This week the JP Patch Moms Council discusses bullying — including how they've tried to keep their kids both from becoming bullies and from being the victim of bullying. Add your own thoughts or questions in the comments section.
: I'm seventeen years into parenting and I still can't tell you what makes a bully.
Four children and 17 years into parenting — not to mention a lifetime of younger siblings under my belt — and I still can't tell you what makes a bully.
Recent research indicates that low self-esteem is a factor for some. While it's tempting to say that parents can prevent that, I do know some devoted and nurturing parents who find themselves with a child who has low self-esteem by the time they're six. I don't think we can put everything on parents.
I have the luxury of being with my children all the time, but even before that my ears would prick up if I heard them saying something out of line about someone's appearance or something someone said. Asking my children to explain why it was okay to exclude someone because of their age or their speech pattern — and then telling them clearly that it wasn't — (hopefully) prevented them from saying those things to other children out loud in school. Because I try to minimize my own anti-social comments around them, I didn't hear too much of that in the first place, and not after the age of four.
: The way boys bully and the way girls bully is different.
I don’t know what’s worse — being the parent of a bully or having a child that is bullied.
I would imagine that to be a bully you need to have been bullied; and some children bully before they are bullied. Fear would be the motivating emotion and empathy could be the emotion that can override the bullying child if it exists in the child. How do you create a child with a huge potential for empathy? How do you offset fear in a child? How do you make sure your child is “strong” enough to not be the “target” of a bully or teach them to speak up and get help if they are being bullied?
The way boys bully and the way girls bully is different. I have boys, so I fear for their physical safety. I want to teach them to defend without using physical violence. I want to teach them to share their emotions and be open to me to let me know how they are feeling and tell me when something is going on. But I also want to make sure they don’t bully.
I remember an early moment at the , when my first son was maybe 11 months old and running full speed and enjoying his freedom when he discovered the wonderful cause and effect of pushing over his toddling friends. He did this several times; laughing and enjoying watching his little friends tumble over and hit the cement. I was horrified. I quickly reprimanded him, which he seemed to enjoy, so that didn’t work and I moved on to focusing on the child that was hurt and made sure to give the other child my undivided attention, that triggered something and he shifted his energy and stopped pushing his friends over.
I was working on creating empathy, but in the back of my mine I was fearful I was creating a bully and certainly felt like a parent of one at that early stage. Thankfully my boys have made it to 18 and 12 without being bullies or being bullied (I haven’t seen signs of either — hope I’m right)
: I wished to teach my children to be above petty conflict but, I fear, may also have left them vulnerable to being victims of bullying.
I worry a lot about bullying.
I worry in particular about my own children being the victims of bullying rather than the instigators. I am myself extremely non-confrontational and will go to great lengths to avoid any sort of conflict. I fear that in passing on this attitude to my children I may have left them somewhat defenseless in the face of hostility.
I remember when my first child was a toddler at the JP moms group. I noticed that most mothers taught their children to handle conflict differently from the way I was doing. Most mothers were encouraging their children to speak up for themselves when another toddler snatched their toy. I, on the contrary, was telling my child to walk away and to find something else to play with.
Ten years later my son will still walk away from a difficult situation and will not attempt to stand up for himself. Part of me is proud of him for never lashing out. However with the pride is a good deal of anxiety. I wished to teach my children to be above petty conflict but, I fear, may also have left them vulnerable to being victims of bullying.