How much of the bully/victim dynamic is learned at home? What do you think?

From what I have seen, kids act out what they have experienced, and what they have learned. It makes sense. The only question is, where do our children learn how to bully and be bullied?

Could interactions at home effect the behavior we see in our neigborhoods or at school? Is the parent the original bully? Yikes. Let’s take a look:

An aggressive kind of bullying uses physical or verbal force to exert one’s will. If I’m to be honest, behaviors on the playground look quite like some of the parental behaviors at home. As parents we can:

– be rough, grab, or hit
– yell or shout down
– name call, tease, or ridicule
– threaten (If you don’t do x, then…)

It makes me sad to admit I’ve engaged in every one of these behaviors.

It’s easy for me to see that we could be inadvertently teaching our kids how to bully and be bullied.


But that’s not all.

What about the mental/emotional bullying that has seen an increase of late? It is called relational aggression. You might know it as passive aggressive bullying. It’s where one uses emotional coercion as the force to exert one’s will.

–Some examples of relational bullying at school–

1. Isolating, ignoring, and shunning certain children until those children act the way the bully wants.

2. Exclusion/Ganging up: “You are not allowed to join our group. Or, If you want to join, you have to do what I say.”

3. Picking on kids, criticizing weaker children

4. Playing favorites/Playing friends against one another. Using friendship (the relationship) as a means to control. “I’m friends with her now, not you” “If you don’t do X, I won’t be your friend”.

Some examples of Parenting at home:

1. Isolation/Ignoring – “Go away, sit here by yourself, go to your room until you are sorry and act the way we want you to act.”

2. Exclusionary Consequences – “You are not allowed to join in because you did X.” Or, “Do what we want… or you will not be able to join in the activity.”

3. Correcting/controlling though negative commands and assessments of children’s behavior rather than positive guidance. “Stop that” “Come here!” “That’s not right” “Why are you doing that?”

4. Playing favorites/relational coercion – Over praising and being more loving to the child who is doing what you want them to do, so the other sees it, feels bad, and then complies. Or comparing: “Why can’t you what (insert other “better child”) is doing?”

Yikes indeed. It seems there could a link between the behavior we seen in our children at school and what children experience at home. However, I haven’t met many other parents willing to acknowledge these similarities.

Why is this so hard to see? Why so hard to admit and address? The truth will always be: we teach by what we do, not by what we say. The buck stops there.

I know this might be hard for some parents to acknowledge. It was for me. However with this realization, came freedom. I got to choose something better. For me, accepting full responsibility for my own actions has allowed me to learn and grow, in parenting and beyond. If you are willing to see things for what they are, I believe you too can have a truly positive impact on the lives of your children.

Learn positive and empowering skills in relating to your children. Work with me.

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