Is Your Grandchild Being Bullied – Or a Bully Themselves?

Most of us who are baby boomers did not experience bullying, at least to any large extent.  Yes, there was always one kid labeled the “school bully,” but fortunately these children represented a very small minority of the school’s population.  It is a much different world today for the grandchildren of the baby-boomer generation.  Bullying in school, on the Internet and via cell phones has become an everyday occurrence in the life of too many children.

When asked the question “Why do some kids bully?” most people answer that they must have been taught to be bullies at home. How else, we ask, could a child develop the kind of cruel behavior that bullies display without experiencing it themselves over a period of time?   Even if this theory is correct, detecting signs that such bullying is going on at home can be very difficult to recognize before the damage is done.

Most people associate bullying with the more physical violence of hitting, shoving, and other more overt forms of abuse and intimidation. But some children become bullies through a subtler, more secretive pathway to bullying; an insidious form of bullying that can remain almost hidden to the outside world. More obvious forms of child abuse that result in cuts, bruises and even broken bones, make it much easier to recognize how an otherwise ‘good’ kid turns into the terror of the schoolyard. After a period of many years, especially during the critical early years of childhood development, the cumulative damage of endless barrages of insults and undeserved criticism can be truly devastating. Steady diets of demoralizing insults can come in measured tones that the neighbors or even other family members can’t hear and eventually lead to personality disorders that make a child’s life a living hell to endure.

Anti-social tendencies in kids damaged by this kind of bullying at home can result in hurtful behavior towards others that is much harder to recognize at first. Harassment of other kids on social media like Facebook, malicious gossiping in the school yard, and other such forms of acting out are much less obvious at first to identify. But even these subtler forms of bullying can make other children’s lives miserable in ways they’ll have to live with for the rest of their lives. One such child bully can leave a wake of damage through other children’s memories that’s truly hardly to assess.

This doesn’t mean that all bullying stems from low self-esteem. Some kinds are the result of an exaggerated self-esteem and over-entitlement that makes it very difficult for the bully to have any real consideration or concern for others. Kids that are allowed to act without consequences at home can often develop a sense of little or no limits to their behavior. In its most extreme forms, such bullying can explode with catastrophic consequences. We hear countless stories about the ‘nice’ kid next door with ‘nice’ parents and siblings that never cause problems around the neighborhood. All too often there’s a surprise ending to the story where the very same ‘nice’ kid goes off one day and explodes in some shocking, disastrous way. It seems impossible that his or her family is somehow to blame; how could it happen?

This is by no means to say that kids that bully always have their parents or immediate family to blame. A family can be wonderfully supportive and still have their child turn into a bully right in front of their eyes without understanding how it could be happening. It’s altogether possible that the damage could be caused by external threats of violence and social humiliation from the child’s neighborhood environment. The very real threats of gang violence or malicious prejudice can turn otherwise non-violent kids into copy-cat thugs as a way to survive even an innocent walk to and from school.

There are some other very basic things that we know about bullies and how they came to be that way. First of all, bullying is not the product of race, creed or religion and most certainly not the result of any particular social or economic status. Bullies can be found in every country and culture on earth.

The most compelling truth about why some kids come to be bullies is that there can be no hard and fast rule that would help us predict, let alone prevent, any given child from becoming a bully. The best any of us can do to stop bullying, as grandparents, parents, teachers or friends, is to be vigilant and intervene quickly and decisively when the warning signs of bullying first appear in our children’s lives.

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