How to Tell If Your Child Is a Bully

teen alone
What does a bully look like?

Much information is available on how to recognize signs that your teenager is being bullied.  But, suppose you think your teenager may be someone who bullies others?

That question can be a hard one to ponder for parents or caregivers. Worse, however, is the potential harm and tragic lasting consequences of bullying behavior to those who are bullied.

Does your teen act this way?

I found a quiz on Pediatrics for parents who think their teenager may be a bully.  I believe that the questions of the quiz resonate with actions and behaviors of bullies.  (The quiz is paraphrased below.) Teenage bullies typically:

  • act impulsively
  • are quick-tempered
  • show domineering tendencies
  • become frustrated fast
  • lack empathy
  • have aversion to following rules
  • see violence as a positive way to manage life
  • have friends who are bullies
  • have friends who see violence as a positive way to manage life
  • frequently stay unsupervised
  • have overly permissive or particularly harsh parents
  • repeatedly shove, punch, or physically push around a boy or a girl in a mean way just because he or she felt like it
  • take pleasure in spreading nasty rumors about others
  • purposefully and habitually exclude one or more kids from his or her activities
  • hurtfully tease people, call them names, make fun of their appearance, or the way they talk, dress, or act
  • hang out with a crowd of people who hurt others, spread rumors, or tease other children

In observing teenagers relating to their peers, if you become aware of these types of behaviors there is a significant chance that bullying is going on and the consequences of bullying can be tragic as we have learned from students who have been bullied, and especially from recent headlines. Usually there are underlying reasons for such behavior–some can be surmised from the list above–but the liability of bullying is too devastating to allow it continue.

How to help

What do you do if you witness this kind of behavior in a teenager? It will be important to surround this teenager with parents, friends, peers and perhaps professionals who will help him or her recognize bullying behavior.

3 teen girls
Observe teen behavior for signs of bullying
  • It is essential that we do not use approaches that punish students since that tends to escalate the bullying behavior and because punishment almost becomes a sign of prestige to peers.

The most effective approaches are those that allow a discovery process as to why they bully, the impact of that bullying to others, and the strategies to help teenagers find healthier ways to handle their aggressive feelings and behaviors.

It may take some time and effort but the end result will positively shape the rest of their lives and protect the teenagers they will impact.  We want to do everything we can to protect all of our teenagers with the right kind of intervention so their world will be safer and they will grow and develop without the devastating effects of bullying.

Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

One Comment


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