Up to 30% of kids occasionally or regularly engage in aggressive behavior. Fewer do it on a regular basis. Is your baby a bully? According to Dan Olweus, a Swedish psychologist and an expert on bullying, bullying involves repeated, aggressive behavior with a negative intent from one child to another, where there is a power difference.
Hara Estroff Marano, in “Why Doesn't Anybody Like Me?” noted, “Children who are rejected because of aggressive tendencies are not `bad.' They are unable to decode or `read' emotion effectively, so they misperceive and misinterpret social signals in others.”
When Your Baby's a Bully
A child who is chronically aggressive feels out of control, and tries to get what he wants and needs by taking it from others or otherwise asserting his power over them. While bullies are usually strong and social, the bully doesn't have many friends. Kids, ultimately, reject a bully.
Here's a bit more information about chronic aggression and what you can do if your child is engaging in bullying behavior:
- The child who is bullying others wants social success, but doesn't know how to attain it. He's grabbing for it, instead of being kind, interested in others, and empathetic.
- Your child doesn't need your rejection or anger, he's getting more than enough of that at school. He needs your support, and your skills.
- Kids who bully are hypersensitive, and often feel a bit paranoid, as though people are out to “get” them. They aren't skilled at reading social situations, and they often register unintentional slights or accidents as direct attacks.
- Kids tend to initially like a child who bullies; they try to please him, follow his lead, and want to be his friend. This doesn't last—as kids become more frightened of him, he loses clout.
- Your child may need help understanding social structure. He doesn't know how to contribute to others, or to share.
- “Boys will be boys” is not a valid excuse for bullying behavior.
- The kid who is bullying others often gets into trouble, but always has a scapegoat.
- Don't label or let others label him a bully. People can change, and aggressive tendencies can be channeled.
- Consider that chronic aggression may be a sign of a learning disability or other problems.
- Don't pity your child, but take action to improve his communication skills. Let him know why is having trouble making friends, “Joe, kids aren't friends with people who hit them and are angry all the time.”
- Engage your child in a problem-solving session, or brainstorm ways for your child to get his friends back or make new ones. Make sure the ideas come from your child, or, at least, are adopted by him.
- Bullying an aggressive child will not teach him anything.
- Be specific, consistent, provide a lot of positive reinforcement, and set very clear limits. Show no tolerance for aggressive behavior. The only way to truly stop bullying is to create a climate where aggressive behavior is consistently not tolerated.