Why children bully

Estimated read: 5 minutes 

Understanding how and why a child is bullying can be key in helping the getting the bullying to stop. There can be many underlying reasons including problems at home, being bullied themselves, learned behaviour or to impress their peers.

Key points: 

  • Some children and young people may have issues at home that makes them feel sad, isolated, and lonely. They may struggle with expressing themselves and how it makes them feel so they could turn to bullying others
  • A child with self-esteem doesn’t need to dominate others to make themselves feel good – and is able to stand up for themselves when they need to
  • Helping your child build resilience can help them if they are experiencing bullying
why children bully

Children and young people can sometimes make negative choices when they feel under pressure. They may have experienced bullying themselves, felt withdrawn and come back bullying others as a response to what they have been through. Some may have issues at home that makes them feel sad, isolated, and lonely. They may struggle with expressing themselves and how it makes them feel so they could turn to bullying others

There are several causes and although it does not make it right to bully others, helping to understand why is important. Other reasons children and young people may get involved in bullying is:

  • feeling powerless
  • low self-esteem
  • trying to get admiration and attention from friends
  • fear of being left out if they don’t join in
  • not understanding how someone else is feeling
  • taking out their angry feelings
  • a culture of aggression and bullying
  • being bullied themselves

Let’s start by thinking about self-esteem. Self-esteem could be described as a basic sense of self-worth. It’s not about thinking you are better than everyone else, it’s about caring about yourself and other people and feeling confident to handle situations, relationships and the ups and downs of life. Self-esteem affects the way children think, behave and relate to others. A child with self-esteem doesn’t need to dominate others to make themselves feel good – and is able to stand up for themselves when they need to.

As a parent you may not be able to control the community or peer group that your son or daughter is part of. But there are important things you can do to reduce the chances of your child getting involved in bullying – whether it’s bullying others, being bullied themselves, or not taking any action when they see someone else bullying. Helping your child build resilience can help them if they are experiencing bullying.

Further resources

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.

This page was updated on August 2021

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