Why Do Children Bully?

Moms and dads often despair when their beautiful child starts showing aggressive behaviour and bullying other children. To be honest, this behaviour might even be apparent from early on, although it often seems to develop as part of toddlerhood. Many parents first notice bullying or aggressive behaviour when their big baby or toddler starts interacting with other children at day care or in social gatherings, though younger siblings may well also be in the firing line.

To try to solve this behaviour, it’s important to take a step back and analyse any possible factors that are contributing to it. These may include the following:

Your child’s inherent nature

Some little ones are more impatient, possessive or dominant than others, just as with adults. There is often a family streak like this, and your challenge is to guide your child in understanding that others should be respected. This is as important for adults to practice as it is for children to learn, so setting a good example is key to ensuring that the problem behaviour is short-lived. The positive side of this factor is that your child may well be a born leader and have a more decisive, outgoing personality. It is not that the bullying habit needs to be ‘broken’, but rather that this strong character needs firm guidance to channel it into socially acceptable, kinder behaviour.

The general nature of children

Little ones are mostly very ‘selfish’ in the first three or four years of life, and learning to share toys, for instance, is a process that may take some time to master. This is also an impulsive and curious phase, and children often seem to disregard others as they pursue their immediate wishes. Combine this general tendency with an inherent strong-willed nature and bullying or aggressive behaviour may result. This doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, but understanding this may help you to structure a plan to defuse tense or aggressive situations. It is important to know that in toddlerhood bullying is not really intentionally mean behaviour.

‘Rough and tough’ parenting

A rather common parenting approach nowadays is the thought that one needs to raise strong, independent children to face a tough, cruel world. This approach shapes the early years of children, who are often left to ‘self-soothe’ or cry themselves to sleep, teased to make them more ‘immune’ to what others think and forcefully shepherded out of ‘baby’ behaviour like breastfeeding, suckling on dummies, and the use of nappies. Surely it is logical that little ones who are raised like this will display aggressive or bullying behaviour more readily; indeed, research shows that this is the case. And yet there are very few parents who find aggression and bullying acceptable, even if they themselves display the adult version of very similar behaviour. They seem to worry that their child’s behaviour is a reflection on their parenting, rather than entertaining the possibility that their parenting approach should be adjusted.

Early separation from parents

One of the most unfortunate spin-offs of modern city life is how it affects the relationship between parent and child, often leading to the neglect of children’s emotional well-being and behaviour. If a baby and small child’s emotional needs are disregarded, poor self-esteem or asocial behaviour is sure to follow.

Of course, it’s possible that some aggressive behaviour really is just a passing phase not worth worrying too much about. That being said, you shouldn’t ignore repetitive signs. Fortunately, both bullying and other forms of aggression are easily handled with the wise use of a few simple techniques.