The Makings of a Bully?

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: Jan 17, 2012

We should all be deeply disturbed.  Whether we are parents or not, young kids or teens — this is a collective failure and we all have a role in addressing it.

The recent rash of bullying stories, an increasing number of which have ended in the worst possible outcome, is both sad and cause for serious reflection.

The focus on the bully and victim are definitely merited.  The role of technology (social media, mobile apparatus’, etc.) also have a key role.  But how about the parents?  What role does parenting play in this scenario?

Seems to me I don’t hear much about that.

The decision of a bully to exert power, influence, coercion, peer pressure — whatever on someone else is a conscious choice?  This is a basic knowing right vs. wrong issue.  It’s also, in my opinion, a learned behaviour.  Kids, by and large, don’t naturally know how to behave in this way.

How much of this can be traced back to permissive parenting, I wonder.  You know the kind where the kids seems to call the shots, and the parents are standing on the sidelines mostly being told what to do.

There seems to be a fear of discipline among many of today’s parents.  Discipline that calls for firm, fair, follow-through.  Of course it’s not easy.  It’s one I struggle with on a regular basis.  Does the punishment fit the misdeed, it is too harsh, too soft, unfair?

Having rules and following-through on those rules have an incredibly important role to play in overall discipline and the behaviour in our children.  It should teach self-control, the understanding of limits, accountability for one’s actions, responsibility for a given outcome and the understanding of right from wrong.  However, when the follow-through falls short, so too does the learning of all these critical lessons.

Parents who swoop in and save their kids time and again from a negative situation are doing more harm than good.  That pattern of behaviour will more than likely lead to kids who feel a sense of entitlement, who don’t understand what it means to take their bumps and lumps and who ultimately end up wielding power over their parents.

A few parents I’ve spoken to, whose kids have been bullied, have repeated a familiar theme — the parents of the bully 1-had no idea, 2-remain in denial about their kids’ behaviour.

The apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Kids learn what they see, they tend to model behaviour they are witness to.   Over-protective parents may not realize that their controlling behaviour is akin to bullying.

It all starts at home.


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