Why do children bully?

November 29, 2022

How does a beautiful baby grow up to be a bully—or to abduct, rape, or shoot another human being? At the extreme, how does such an innocent infant become a sociopath or psychopath?

When discipline is not enough

I propose that it’s often not discipline that’s lacking, but a connection to the child’s feelings that’s been severed. Any disciplinary tactics the parent used is not enough and can perpetuate the child’s feeling of disconnection. Lack of heart creates the bully, the criminal, the rapist, and the psychopath, not a lack of discipline. Discipline is good and needed, but when is not accompanied with warmth and love, it can cause more harm.

As a feeling of unworthiness wells up in the child, they are left with only two possible recourses. The first is to stuff their feelings down, which leads to anxiety or self-harm, such as eating disorders or cutting, and in severe cases depression. The second is for the child to project onto others how badly they feel about themselves. Disempowered, they seek to disempower others. Treated like an object, they objectify others.

Lack of heart creates the bully, the criminal, the rapist, and the psychopath, not a lack of discipline.

When a child’s own voice has been either neglected or bullied into silence, the child can no longer respond to this voice, which is how they lose touch with the natural empathy of one human for another. Terrible things can then result, both for the individual and for those who cross their path.

Bullying is learned at home

When we respond to a behaviour such as hitting with the same kind of behaviour, we send our children a lethal message: “It’s okay to hit if you’re an adult, but not okay if you are small and powerless.” If a child hits, it’s often because they feel disempowered in some way. Hitting them for hitting someone only serves to further disempower them, which in turn increases their need to defend themselves, leading to further hitting for self-protection and thereby creating a bully

What can you do as a parent?

A parent needs to invest time and energy into redirecting the child each time the child lashes out, teaching them how to use other forms of communication.

The manner in which we ourselves respond to frustration can help our child develop a repertoire of more helpful responses to their feeling of powerlessness. Instead of disciplining children, which is inevitably directed toward compliance, parents need to teach their child to know their feelings and not be afraid to speak up if something isn’t right. Coming to our children’s aid when a situation becomes severe is important, but it’s also essential that we are attuned to their needs from a young age and teach them to be fearless when it comes to being their own advocates.  

Again, the issue is that parents who are disconnected from their own true feelings and needs will often fail to help their children, since they can’t connect in the way their children require. Our disconnection manifests in the chasm between mind versus heart, doing versus being, ideology versus practice, institutionalized religion versus spirituality, and countless other ways.

Prevention – the best cure

If we are to end bullying, all eyes need to turn to the parent-child relationship. Intervention programs at school can only touch the surface level of this complex problem, which has far deeper roots. Intervention needs to begin in the family at an early age, so that children learn to stand up for themselves. When a child is honoured for the unique individuals they are, they feel no need to assert themselves in an unhealthy manner.

If you enjoyed reading the article and you are eager to learn more, I recommend you one of my favourite parenting books: Out of control: why disciplining your child doesn’t work and what will, by Shefali Tsabary.

If you are worried that your child is being bullied in school, out of school, or online, please be sure to speak to a member of staff. Here is a short article you might like to read to help identify some of the signs that may indicate that your child is experiencing bullying behaviour at school:

Parents Should Play Their Part To Prevent Bullying In Schools – KoKoa Magazine