It goes without saying that it’s difficult for any parent to come to terms with the fact that their child may in fact be a bully; or at the very least, may be engaging in bullying behaviour. Bullies don’t always take the form of out-and-out ringleaders. In fact, more often than not, bullying behaviour is perpetrated by the ringleader’s by-standers – hoping to solidify popularity and support among their peers. Where any child is concerned – never underestimate the siren song of popularity. All kids want to be liked by their peers – and most will do whatever it takes to acquire this acceptance – no matter the cost.
The tricky thing about bullies is that they can actually be perfectly sweet kids. I remember a little boy in my son’s kindergarten class – he was a polite, well-mannered, well-behaved kid in almost all respects – except when it came to one particular boy in the class. Honestly, had someone told me that this kid was capable of exhibiting such targeted and cruel behaviour, I would have heartily denied it. Except I was a regular volunteer within the classroom and I witnessed it myself. Suffice it to say that this particular incident was especially eye-opening to me.
I will admit that the “b” word is tossed around quite frequently – to the point that it is often over-used and mis-used. Kids can be mean, they may fight and argue and say unkind things to one another – but this behaviour doesn’t automatically fall under the bully umbrella.
In terms of behaviour being classified as bullying – it needs to be aggressive and repetitious. It also typically involves a power imbalance – whether real or perceived.
We’ve all heard bully horror stories, we’ve witnessed bullying, been a part of it, tried to stop it, been a victim of it ourselves. It’s everywhere. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of misinformation surrounding it.
If and when you witness your child engaging in mean or unkind or disrespectful behaviour that just isn’t nice – do everyone a favour and don’t excuse it. Don’t blame it on hunger or sleepiness; definitely don’t blame the victim for triggering your little angel or for deserving it; don’t look the other way claiming that kids need to work it out on their own; don’t smooth it over with a cliché like “boys will be boys” or “kids can be cruel”. Deal with it and have a conversation with your kid about compassion and kindness. Encourage them to be nice – even if they don’t want to be, even if it’s a challenge for them.
Tanya is a Canadian freelance writer as well as mother to three. She spends most days cooking, cleaning, driving and refereeing arguments and once in a while finds some precious free time to write and watch movies. Catch her blog at www.pencilsandpopcans.com