As bullying becomes an ever increasingly popular subject in the media and among families and schools, it is hard to determine what is to be done to stop the bullying. While awful repercussions bring bullying to light, there are ways to prevent bullying from happening in the first place. The reasoning behind bullying and the ways it takes place are all based on the feelings of inadequacy and resentment that the child-bully possesses. If a parent and teachers were to tackle these resentful feelings from the start, before actions became an issue, it would be less likely that they would grow to be bullies.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides defines resentment as “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult or injury”.
If a child is displeased with himself or a situation, he may decide to act negatively because those bitter feelings are eating him up inside. Though it is easy to define resentment, it is not as easy to pinpoint where the resentful feelings stem from or know how they will manifest themselves. Unfortunately, resentment turns into bullying in many instances.
When a child feels resentful towards an individual, such as his parents or guardian, or towards the world in general, the repercussions can come in the form of bullying his peers. This means that even if one child did nothing to another, they could still be targeted by the resentful bully who is looking for catharsis.
Reasons for bullying
A child may or may not recognize why they feel the need to bully others. However, there is always an underlying reason whether it be a need for control, having poor examples, suffering from substance abuse, or simply a need to see someone else suffer as they are suffering inside.
Need for control
Typically, if a child suffers from abuse or neglect in any form, they will act out. Many times this means that they will bully other children so that they can take control of the situation in front of them. The mindset of the child in this instance becomes one of power and needing to show that he is capable or worth paying attention to even if it is for a less than ideal reason.
Children learn from their parents and other adults who take charge of their care and education. Even when these adults and other individuals act in ways that are less than exemplary, a child will adopt the behaviors that they see. Imitation and emulation are among the most common ways that a child learns and employs behaviors.
When a child or teen is under the influence of any substance, they may act against their peers in different ways. Many times, the effects of the substance used cause the child or teen to act in ways that they otherwise would not. For example, some substances affect the personality in negative ways, especially when the substance’s effect is wearing off; many times the effects are physical or verbal aggression.
When children are unable to stop themselves from feeling poorly about their physical appearance or learning ability, or if they are hurting emotionally because of a family situation, it is easy for inflict that pain upon others. In this type of situation, the child may feel that if someone else is suffering, their pain will go away or they can forget about it for a while. While this is not a correct mentality, a child may feel that he has no other form of control over his emotions.
In battling resentful feelings toward self and others as well as battling the creation of resentful bullies, one of the initial lessons that should be taught to a child is how to build empathy. While feelings are personal and specific to an individual, there are ways for a parent or teacher to emphasize empathetic feelings towards their peers.
Empathy can be taught in many ways, but in the end, it ultimately depends upon the individual child to learn what it is and how to employ it. As with other lessons, every child learns differently and sometimes a lesson does not trigger a productive response in one child though it will in others. Since this is the case, it is important for parents to recognize how their children learn and what will be an appropriate course of action.
Here are some ways to teach empathy:
- Teach by example
- Find and highlight common attributes between your child and his peers
- Talk to your child about his own feelings
- Show your child how to bounce back from his own distress
- Explore different perspectives with your child
- Act out the faces of different emotions; this can help your child identify their own feelings as well as others’
- Teach morality and the fact that rewards are not necessary for good behavior
- Promote and encourage good feelings
Teaching respect and social skills
Another very important lesson that a child needs in order to prevent his becoming a bully is respect. When a child knows what respect is and how it is shown, they are less likely to disrespect other individuals. This can be a key factor in stopping a child from becoming a resentful bully.
Here are some ways to teach respect for others:
- Lead by example; be respectful in your own dealings and your child will follow suit
- Teach politeness; talk about appropriate responses in different situations
- Do not overreact when your child is not respectful; stay calm and correct the behavior or comment and have your child try again
- Offer positive feedback when your child acts respectfully
Self respect is just as important as respect for others. Similar techniques can be used to teach your child how to respect himself. As a child learns to respect their character, beliefs, successes, and limitations, their self-esteem can grow and provide them with a positive outlook on life.
Along with respect, social skills are necessary in order for a child to have successful relationships. Combined with empathy and respect for others, knowing how to be comfortable as part of a social situation can help a child feel that he belongs and in turn he is less likely to act against others. The higher his level of comfort the less likely he will feel the need to make others feel poorly.
Work on self-esteem
As mentioned previous, the way a child feels about himself can affect the ways he acts towards his peers. This being the case, it is important for a child’s self-esteem to be intact and to have it expounded upon as often as possible.
Here are some ways to build your child’s self-esteem:
- Be mindful of how you talk to your child; if you are constantly speaking negatively, you child will develop a negative mindset about himself
- Give positive feedback often
- Be a role model
- Help your child adjust what he/she thinks about him/herself; if a child has negative thoughts, redirect and correct them
- Show your love and affection for your child
- Help your child feel safe and loved at home; it is important for a child to have a place that is free of fear, shame, and bullying
- Allow your child to be active in various experiences that will allow him to grow as an individual
If your child suffers from negative self-esteem and you are unable to help adjust his mindset, consult professional help. Your child needs the best help available, and a professional has the tools and skills necessary to help your child feel good about themselves. This can prevent resentful feelings, or keep them from harming themselves or others.
When you provide your child with the right amount of authoritative parenting and discipline, you are setting your child up for success. Finding a balance between teaching a child everything and letting a child learn on his own can be difficult, but when a child has this balance, they are less likely to feel resentful towards life.
When a parent acts excessively authoritatively, the child typically feels that they can do nothing right, especially if they are constantly being reprimanded for the smallest things. On the other hand, if a child is left to their own devices and do not have any sort of structure, they will know that they can do anything that they want with no repercussions. However, with a mix of these two approaches, a child can still learn from their own mistakes while having parental guidance in knowing what behavior is appropriate and what is not.
Helping children to feel good about themselves and to treat others in an appropriate manner is the first step in stopping your child from becoming a bully of any kind. As children feel that they are worth something and that they can do things for themselves, they will be able to stand tall and do what they need without the insecurity that pushes them to bully others. If you are struggling to teach your child, consult a professional for advice and tips; professionals are always willing to assist you and help you to raise a healthy and successful child.