This has been in my head for a long time now.

As a parent, you want your kids to have self-confidence and to stand up for themselves, because that's the general good. A shy child will have issues and life is likely to be harder for him.

If it happens to be like that, you face it and deal with the issue, but you still want to help them have confidence. Problem is, I fear that this might backfire into "I bully others to prove I am superior and that's how I feel confident".

What are some useful methods I can use to teach them about self-confidence without turning them into bullies?

We are talking about any age, as the baby isn't born yet...

  • I cannot help really with the "how", so not a full answer. But it seems to me you want to teach both self-confidence and compassion and empathy! A self-confident person with compassion and empathy will not turn into a bully.
    – Layna
    Jun 29, 2017 at 12:44
  • Teaching self-confidence against being bullied should include the "If someone bullies you that does not make them superior to you."-talk, which then excludes "I bully others to prove I am superior and that's how I feel confident." as a valid point.
    – skymningen
    Jul 6, 2017 at 10:03

3 Answers 3


You're confusing arrogance for confidence.

Confidence -- true confidence -- doesn't result in bullying. That's like the idea that learning martial arts makes a person violent. Not only is that untrue, but the reality is typically the opposite.

A trained martial artist is more likely to avoid conflict, because they know what they can do and they know the results of their actions. They have nothing to prove. They are confident.

Bullies, on the other hand, actually don't truly believe they're superior. They believe they're inferior, and/or they are afraid of others seeing them as such. They do feel they have something to prove, because they lack confidence. This isn't confidence, this is arrogance.

Teach your child to gain confidence through personal achievements. Teach them to learn some about a bunch of things and deeply about a few things. Encourage them to spend time doing what they're passionate about. Encourage them to strive for expertise in the area(s) in which they're passionate, and be okay with the fact that those passions will likely change over time. (Expertise does not breed arrogance, either. As the saying goes, "the more you know, the more you know you don't know.") Be supportive of their interests, even if you don't particularly care about/for them.

Likewise, foster compassion and empathy. Teach them the difference between nice and not-nice behaviors. Don't just punish them for doing something "not-nice," sit down and talk with them (yes, even when younger) about why the thing they did was not nice and reflect it back to them in order to teach them conscious empathy ("How would you feel if someone did that to you? If someone doing that to you makes you feel bad, then it's not something you want to do to others, because it makes them feel bad, too.").

Teach them about healthy boundaries. Even young children can and do learn about boundaries. Teach them that they can build, communicate, and enforce their own boundaries. Even simple things like communicating that they don't want to deal with people at the moment and need some time to themselves are highly valuable in fostering confidence. Respect their reasonable boundaries. (ie -- many people need some amount of time to themselves, don't force your child to talk to you right after school if they express a need/desire for some time alone. Let them have some time, first, before socializing with them. Most things can wait for 30-60 minutes.) By respecting their boundaries, you teach them that they are worthy of respect, even in a hierarchical relationship.

  • Very well said brother. I get what you mean with the confident ppl avoiding conflict and such. I actually feel like I should sign him/her up for karate / aikido training, if they show interest of course. Feels to me like it will help them build a good understanding of what is valuable in life and whats worth the efforts. Jun 30, 2017 at 9:33
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    I like this answer, except for your definition of arrogance. Arrogant people aren't necessarily afraid or unsure - arrogance can just as well be caused by overconfidence in your own knowledge or capabilities, and then results in blatant disregard of the possibility that others may have something to contribute. Jul 2, 2017 at 17:06
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    I disagree. Arrogance may appear to be overconfidence, but the root of it is fear and insecurity (an arrogant person won't admit they're wrong, for example). The root of confidence is a sense of security, where it's okay to be wrong and to learn from the input of others, even when many may consider you a subject matter expert. A confident person knows that being an expert doesn't require being right all the time.
    – Shauna
    Jul 5, 2017 at 19:42
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    I agree with some of this, but not entirely really with the first paragraph, which seems overly simplified. The "bullys do it out of inferiority" sounds nice, but isn't all that accurate. The most common reason for bullying is to try to impress peers, believing showing your strong will be impressive. It does not require feelings of inferiority. It's true sense of inferiority can sometimes exasperate this, but honestly inferiority complex is at most a minor contributing factor to bullying. I would argue compassion, moral boundaries, and social skills play a bigger role in stopping bullying
    – dsollen
    Jul 7, 2017 at 1:01
  • It also happens that sometimes bullies don't recognize that their behavior is bullying - they honestly expect their associate (friend/victim) to enjoy the play, and are surprised and dismayed to find out they were bullying.
    – pojo-guy
    Jul 7, 2017 at 3:07

I'm answering because I slightly disagree with the other answers. The argument their making seems to be that the more confident one is the less their bully, I don't agree, or actually I do agree, but I believe increased confidence has only a very very minor role on tendency to bully.

In truth I think personal confidence and tendency to bully are mostly independent factors. Having volunteered with and watched many children it seems by far the most common reason for bullying is an attempt to make others like you, as bizarre as that may sound at first glance. Social politics are complicated, and sadly it often is the case that bullying someone that is unpopular can make you popular with others, or at least a certain type of person. However, bullies are not primarily driven by a sense of confidence, or inferiority, but instead by a desire to 'show off' to their peers. A sense of inferiority can exasperate this, by making them think the only way to impress their peers is to bully others, but many bullies do it without a sense of inferiority, and many bully who are not overly confident.

So the short answer is just build the child's confidence and don't worry about bullying :). But I'm not good at giving short answers, so lets instead ask what can you do in general to prevent a child from bullying.

First and foremost, as with most behaviors, model good behaviors. Never let a child see anything in your actions that could suggest bullying. This doesn't just mean don't call someone a poopyhead when your kids are around, there are subtler forms of 'bullying' adults do often without realizing it. The most common is how you treat people in customer service industry who have to be nice to you. If you treat them with respect, say please and thank you, and if you have a complaint explain it civilly to them, that shows a respect to someone in a weaker position, if you yell or rant at them your suggesting it's okay to mistreat those who can't fight back.

Going along with that showing children the importance of general respect and empathy with others will help to prevent bullying. Help them to discuss other's feelings (as well as their own) so they can understand how other's feel. If they do something to upset a peer when young have them say their sorry and explain why what they did could hurt the child's feelings and let them know you don't want them to make others feel sad.

It also helps to try to expose the child to many different types of people, with different views, behaviors, and lifestyles and show them that even though the people are different you still respect each of them; that someone being different isn't a reason to treat them poorly. Even if someone does something you don't approve of or makes you angry try to explain to the child that you disagree with the person's decisions but that doesn't make them a bad person or worthy of hating. That means you have to show civility to people of the opposite political spectrum as you no matter how stupid you may think their views are :P

Since bullying is often driven by peer pressure and the drive to do anything for popularity helping arm a child with the means to resist peer pressure will also help them resist the temptation for bullying. Of course helping a kid resist peer pressure isn't easy, that's a whole different stack exchange question. A big step to this is to encourage your child to be different though, or more accurately allow your child to be different. Parents are, in a way, the first form of peer pressure children run into. If parents pressure a child to be 'normal' and fit in so the child doesn't embarrass the parent their teaching the child they need to do what other's expect of them. Encouraging a child when their different, and not being afraid to act different yourself, helps. Generally explaining the idea that if someone wants you to act in a bad manner to make them like you then they aren't the sort of person that they probably want as a friend or should care about liking them in general.

And if all else fails, well just flat out tell them you won't condone bullying. If you see it happen you punish them. If you see even minor forms of bullying, like talking about a kid being weird behind his back or tolerating a peers bullying, tell the child how disappointed you are to see it, why it's wrong, and that you don't condone it.

Honestly though. all that comes down to good parenting advice in general. If you raise a child well they usually won't be involved in bullying. Just show them through your actions how to be compassionate individuals and they will grow up the same.


True confidence doesn't seek to diminish others to feel good. True confidence is a sense that you are okay in your own skin, regardless of what others do. So the best way to avoid your child becoming full of false confidence, the sort that feeds on the weakness in others to hide one's own shortcomings, you need to instill real confidence. So you help your child find things they are challenged by & learn to master it/overcome it. Confidence is based on learning what you are capable of, not just merely "Am I good at it?" but "Can I face my fears?", "Can I learn to accept failing and not give up?", "Look how far I've come". It's those kinds of thoughts. You don't need to win first place to have confidence.

Here is how it would look in my life. I am a good artist. I have entered shows. Sometimes I do very well, other times I do not place. My confidence as an artist isn't based on whether I win or not. I understand that juries are somewhat unpredictable, and art is subjective. My confidence comes from the fact that I do it. I put myself out there & let it be seen. I talk to people about what I made. I allow it to be judged & accept that they may not love it. If I held false confidence (bullying mentality) I would be insecure to even try. I would likely put down other people's work, especially if they placed better than I did & if I didn't win I'd blame the judges for not being good judges because great judges would see my phenomenal talent. See the difference? One is real confidence (being totally okay to fail & understanding that I should expect that and that I should still dust off & try again) and the other is insecure bravado. It's a front where you act confident & inside your confidence is entirely dependent on others & how they react to you. Will everyone love my art? Absolutely not. I don't do it so everyone will love it. I do it because I love doing it. If people enjoy it, awesome. If they don't, that is okay. Not all art will touch all people. There are some famous artists I find no pleasure in viewing too. That is okay.

And teach kids empathy. When something happens, talk about how it makes them feel. When you see other people displaying feelings, ask them how they think that person is feeling right now. Have they ever felt like that?

I also do affirmations with my kids. We speak it out loud together. Things like "I am brave. I am worthy. I am generous & patient". I do this from as small as they can say the words. I instill in them to believe themselves to have these qualities. When they make mistakes I admit I still make them at my adult age too - we are going to have time when we fall short of our best qualities. We acknowledge that, make up for it if we can, and try harder. That is all it is. And model it. Show them what compassion looks like. Be kind & patient & generous in your spirit toward them so they understand what it means to display that. I remind myself that my children cannot give anything I haven't given to them. My children cannot be expected to act better than I do. If I want them to stop yelling when upset, then I too cannot yell. If I want them to speak gently & kindly to others, then I must speak that way to them, to my spouse, to others. I do not think you will have to worry about your child being a bully when they have a parent that cares this much to even worry about it. I think you will be involved & loving enough with your child that it isn't the situation likely to create a bully. Do not tolerate mean behaviors and be kind when correcting them & they will do well.

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