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My Child Is A Bully, How to Deal with That?



Reply Date

Jan 16, 2017


My four year old bullies all the kids in his preschool. The teachers try a lot in redirecting his behavior but he continually hits the other children and gets up in their faces. We give him time outs for bad behavior out the house, and we don't allow him to watch too much t.v. in effort to quell the aggression. What else can we do to get him to stop hitting other children in his preschool?




As salamu alaykum sister,


Bullying is a common problem and affects many children. As your child is a bully, and he is young, it is now a good time to “nip it in the bud”. While you did not state if the bullying behavior occurs only at school, please do keep a journal and notate when the bullying occurs and under what conditions. Also, you may want to see if he has ever been bullied by anyone as sometimes bullying can be a learned behavior.

Children at this age often bully when they are anxious, or if if the home environment is bossy or over-controlling (they then replicate the behavior), or if they are feeling a sense of low self esteem. In order to combat his need to bully, try to re-enforce his positive qualities, tell him you love him often, yet teach him about consequences if he does bully. As you mentioned you use time out at home for his bad behaviors at school yet that has not worked, try a different approach. For instance, if he hit his school mate for not giving him a truck, make sure you talk to him about how it must feel to be hit. Try to create a sense of empathy in you child so that he will be less prone to bully others.

Follow up the next day by having your child apologize to the child he hit and have him promise he will not hit again. Additionally, give your child an outlet to express his frustration. Perhaps a signal he can give his teacher when he is feeling upset or angry such as a word clue or if he is comfortable telling her he is upset or angry before a situation occurs.

Try a stress ball. Give your child a squeeze ball and tell him that when he feels upset or feels like hitting to squeeze the ball instead. Tell him you will be looking forward to reports from his teacher that his is not hitting others but rather squeezing the ball instead and reward him for his positive behavior. Always follow up however and ask him what made him upset and provide support and help him work through his feelings. There are many tips and creative advice for children who bully, please see reference.

Hopefully this is just a phase your son is going through but with perseverance, providing alternate means of expressing frustration as well as creating empathy for others, your son will leave the bullying behaviors and return to the compassionate, kind little boy you raised.

Hang in there, you are in our prayers, please let us know how he is doing.



About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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