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The writer is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist.
Bullying is an unhealthy behaviour in which one creates a threatening environment deliberately for others in different scenarios. And the person who displays such behaviour is called a “bully”. Usually, it exists in academic institutions and is observed in various forms and types. I.e. it can be either physical (hitting, punching, slapping, or pushing), emotional/psychological as well as verbal (name-calling or threats), or nonverbal (gestures involving aggressiveness). It generally involves certain types of personality traits and psychological states, starting from an early age in children, for instance, pre-teen or adolescent years. Kids often turn to a bully when they feel threatened, revengeful or incapable in general. They take it as a coping mechanism, which is unhealthy in nature. It is easier for someone to bully rather than to communicate their concerns in a proper manner in ways to resolve them. Many researchers mention that they are not aware of their inner conflicts, and bullying becomes an automatic reaction.
It is important to know that certain factors around bullying come from the home environment since a home is considered a basic and primary teaching institute. Children learn from their parents and older siblings to respond to life situations and create solutions; if they behave aggressively and in an intimidating fashion, the same is imitated and internalized by the young children. Parents who beat or scream at their children establish the chain of command by force, actually teaching the lesson that anger is the only force that can be applied if somebody is not adhering to their needs.
Moreover, children become bullies at such a tender age because they, for some reason, are unable to develop appropriate social skills for problem-solving to deal with the challenges of their lives, like academic stress, relationships, peer pressure etc. During the developing phases of their life, i.e. later childhood, early teens, and adulthood, children do learn ways of working on their problems and social conflicts. Therefore, children who are unable to do so adequately in their developing years, often become bullies at later stages of life; they think aggression and abuse is the only solution.
As parents, we often are likely to be in denial of the fact that our children can also be bullies. Hence, it is important to accept this very notion because only after accepting it, can we start working on ways to mitigate this behaviour. For instance, it is evident that when children act out more than often and force others to comply, they exhibit bullying behaviour. There is a strong need to start accountability at home for their behaviour in a tamed way. Instead of saying that “we don’t do such and such a thing in our house”, it is important to directly use words like “you are responsible for this behaviour, and it is not acceptable.” If children are confronted in a proper way, for their unacceptable behaviour, they learn that abuse in any form is not acceptable. It is also important to give your children a stable, secure, and emotionally woke environment so that they learn how to channel feelings and emotions healthily rather than exhibiting aggression. Most importantly, it is essential to provide children with various learning outlets to develop skills related to managing conflicts with self and others. It is extremely important to teach them the desired behaviour, which means modelling the same whatever is being desired from them.