What should parents do when their children are troublemakers?

The news is full of tragic bullying stories. Media’s focus on the victim has been quite helpful in not only involving parents, but also urging schools to embrace non-bully zones and getting law enforcement to help keep children safe from harm.

However, there would be no bullying if it weren’t for the bully. How do bullies actually become bullies? Bullies are not born—they are created. The first indication that a child is becoming a troublemaker or a bully usually happens when the child is around other children. For example, “biters” in preschool cause pain to other children. Parents understand this happens, and some parents have a story of their child being bitten by another child. The school usually helps stop the aggressive behavior and these kids grow older, stop biting and learn how to get along and socialize with other children. But this is not true with children who are labeled as troublemakers.

Typically, children labeled as troublemakers often have more than one offense on their young school record. Parents are consistently told their children are troublemakers. When this happens, a normal reaction for parents is to overact. They may act out on their child with punishment or verbally attack the teacher. However, troublemakers do not go away. In fact, they worsen until the issues they are acting out are resolved. Consequently, it is vital for parents to intervene as soon they hear their child is a troublemaker.


Cartoon with check mark

  • see a doctor
  • talk to your child’s teacher
  • correct behavior
  • be aware of your own actions

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  • be defensive
  • forget to follow through with discipline
  • assume
  • ignore behavior

Mary Jo Rapini LPC‘s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do see a doctor

Take your child to his/her pediatrician and tell the doctor exactly what is going on. Hearing loss, poor eyesight, allergies and many other medical conditions can cause anxiety, anger and sadness in children.

Do talk to your child’s teacher

It is important to talk with your child’s teacher one-on-one. Be sure to take notes. Make certain you are very clear about what happens when your child misbehaves or acts in a mean way.

Do correct behavior

Invite kids over and be there to observe the play date. If you see your child getting aggressive or mean, step in and correct the behavior immediately. It is crucial to teach your child that hurting others is not okay.

Do be aware of your own actions

Watch your own social interactions with your spouse, ex or friends. Children learn how to get along by watching parents and family. If they see violence, they will act in a violent manner.

Mary Jo Rapini LPC‘s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not be defensive

Feeling defensive comes from guilt. And if you are a working mom or a single dad, you may feel a great deal of guilt. But remember that every parent feels guilt at some time. It comes with the territory.

Do not forget to follow through with discipline

Do not hit your children or ground them for days when you cannot monitor and follow through with the punishment. Always follow through with any discipline you enact.

Do not assume

Never assume that you know what your child is feeling. Instead, listen to them. Don’t hesitate to take them to a trained licensed counselor for additional help.

Do not ignore behavior

When your children act out, it is because they have anger or feelings they do not know how to express. They act out to get your attention. Prioritizing more one-on-one family time—while excluding social media and other distractions—will help your child get back on track. Also, if the mentor bully is a parent, talking to your spouse or ex about how their behavior is affecting their child is important.


It is not the school’s job to fix the mistakes of parents or make up for a lack of discipline. No one will ever be invested in a child’s welfare as deeply as the parent. The sooner you erase a “troublemaker” label from your child’s record, the better.

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