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My Kid's the Bully?

It's hard enough to learn that your child is being bullied  -- but what do you do if he's the culprit? Getting that phone call from a teacher or another parent is shocking  -- and embarrassing  -- but it doesn't mean you've raised a "bad kid." It may mean, though, that your child's in a self-esteem slump.

Preteens often bully others because they don't feel like they're in charge of their lives, says pediatrician Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Baby on the Block. When something bad happens that your kid can't control  -- say, he loses a loved one or is ignored by a friend  -- hurting another child can empower him and restore his confidence.

But that's no excuse for bad behavior. As soon as you hear that your child's been bullying someone:

Confront him. "Say, 'Just as I wouldn't let anyone hurt you, I won't tolerate you hurting anyone else,'" advises Dr. Karp.

Find out what's going on at school. If his home life hasn't changed, ask him how his classmates are treating him. You might learn he's struggling to make and keep friends or that his friends are pressuring him to pick on another child.

Remind him to say no whenever his friends want him to do something that could get him in trouble.

Right the wrong. Come up with ways your child can make his victim feel better, likae apologizing in a letter or inviting him for a playdate.