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When it comes to bullying, everyone is hurting—parents, teachers, children, including the bully, believe it or not. It’s a stressful problem that needs to be regulated and identified in children—both in young targets and young oppressors.
Typically, when a child is being bullied, parents might notice some irregular behaviors including a change in appetite and difficulty sleeping. Your child might come home without his favorite action figure or he may even start telling you that he does not want to go to school anymore. Of course, some of the more telling signs are unexplained bumps and bruises, high anxiety, and low self-esteem. It’s only a matter of time for a bullied child to develop an overwhelming amount of negative self-feelings and internalize them.
Bullies, however, direct those negative feelings outward through repeated, aggressive behaviors intended to hurt, humiliate, harass, harm, and hold power. Bullies lack emotional intelligence, which is a child’s awareness of his own emotions and the emotions of others. When a child hurts another with words and with force at such a young age without any intervention from adults, the child does not develop the empathy needed to understand that his actions against his peers are wrong and unacceptable behaviors.
The most effective learning experience for all children, especially those exhibiting bullying tendencies, is to teach them how to use their words to express their feelings. Children will learn that their feelings are valid and fine, and that it’s what they do with those feelings that matter. They must learn to help, not hurt.
Next time, I will be focusing more on parents’ responsibilities in a bullying situation. When is it time to step in and say, “Enough is enough”?