Possible Reasons Children Become Bullies
There are reasons children become bullies. Understanding the behavior of bullies is crucial to effectively assisting both the bullies and their victims. However, it is necessary for adults to go beyond common assumptions, such as the belief that all bullies are socially isolated or have low self-esteem.
Based on data from the National Bullying Prevention Center, it is distressing to note that one in five children have reported experiencing bullying within the school year. Equally concerning, one in five tweens (children aged 9 to 12 years old) have encountered cyberbullying, either as victims, perpetrators, or witnesses. Naturally, parents harbor the sincere desire that their children never endure such torment. Moreover, parents are equally concerned about the possibility of their own child becoming the aggressor. They seek to comprehend the underlying reasons behind children engaging in bullying behavior.
Defining a Bully
A bully is an individual who purposefully engages in aggressive behavior with the intention of causing harm, fear, or distress to others. This harmful behavior not only affects the immediate victims but can also trigger a cycle of bullying among other people. The motives driving a bully’s attempts to antagonize another child or person can stem from various factors.
Bullying manifests in numerous ways, including physical acts like hitting or kicking. It may also manifest through verbal actions such as threats, teasing, and name-calling. Social exclusion through group dynamics or hurtful messages through chats or emails is also a form of bullying. For a child facing bullying, self-defense becomes challenging. Unfortunately, the experience of a victim of bullying is often recurring rather than isolated.
Reasons Children Become Bullies
Bullying among children is a distressing phenomenon that has lasting effects on both the perpetrators and the victims involved. While it is important to address the issue through prevention and intervention, it is equally important to understand the underlying reasons children become bullies in the first place.
By examining various factors, we can gain insight into the complex dynamics that contribute to the development of bullying. Although no single explanation can fully account for every case, research suggests several key factors contribute to a child’s decision to engage in bullying. Exploring these reasons can help us develop strategies to foster empathy, understanding, and a more inclusive environment for all children.
Neglectful Home Environment
Children are incredibly observant and attuned to the dynamics within their own homes. When parents are experiencing a divorce or engaging in ongoing arguments, it can have a profound impact on a child’s emotional well-being. The child may perceive this situation as a lack of attention from their parents. This can leave them feeling neglected and overlooked. Dealing with the upheaval of a separation can be especially challenging for a child. They may struggle to understand and process the changes happening around them. In an attempt to fill the void of attention, the child may seek alternative outlets to gain the recognition and validation they crave. This could manifest in various ways, such as seeking attention from friends, engaging in attention-seeking behaviors, or even withdrawing from social interactions altogether.
Parents and caregivers should be mindful of the impact their actions and conflicts can have on children. They should provide them with the necessary support and reassurance during such challenging times.
Desire to be in Control
The desire for control in children often stems from a deep-rooted need to gain popularity and recognition among their peers at school. Some children who engage in bullying behavior seek to assert dominance within their classroom. They also strive to become the perceived leader of the group. They believe that by exerting control over others, they can establish themselves as influential figures and increase their social standing. This need for control may be driven by a variety of underlying factors, such as low self-esteem, a desire for validation, or a lack of positive role models.
By bullying their peers, these children attempt to establish a sense of power and control, hoping that it will elevate their status and make them more popular among their peers. It is important for educators, parents, and the community as a whole to address the root causes of this behavior and provide these children with healthier ways to gain self-esteem and build positive relationships with others.
The way siblings interact with each other within the home environment has a profound influence on a child’s behavior and social interactions. If siblings engage in bullying behaviors towards their younger brothers or sisters, it can significantly impact how the child treats their peers outside of the family setting. Bullying by a sibling can teach a child negative behavioral patterns that they then carry over into their interactions with peers in the classroom.
When a child is subjected to bullying by their siblings, they may perceive it as a normal or acceptable way to assert power and control over others. This learned behavior becomes ingrained in their social interactions and can manifest as bullying behavior towards their peers. The child may replicate the same aggressive or demeaning actions they witnessed or experienced at home, perpetuating a cycle of negative behavior.
Intolerant of Peer Differences
The primary factors that students often mention as reasons for bullying include physical appearance, race or ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, and sexual orientation. These characteristics make individuals vulnerable to bullying due to a lack of understanding and acceptance of differences in backgrounds, cultures, and other identity markers.
Bullying behavior can arise when some young people struggle to comprehend or appreciate diversity. They may have limited exposure to individuals from diverse backgrounds or lack the necessary knowledge to understand and respect differences. As a result, they may resort to bullying as a misguided attempt to assert power, reinforce stereotypes, or maintain a sense of superiority over others who possess different identities or characteristics.
The Domino Effect
Children who witness or experience bullying can possibly become bullies themselves. Bullying is a behavior that is learned, and children often imitate what they observe in their surroundings. Some youngsters may engage in bullying to gain acceptance and fit in with their peer group. In certain cases, the school environment may not effectively address or combat these behaviors. This further contributes to the perpetuation of bullying.
When children see bullying, they may internalize these aggressive actions as a means to exert power or control over others. They may view bullying as a normative behavior. They assume that it is an acceptable way to establish social standing or maintain their place within a particular group. Also, the desire to fit in and conform to their peers’ expectations can lead children to adopt bullying. This could mean that they align themselves with the dominant social dynamics of their peer group.
Tips for Parents and Teachers
Preventing bullying requires disrupting patterns of aggression both at home and in school. The key agents of change are the adults who create an environment that fosters positive engagement with all children. They also consistently enforce appropriate consequences for unacceptable behaviors. Nurturing healthy emotional and social development in children necessitates their affirmation and support from the adults in their lives. Children must know that the adults around them genuinely want to spend time with them. They must feel that they are valued as unique individuals.
As children observe adults who model positive behaviors, they also learn that there are clear boundaries. Also, they become aware of the consequences of engaging in aggressive actions. Significantly, these consequences are most effective when administered by caring adults who prioritize the growth and well-being of the children, even while disciplining them.
If you think that your child is being bullied or is a bully, it is best to approach a trusted therapist to address the issue right away. You can visit Mindshift Psychological Services to learn more about therapy or counseling sessions. You may also contact them at (714) 584-9700 to schedule an appointment.