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Don't Breed A Bully!

If your child is bullied, you'd hardly stand by and do nothing. But what if your child is the bully? You shouldn't stand by and do nothing either. If you notice that your child is disturbingly more aggressive than others, you'd be well-advised to keep an eye on him. A 35-year study conducted in the US by Dr Leonard Eron, a University of Michigan psychologist, found that children who were named by their schoolmates, at age eight, as bullies were often bullies throughout their lives.

What's equally startling: It's been found that "parents of bullies usually support their child's aggressive behavior toward other children and often bully their child", says child psychologist.

Breeding Ground

If home is where it begins, it's also where mum and dad can put an end to the making of a bully. The first step could be to heed the warning signals that your child isn't learning to manage anger. According to Samenow, the red flags are: greater than average aggressive behavior patterns the desire to dominate peers the need to feel in control or to win no remorse for hurting another child a refusal to accept responsibility for his or her behavio

Adds the Committee for Children, "Normal quarrelling or teasing happens between classmates of equal stature or popularity, and it's not prolonged. There is a power differential between a bully and a victim (bullies are often physically larger than other students).

They find enjoyment in continuously harassing the same few classmates, and they intend harm - a goal lacking among schoolchildren engaged in normal conflict." However, most researchers believe that children can't be considered true bullies until they're four or five.

"Before that age, most children haven't developed the mental complexity of wanting to cause pain to others," Dr Peter Randall, a senior research fellow at the University of Hull in England and an expert on bullying, has said to Child magazine. "A two-year-old may get angry and kick or punch, but it's impulsive behavior."

Home Therapy

Next, parents can take active steps toward breaking the vicious cycle by taking a look at their own behavior.

Problem: Verbal bullies.

Do: Watch your own language.

"Adults who use sarcastic and verbally abusive language when they talk to children are modelling behavior that will likely be rehearsed on the playground," says the Committee for Children, citing work done by psychologist Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence. "Social skills can be learnt, and bullies seem to be children who have lacked positive reinforcement for displaying caring, empathic behaviour."

Problem: Physical Bullies

Do: Watch how you punish misbehavior.

Reconsider the use of physical punishment as the only way to get your child to behave appropriately. Besides fostering resentment, this method inadvertently sends out the message that you can get what you want if you bully people! And while your child may behave for you out of fear, he is much more likely to misbehave around others who don't have such a scary hold over him.

Speaking to Psychology Today, psychologist Gerald Patterson of the Oregon Social Learning Centre recommends non-hostile, non-threatening, non-physical sanctions instead. For these to be effective, however, they have to be consistent.

Further Action

The experts are unanimous in agreeing that concerned parents should not ignore frequent angry outbursts, excessive fighting or bullying of other children or animals. If necessary, seek professional help for your child. No matter how bullies turn up, it remains that they're usually the ones who end up hurting the most. Psychology Today has reported:

"Most bullies have a downwardly spiralling course through life, their behaviour interfering with learning, friendships, work, intimate relationships, income and mental health." "Bullies turn into antisocial adults, and are far more likely than non-aggressive kids to commit crimes, batter their wives, abuse their children - and produce another generation of bullies."

To stop them from hurtling down their self-destructive track, mums and dads need to establish a climate in which bullying is not tolerated - and enforce it, particularly at home.

Been There?

Particularly for boys, blame can also be laid on what's called the "coercion parenting model". Mum says, "Pack up the toys on the floor, sweetheart." No response even after a second request. She shouts, "If you don't pack up the toys, I'm going to smack you."

"The child is controlling the mother by his noncompliance," psychologist Gerald Patterson told Psychology Today. "These are not crazy parents. They get caught in a process that is controlling their behavior."

Do: Stay in touch with what's really going on. Patterson suggests parents make the misbehavior cost. Name a chore, or confiscate his Gameboy for a week. But inconsistent use of ineffective punishment winds up intermittently rewarding defiance.


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