Bullying and Play Therapy

Bullying – When your Child is the Bully

It can be really distressing to learn that your child is bullying others. It’s important to remember that your child is bullying because they are hurting inside. Play therapy can help your child express their pain which, in time, while take away their need to bully others. The motivation behind bullying can be different for each child. It’s so important that your child receives support to health their hurts, and to learn ways of relating to people that are respectful.


Why some children bully

  • They may feel; powerless in some areas of their lives so they want to get power from somewhere else.
  • They may be the victim of an adult bully, or victim of abuse, and feel very powerless, so they bully others to try and regain some power back and/or or they may be modelling other’s behaviour.
  • Jealousy
  • Difficulty managing their emotions, like anger and frustration.
  • Feeling deeply unhappy, so they take it out on others.


How you can help

  • Gently ask your child directly if they are being a bully to others. Try to listen with your heart, and don’t judge or accuse, just hear what your child has to say as gently as possible.
  • Let you child know that hurting others and being mean in not acceptable.
  • Let them know you know they are hurting as well and you want to get them help for that pain inside.


How Play Therapy can help

Children can safely release feelings of anger, and even revenge, in a safe environment where no-one will get hurt.
Through play, children can show their vulnerable and painful feelings that may be leading to the bullying. When children start to get these feelings ‘out’ there will be less need to bully others.
When children ‘play through’ their troubling experiences and emotions, they can process them, and the need to bully will start to diminish.
Children can start to ‘play out’ different ways of being in social relationships, like being powerful, confident, and assertive. When they have the chance to practice new ways of feeling and acting, they can then start to experiment acting this way in the real world.
Christine Harkin
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