Nipping Poor Behavior In The Bud: 3 Things To Do When Your Toddler Is The Bully

22 June 2016
 Categories: , Articles


Children are blank slates and often will need to learn the difference between good behavior and poor behavior. Young children amongst the ages of 2 to 6 are still learning how to socialize and empathize with others, and, as a result, may develop progressively poor behavior towards others that can be considered bullying. If you've received the dreaded call from your childcare provider regarding your toddler's unacceptable behavior, it's important to act quickly in order to nip this type of behavior in the bud. Get to the source of the bullying with these 3 tips.

Explore Reasons and Causes for the Behavior

Before you judge, have an open and non-judgmental discussion with your toddler about his behavior in order to get the full story. Ask your child if any of what was told you is true and his position or thoughts. Pay careful attention to your child and what he says. You want to determine whether your child will spend most of his time defending his innocence or justifying his behavior or whether he agrees with what was said, but minimizes the impact of his behavior in his own version. This will give you some insight to the reasons and causes that may be responsible for the behavior, and how to approach your child when discussing the impact of bullying.

Next, you might want to further discuss why your child acted in a certain way and from whom your child learned the behavior from. This will allow you to deal with the root of the problem. Keep an open mind as to where or from whom your child is learning the behavior from. It could be from you, your spouse or a close family member who spends a significant amount of time with your child. Your child could also be learning the behavior at school. Children play rather fluid roles at school. While your child may have been the bully today, he could also have easily picked up the behavior from another child when he was bullied yesterday.

Teach Empathy, Respect and Compassion through Roleplaying

More often than not, young children, especially toddlers, are unaware of the impact of their actions. There's a good chance that your child may not fully realize how his actions may have affected the bullied child and may not even be fully aware of how the other child felt during the entire situation. While getting the phone call that your child is a bully is heartbreaking and troublesome, you can take this opportunity to teach your child empathy, respect and compassion through roleplaying.

Instill the importance of respecting the feelings of others. You can further help your child gain empathy by roleplaying the role of both the bully and the victim with your child. By roleplaying various roles and circumstances, you'll help your child better understand what it feels like to put himself in someone else's shoes.

Outline Clear Consequences for Bullying

To further emphasize the importance of being kind and behaving respectfully to others, come up with clear consequences for bullying. After getting the call and speaking to your child, consider taking away some of his privileges, so that he understands that his actions are wrong. You'll also want to clearly explain what the consequences are if the bullying continues. It's best if the punishment fits the crime.

For example, if your child is being rude to a classmate, consider restricting the amount of parties that he is allowed to attend or cutting short playtime. Make sure you're consistent with the consequences.


The minds of young toddlers are like sponges, as they attempt to absorb as much information from their environment as possible. Your child will be learning a lot at this time in their life, and you want to instill good behavior and social skills at a young age to make sure it sticks. By acting immediately, you can nip this type of poor behavior in the bud, so that your child won't grow up to become a full-fledged bully. You can click here for more parenting help.