6 Common Emotions Parents of Bullies Experience

Understanding what parents of bullies go through

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When a parent learns her child is a bully, she may experience a wide range of emotions. Aside from disbelief that her child could ever behave that way, once it becomes reality that her child bullied others she will experience a wide range of emotions from disbelief and anger to embarrassment and regret. Here is an overview of the wide range of emotions parents of bullies may experience.

Disbelief. When a parent first hears that her child is a bully, she may not believe it is true.

It is hard for a parent to wrap her head around the fact that the child she knows and loves could be so cruel to another person. At first, she wants to believe that there has to be some type of mistake. It could not possibly be her child that bullied another person.

Embarrassment. Once a parent recognizes that it was truly her child that bullied another person, she may experience a great deal of embarrassment, especially if the bullying is made public on social media or within the community. She will feel judged, misunderstood and labeled based on how her child behaved. In some cases, she may even make excuses or apologize for his behavior, especially if public shaming is involved. 

Guilt. Even though the child made the choice to bully, many parents feel guilty when their child does something wrong. They tend to feel responsible for their child’s actions and feel like they should have prevented the bullying in some way.

As a result, many times parents accept more responsibility for the bullying than the child does. This is not helpful because the bully needs to take responsibility for his actions. They bully should feel bad about what he has done. Attempts to minimize the bully's actions are not helpful.

Anger. Sometimes a parent will react with anger when she discovers that her child is a bully.

Not only is she angry with her child for the choices he made, but she also is angry at herself, the other parent, the school, the victim and anyone else involved with the situation. Anger allows a person to feel powerful, while the other emotions she may experience make her feel weak and helpless in the situation. She also may want to blame others for the failures of her child. In other words, if these other people such as another parent, a teacher or a coach, had worked harder or spent more time with her child then he would have never resorted to bullying. She may even engage in victim-blaming.

Sadness. Once a parent realizes the magnitude of the situation and the details of what her child has done, she will often feel sadness over his actions. Her sadness will usually deepen if the bully is severe. How could her own flesh and blood hurt another person in this way? It is almost unthinkable. Additionally, she may feel sadness over the consequences he must experience as a result of bullying another person.

Feelings of failure. Parents in this situation often wonder how they could have raised a child who behaved this way. They also wonder why they did not detect their child’s behavior; and feel like they have failed as parents. They question their abilities and wonder about what they should have done differently.

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