using the
following guidelines:

* Don’t label your child as bad – talk to them about the behaviour
that’s bad.
* Try to understand why they’ve behaved this way
* Reassure your child that you’re there for them and that you love them.
Praise them for their good behaviour
* Make sure they know it’s OK to talk about anything – and that you’re
not going to judge them or do anything without their permission.’ 

Where to next?

One mum’s story: My son was turning into a bully
Bully-proof your child
More bullying advice