Ask the Expert: How Can I Help a Bully Manage Their Anger?

Is your child a bully who needs help managing their anger? Is your child bullied, and your worried about how he deals with the anger he feels because of it? Certified peer mediation specialist David Wolffe shares tips to help bullies and the bullied deal with the anger they feel in a positive manner.

teen bullies at school

I am the parent of a child who bullies, how can I get him to channel his anger differently and stop bullying?

There is usually a reason for a kid to bully. Sometimes it’s to be by accepted by other kids. It is hard to understand why children become bullies. Perhaps it’s what happens to him at home or maybe he has low self-esteem. You have to wonder what is making him feel that way. He might be academically limited, so he bullies to feel better about himself. He might be angry because he is mistreated at home or ignored.

Bullying is a way to get attention, even though it is negative attention, from peers. Parents might deny their son is a bully, but they need to teach him that bullying is not right—it is unacceptable. Parents need to explain that people are different—just because someone isn’t the same ethnicity or is a different height, it is not a reason to pick on them. Very often, parents set a negative example by not speaking to their child directly about his behavior. Parents should let their child know the consequences and then find out why he is behaving this way.

I am the parent of a teenage bully, but my efforts to help her curb her anger don’t work and she lashes out at me—what should I do next?

There is a reason the child is lashing out and the parent needs to look at why she is frustrated. The parent needs to step back and explain to the child that it is not acceptable for her to lash out and say, “I know you’re upset, and I will wait until you’ve calmed down to talk about it.”

Kids give parents clues, they might not say exactly what is going on, but it is important to find out what the issue might be when the child is calm. The child can get out what she is feeling, and the parent can teach her that the consequences of acting that way are immediate. Kids need to feel respect from their parents, not just the parent demanding it. Gaining control over the situation can be difficult, but listening, understanding, and taking a step back to look at the situation from the kid’s perspective can be beneficial.

How can a 7-year-old, who is constantly bullied on the playground, deal with the anger he feels from being bullied?

The 7-year-old needs to talk to somebody. A bully is the person who has control, and the person that is the victim is out of control and overwhelmed. The bullied child has to let a parent know what is going on. The most important thing is for the bullied child to let someone know before they feel alone or other things develop.

Parents can teach their children to go somewhere in a group with other children. If kids are in a group, they are less likely to be bullied by another child or a group of children. Bullies usually don’t want to been seen, so he or she would likely avoid groups. The bully relies on the kid to take the bullying—the more the 7-year-old allows bullying to happen, the more it will continue. If the kid shouts, screams, or walks away, the bully will most likely stop because attention will be drawn to the situation.

David Wolffe, author of Peace: The Other Side of Anger—Helping Teens with Anger Management, is certified as a peer mediation specialist from the International Center for Conflict Resolution of Columbia University Teachers College. He founded P.E.A.C.E., Inc. to help teens express anger and manage conflict in positive ways.

Also see:

What Anger Management Tools Work for Children with Special Needs?

How Can Parents and Children Manage Anger?