Reverse Bullying

As a parent, it can be mortifying to know that your child is a bully who enjoys inflicting physical and/or emotional distress on other children. But, if so, what would you do?

By Mudita Gupta

Reverse Bullying

The Urban Dictionary defines reverse bullying as ‘bullying someone for bullying someone else’. While reverse bullying has existed for long, increasing awareness about bullying is also bringing this issue into focus. But, irrespective of whether a child is a victim of bullying or a bully, being involved with bullying leaves scars on the child’s psyche.

So, if your child is involved in reverse bullying, it’s time for you to point out to your child that it is not the same as standing up or fighting for justice.

What makes a child resort to bullying?

Usually, a child who has been bullied in the past, one who did not receive enough parental support, or a child who lacks empathy tends to take to bullying. But, how would you know that your child has turned into a bully?

Signs your child might be engaged in bullying

If your child's peers, their parents or his class teacher complain of your child having an overbearing attitude, you should become alert. Such feedback tell you how his personality is evolving and whether he is imbibing the values taught at home.

If you notice your child talking negatively about other children, this could be an indication of unwarranted hostility and lack of sensitivity. This is a common trait among bullies.

Becoming aggressive and violent while interacting with others is also a habit displayed by bullies, though it isn’t a reliable clue.

How bullying affects a child

Various studies conducted by the National Centre for Disease Control and National Centre for Educational Statistics suggest that bullying makes it difficult for a child to adjust in school, and causes anxiety and depression among other negative effects. Therefore, it becomes imperative to address the issue of bullying, both for the sake of the victim and the bully too.

What you should do if your child is a bully

  • Listen to what your child has to say about her behaviour. But, don’t let your love for your child get in your way of differentiating the right from the wrong. Empathise with the victim to let your child know that bullying garners no support.
  • Encourage your child to apologise after you have made her understand that what she did was wrong. Don’t push her into rendering an apology as a face-saving gesture. The act of apologising isn’t just meant to mend fences, but also make the child realise that she was wrong and encourage her to change her behaviour.
  • Determine the reasons why your child engages in reverse bullying. There’s a possibility that your child is a victim of bullying herself or doesn’t have healthy peer relationships. It is necessary to address these issues at the earliest to help your child learn the proper way of responding to situations.
  • Explain to your child that her actions and words can affect others in ways she wouldn’t anticipate. Make her realise that reverse bullying is not the best way of dealing with a bully. In fact, it is a wrong choice to make and should be avoided in all circumstances.
  • Teach your child how to be patient and accepting of others. This is effective when the tendency to bully is a result of the lack of tolerance for others or deep-rooted prejudices. It is also important to teach your child the difference between aggression (which may lead to bullying and violence) and assertiveness.
  • If your intervention doesn’t seem to be working, you can also think about taking your child to meet an expert to analyse her behaviour.

Tips to prevent your child from bullying in the future

  • Keep an eye on the type of content your child is exposed to on television or the Internet.
  • Establish good communication with your child and involve yourself in his day-to-day work.
  • Be a role model for your child when it comes to standing up against oppressive behaviour, as your child learns by observing your actions.
  • Through constant guidance, love and support, help your child develop a healthy sense of self-esteem and an empathetic attitude.
  • Teach your child new skills and get him involved in activities that help him think and grow as an individual.

Reverse bullying is just as bad as bullying. As a parent, take up the responsibility of ensuring that your child doesn’t fall prey to this habit or correct her behaviour if she is indulging in reverse bullying.


Mudita Gupta, who is a part of Safecity’s Writer’s Movement, strongly believes in the idea of spiritual happiness. She heads a college-based live project on rural women entrepreneurship.

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