Correcting Your Child’s Bullying Behavior

How can we prevent our seven-year-old son from becoming a bully? I've noticed that he can be very pushy and often tries to dominate other kids. He always wants to be the "winner" — it's as if he has a need to prove himself. When provoked, he retaliates fiercely and has hurt other kids in the past. He's small for his age and is generally very popular at school, but I wonder how long that will last.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Children will often learn how to relate to others by observing their parents. This certainly is not the case in every situation, but it may not hurt to examine how you and your husband respond and react when you become frustrated. Do either of you lose your temper easily? Do you yell, scream or get aggressive with each other or with your kids when you are angry? If so, you’ll want to begin making adjustments to your own patterns of interaction in order to see positive changes in your son.

If you’re confident that you deal with anger and conflict in a healthy way, it’s possible that your son may be lashing out because of his size. Many bullies actually have low self-esteem and pick on others in order to feel better about themselves. That fits in perfectly with what you’ve told us about his “need to prove himself.” Of course, this kind of behavior backfires. It causes other kids to avoid the bully like the plague, and as a result he becomes even more isolated. This in turn can lead to more anger and more aggressiveness.

If this is what’s happening with your son, we’d suggest working on a couple of things. First, affirm him and reward him when he behaves appropriately. Second, implement consequences when he gets aggressive. You’ll need to ask for the help of the other adults in his life to do this effectively.

Talk to his teacher, the school principal, the bus driver, and the parents of the kids in the neighborhood. Let them know that you’re doing everything you can to improve his behavior and that you want them to contact you immediately whenever he becomes aggressive. Let your son know that you’ll be doing this and clearly spell out what the consequences will be when he crosses the line.

Meanwhile, balance this strategy with regular doses of encouragement and affirmation. Affirm your son for his strengths. Praise him when he exhibits positive character qualities. The Bible provides us with a great list of such qualities in its description of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

If you’d like to discuss your son’s situation with a member of our staff, feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.

If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

No More Bullies: For Those Who Wound and Are Wounded

Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World

Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World

Teaching Kids to Be Respectful

How to Deal with Bullying

Copyright © 2013, Focus on the Family.

Talk to a Counselor

Focus on the Family offers a one-time complimentary consultation from a Christian perspective.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.