What Do I Do If My Teen Is A Bully?

Bullying, Part 3 of 5

In this third article on a five-part series about bullying, you will learn what to do if your teen is a bully. No parent wants to think that their child might be a bully; however, some children are. According to StopBullying.gov, about 30% of young people admit to bullying their peers. While popular culture often depicts bullies as loners with low self-esteem, in reality, the opposite tends to be true. According to a 2010 report from Stop Bullying Now, bullies are often popular and have above average self-esteem.


Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do (1993) describes three different types of bullies:

  • Aggressive Bullies: They are often physically strong and hot-tempered. They may be confident or fearless but lack empathy.  
  • Passive Bullies: They are more insecure and less popular than aggressive bullies.
  • Bully-targets: As mentioned in the previous article, a small number of bullies are also the target of bullying. They are bully people who are weaker than they are. They are bullied by people who are stronger than they are.


What Are Warning Signs Of Being A Bully?

According to Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do (1993), many bullies share common characteristics. Bullies are often impulsive. They may hurt others without thinking of the consequences of their actions. Bullies demonstrate a need to dominate and are aggressive with adults as well as their peers. Bullies typically lack empathy. They prefer to resolve conflict with violence.


There are two major risk factors that suggest a teen might be a bully. (1) Bullies have friends who bully. (2) Bullies have a positive attitude toward violence.

What Are The Risks Of Being A Bully?

While most of the negative effects of bullying are experienced by the targets of bullies, Impact of Bullying in Childhood on Adult Health, Wealth, Crime and Social Outcomes (2013) suggests there are some negative consequences for the bullies themselves. Bullies are more likely than their peers to engage in risky behavior. They are also more likely to have a criminal record as adults.

How Can I Help My Teen?

If you suspect your teen is a bully, it is important to set clear boundaries but also to avoid harsh punishments. Let your son or daughter know that you love them, but that you will not tolerate bullying. Encourage your teen to learn empathy by showing empathy to other people. Consider involving your teen in counseling to address the reasons for your teen’s behavior.