“People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer.”
― Dan Pearce,
Bullying is serious issue plaguing schools. It is also a complicated area of concern. It is curious to me that we address bullying in schools, but we don’t connect that behavior back to what is happening in the home. In my experience, children who bully are often experiencing one or more of the following:
1) Being bullied/abused/neglected in the home by parents/caregivers
2) Witnessing bullying in the home (e.g., parents calling each other names or acting violently towards each other)
3) Listening to their parents verbally bullying friends or family in front of them (e.g., that idiot, what a slut, he can’t do anything right, your sister is a bitch, your brother is a moron)
4) Viewing bullying on the television (pick any news channel)
5) Watching their parents or older siblings laughing at Vines or YouTube videos that include mocking, teasing, and/or physical mistreatment
6) Being bullied by an older sibling, cousin, kid on the bus, etc.
The lesson the child learns: The people that I love and that love me and take care of me think this behavior (bullying) is appropriate (and even funny). They find a vulnerable kid in the classroom and act according to what they witness playing out in the home. What is worse, the vulnerable kid they target might also be experiencing bullying in the home, but instead of acting out they retreat inside their own heads.
A child learns more by watching the people in their world than they do by listening to directions. We need to do a better job connecting the home environment of the child and the behaviors of the child in school if we want to fully address and eventually eliminate bullying. For example, an adult cannot make fun of homosexuals (condemn them, say they are going to Hell, call them sissies) in the home and then scold their child for doing the same thing at school. Moreover, the parent sometimes sides with the child in private, saying that people are too sensitive. Imagine how confusing that is for a child. The child does not know if bullying is bad or good.
Many people are incredibly self-critical (I am not good enough, I am fat, and I’m dumb) and critical of others (my boss is an idiot and my coworker is a bitch). Complaining and criticism begets complaining and criticism. When left unchecked, this outlook leads to misery, anger, and resentment. And, it is often paired with “It’s not my fault I’m unhappy, it’s that idiot I have to work with (or I’m married to).” The child adopts these same thoughts and beliefs (spillover). And, the child learns that their happiness is not their responsibility and/or they do not have the power to make themselves happy.
When I am working with children, I hear these adult expressions coming from their mouths and I know exactly where they are really coming from. Frequently, adults do not appreciate how closely children are paying attention to the events occurring in their world. I promise you, they hear and see it all.
Why do I feel so passionately about this? Children are impulsive. Their brains are not wired to think long-term. So, bullying leads to suicide. My message to all the adults who think political correctness is for wimps: Your children can hear you. Be nice. Be nice to others. And, for pete’s sake be nice to yourself!
What to do if you find out your child is bullying another child? Compassionately and kindly explore what is happening with your child. Ask a lot of questions. Find out who and what is influencing this behavior. Be willing to take responsibility for how your own behavior may be influencing your child. Be willing to adapt the culture in your home and other places your child spends time to be less critical and more safe and compassionate. Be willing to get other people involved in the conversation to help support efforts to eliminate this behavior. Most importantly, intervene immediately and take the problem seriously.
What not to do? Don’t criticize your child for being a bully. This only shames them and perpetuates the problem.
Spare the rod, spoil the child is not healthy parenting advice. At all. Ever.
“Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, or circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person”