This week, I’ll be writing the first in my two part series about bullying.
Although it has always existed, bullying in schools has become a more common phenomenon in recent years. But, what happens when the bullying is now happening well before our children even enter school?
There are many different definitions of bullying and there is often disagreement on how extensive the behaviour has to be before it is considered to be bullying.
For the purpose of this blog, I am going to define bullying as ‘repeated acts of aggression – physical, verbal or emotional – aimed at other individuals for the sole purpose of hurting or intimidating them’.
So are we able to identify bullies as early as toddlerhood? Bullying occurs at all ages, and yes, there are often signs of it even in the toddler years. A fun play date can often turn stressful as one toddler tries to hit, bite, steal toys or intimidate the others. Hardly a fun play date. These behaviours are often a normal part of growing up – protecting territory, learning to share and compromise. But on occasion, without proper intervention, these behaviours could be indicative of more severe intimidation tactics down the road.
In the early years, it is often difficult for parents to differentiate normal behaviour (children taking toys from one another, with no malicious intent) from bullying (which has malicious intent). So how do you deal with a toddler who is bullying?
Do you scold them? Do you encourage them to work it out between themselves?
It is often a difficult decision for parents to make. You want to encourage your children to stand up for themselves, and not rescue them, but you also don’t want them to become the victims of bullying or learn to bully others.
Research has shown that people who are bullied or abused by their peers are at higher risk than the average population of developing mental health problems, suffer from low self esteem, higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety. These people also have a higher incidence of suicide or attempted suicide.
Bullies themselves are also at risk of problems in the long term. Bullying is violent behaviour, even if it is verbal or emotional. Bullying in school often leads to more bullying as children grow up, leading to increased incidence of drug and alcohol addiction as well as greater representation in the criminal justice system.
Clearly, violence in any form is not considered a viable solution, and the best way to teach your children to stand up for themselves is by setting a good example.
Image: Courtesy of GreaK
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