Bullying is a serious problem in homes, neighborhoods and schools across the world. Many parents recognize that their kids could be victims of bullying and work hard to keep this from happening. But, it turns out, that not as many parents are willing to own that their kid is a bully.
However, this is an important part of breaking the chain of bullying. Often children who bully others have emotions that translate into aggressive behavior, simply because they have learned that these behaviors are effective in getting them what they want. As parents, it can be difficult to detect that these behaviors are problematic. And, well, this is because sometimes these are the very same behaviors that we have ourselves!
It can be difficult for a parent to admit to one’s self that he or she is the cause of the child’s bullying behavior. After all, this is a huge slap to the ego. Not only is there something wrong with mom or dad’s own actions, but it’s also affecting the child as well!
But, first, it’s important not to be too hard on one’s self. A lot of the negative character traits we have are learned, are passed on from generation to generation. After all, it was beneficial to be the biggest kid on the playground, so to speak, in the middle ages. And some of us just haven’t grown out of it.
The good news is that the first step to transforming ourselves, and our kids, into better people is through awareness. Here’s what to look out for.
15 Hitting The Kids
Is the preschooler refusing to eat his vegetables again? Is mom getting frustrated at his tantrums over wanting cake instead? Does she want to just pinch his arm to force him to just put the darned carrots in his mouth? Well, stop right there. We understand that in situations such as this, it’s easy to get angry and frustrated at how the child isn’t cooperating. But hitting him only teaches him that it’s okay to hit others when he himself is angry or frustrated. When that sort of behavior is reinforced over time, it’s a recipe for a playground bully.
That little kid doesn’t want to share his toys? Hit him. That girl doesn’t want to trade her cookies for his sandwich? Hit her. Because that’s how mom solves this sort of problem at home, right? Yeah, needless to say, it’s not going to end well. Especially when there are better ways to get a child to listen.
14 Spousal Abuse In Front Of The Kids
Even if mom doesn’t hit the kids themselves, if she or her partner engage in violent behavior against each other, the children will still learn that behavior. After all, it’s still monkey see, monkey do. This is why many kids who grow up in households where domestic abuse is rampant become bullies.
Because they see this as a normal way of dealing with their emotions, especially when they see a person they respect (i.e. their parent) doing it. Not only will violence in a relationship affect the kids, it’s also likely to ruin the relationship over time. No matter how many flowers and chocolates are given on Valentine’s Day.
And to anyone out there who experiences violence in a relationship, we suggest looking up the warning signs of an abusive relationship. If you’re in one, we suggest leaving. Like, right now. Abusive relationships are terrible things that nobody deserves to deal with, most of all children.
13 Insults And Threats
When mom or dad is in a fit of anger, it’s easy to dish out all the insults. “You’re no good.” “You’ll never amount to anything.” “You’re such a bad girl.” “That’s so stupid.” “Why can’t you be smarter, like your brother?” “I’m going to leave you here if you don’t behave!”
We know those insults and threats leave no marks on the kid’s body, but, boy do they leave emotional scars. Because even if the parent may not totally mean them, children will take this seriously. It’s mom or dad saying it to them, after all.
Kids who are told these things are more likely to pass on the insults to other kids as well. After all, there’s nothing like a parent building a young child’s vocabulary. And this makes for verbally abusive behavior. Yes, this is bullying too. Even when the child isn’t shoving anyone off the swings or making physical contact.
12 When Parents Neglect Their Kids
Sometimes ignoring a child can be an effective way of dealing with a tantrum. After all, it teaches that what they’re doing isn’t working. And that they’re more likely to get a favorable response if they approach the situation calmly. However, there is a pretty solid line between ignoring a child for a specific behavior and outright neglect.
Neglecting a child is basically ignoring their needs, even when they haven’t done anything to warrant it. This can damage a child because among their basic needs is the need for love and attention from their parents. With neglect, parents often are more likely to respond when the child exhibits bad behavior rather than good.
So the kids are more likely to misbehave as this elicits a response. And since they’re not likely to get enough attention from the parents, this sort of behavior often extends to the school and the playground as well.
11 Berating Other People
So maybe a parent doesn’t hit their kids nor their partner. Maybe she doesn’t insult them nor threaten them. Maybe she showers them with love and attention. So far, so good. But be sure, however, not to berate other people. Yes, even people who are not family members, authority figures or friends.
If the child hears his parents calling that new woman at work ugly because she’s fat or that next-door neighbor a terrorist because he’s Muslim or his Uncle a fag because he’s gay, he’s likely to take on those biases. After all, it teaches him that other people are inherently bad if they’re not like “us.” And this can translate to him being a meanie on the playground.
It is, therefore, important to be aware of one’s own biases and try not to pass these on. Teach the kid to love and understand others instead. It will make for a better world.
10 Not Listening To The Kids
When a child does something wrong, the automatic response is punishment. And while this can contribute to disciplining the child, it’s just as important to listen to them. Talk to them about their behavior, and then hear out what they have to say. Of course, the child won’t always have a good reason. He is still, after all, just a child.
Still, simply being heard can have a remarkable effect on a child. And even out of the context of discipline, it’s important to take some time out of the day to give him mom or dad’s full attention. This way, he knows that he is valued and, therefore, he learns to value others in turn.
Compare this to a child who is not listened to, who simply receives punishments, whose thoughts are not valued. As they say, you can’t give what you do not have. Therefore, a child who is not listened to will not listen to others.
9 Modeling Bully Behavior
Let’s face it: some parents are bullies themselves. What’s worse, they’ll even justify their bullying. But as Sirius Black might say, "You can only see what a person truly is not by how he treats his equals, but how he treats his inferiors."
Parents who bully and boss their employees, the house help, waiters, cashiers and perhaps even neighbors are essentially teaching their kids that it is alright to act this way. Especially to people who they might consider “lesser” than them. And so, in the playground, a child might treat horribly those that he perceives are inferior to him, perhaps another kid who is younger or smaller than he is.
And regardless of what the parent might think, this isn’t justifiable.
Again, it’s extremely important to be self-aware. Detecting this behavior and how it can affect the child is the first step to correcting it. After all, sometimes a parent must discipline themselves before they can discipline their own child!
8 Shutting The Kid Up
You know how people used to say that “children should be seen and not heard?” This now sounds preposterous and, frankly, a bit too old-fashioned to use as a parenting philosophy. But some of this attitude still lingers on in us. After all, when a child keeps on whining about one petty thing or another, it can be tempting to just tell him to shut up.
And what this does is that it teaches the child that it’s okay to silence others if he doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. Obviously, this is not how the real world works. If the child keeps on asking his peers to shut up, perhaps even in a violent way, he’s likely to end up being labeled as the playground bully.
Sometimes it’s just better to ignore a child’s whining, or perhaps even engage him and ask him questions that make him more self-aware. Plain old “shut up?” Bad idea.
7 Encouraging A “Macho” Image
Some parents promote toughness in their kids. Boys are particularly more prone to getting this. They’re told that they shouldn’t cry because they’re not girls. They’re told that they should like things like guns and cars, not dolls and other “girly” things. And some kids try to overcompensate to these expectations.
Many parents don’t know it, but this is one of the factors that drives bullying in the playground. It’s one of the reasons why, at least early in life, boys are more prone to becoming bullies.
It’s not that the child inherently wants to hurt others. It’s that it’s how he thinks he’s expected to act. Things like sensitivity and listening to others are for girls. And if he’s taught that he’s supposed to avoid girly things like the plague, it just doesn’t bode well for how he treats others. Just skip the gender stereotyping when raising kids. Everyone will be better off without it.
6 Ignoring Empathy
One core part of discipline is teaching the child empathy. That is, the child has to learn to put himself in another person’s shoes. That way, if he treats that person a certain way, he is able to imagine just how it will make him feel. This builds upon what the child already knows about respect and boundaries.
He knows he’ll feel bad if those are violated, and so he won’t want others to feel the same. Empathy develops a child’s moral compass, helping him make better decisions in the future, even if he isn’t given a set of “rules.”
Sometimes, however, parents can overlook this part of discipline. In the daily grind of life, some might just want the child to do what he’s told without understanding why. And a child who is less able to understand how others feel is more likely to push others around just to get a certain result.
5 Being Reactive
There are two general types of parenting: reactive and proactive. Reactive parenting is basically just responding to what the child is doing. This isn’t bad in itself, but it doesn’t do much for the child. Metaphorically, it is akin to hurriedly evacuating a flooding house well after the water has started to rise.
It’s the best thing to do at the moment, but not exactly the wisest in the long term. After all, it’s easy to get swept away by flood waters when it’s already waist-deep.
Proactive parenting, on the other hand, involves teaching the child the right thing to do through daily practice, rather than just saying “no” if he does something out of line. Proactive parenting is like preparing emergency bags, listening to flood warnings and even moving to a place that is less vulnerable to disaster. It prevents problems like bullying from even happening in the first place.
4 Forgetting To Teach Basic Social Skills
Not every child has to be a social butterfly. But, at the very least, everyone has to be taught basic social skills. This includes the standard “please” and “thank you,” “you’re welcome” and “I’m sorry,” of course. You know, all the things that everyone should know by the time they’re in kindergarten. However, training a child to become a decent human being doesn’t end there.
It’s also important to teach kids about respect and boundaries. Teach them not to touch anyone without permission. And, in turn, that nobody should touch them without their permission. This sort of education not only teaches them not to become bullies, it also helps them respect themselves and the people around them.
The benefits go beyond the playground, too. Kids who have a better understanding of this are far more likely to have healthier, more respectful relationships in the future. Basically, it’s an important building block to adulthood.
3 Obsession With Material Things
Don’t get us wrong, material things are great. But they should not, of course, take precedence over more important things like respect, discipline, honesty and kindness. Because when they do, well, it’s not going to make the child a good person. The main problem is that kids are attracted by shiny, new things, and advertisers are very good at harnessing this attraction to make kids convince their parents that they need a new doll or a new toy car.
Of course, it’s not harmful per se to give the kid things. It’s harmful when the child learns to attach his self-worth onto these things. It’s important to teach the kid that, no, just because Susan has a better notebook does not mean she’s a smarter girl. Or that just because Alex has a complete set of Avengers action figures means that he’s cooler. Because if the kid begins to believe that, he just might bully others to get what he wants.
2 Playing Favorites At Home
Most of us have unpleasant experiences involving a parent or a teacher who simply favored another sibling or classmate. Given that we know exactly how it feels, it’s funny just how difficult it is to avoid favoritism in our own households! Of course, this is only human behavior. Some kids remind us of ourselves, and it’s easy to project to them how we would have wanted to be treated at their age.
And sometimes, this is perfectly fine as long as we’re self-aware of our actions and the implications on our children. Some children are simply easier to like than others.
Blatant favoritism, on the other hand, harbors resentment. And this resentment, if left unaddressed, can escalate into outright bullying. It’s also bad for the child who is being favored. The child might believe herself to be truly better than everyone else which, again, can damage her relationship with other children. So, as difficult as it can be to avoid playing favorites, don’t let this affect the children.
1 Forgetting Discipline
Discipline is an important part of raising a child. But it’s easy to forget it, especially when we want our children to actually like us. Keep in mind, however, that it’s really not the parents’ job to be liked. It’s their job to do what’s right. And forgetting discipline can have consequences that can affect not only a child’s short-term behavior but also his entire future.
Good discipline is an important way of teaching children impulse control. That is, that the child is not always going to get what he wants. That he will sometimes have to wait for his turn. That sometimes things will annoy him, but he still has to control his response to it. If he doesn’t learn all this, he’s going to be impulsive. He’s going to lash out every single time that things don’t go his way. And that’s pretty much what a bully does.
Sources: Daily.co.uk, HuffingtonPost.com, StompOutBullying.org, EmpoweringParents.com