Are you raising a bully?
What makes people hurl and drive children to the brink and eventually push them off the edge? Who are these children and what makes them tick?
On Monday, April the 6th, 2009, an 11-year-old Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hung himself after enduring bullying at school, including daily taunts of being gay. His mother pleaded with the school weekly to address the problem but the pleas fell on deaf ears. Carl would have turned 12 on April 17th.
Before you think this is an article that is going to tell you to talk to kids like Carl before something drastic happens, you’re wrong.
Let’s jump to the other side of the story. Carl’s taunt-hurling bully. What makes such people hurl and drive children like Carl to the brink and eventually push them off the edge? Who are these people? Or rather who are these children and what makes them tick?
Studies have often shown that bullying stems from a behavioural pattern observed at home. In other words, violence begets violence. That’s right. Junior didn’t just one day snap and hit his best friend for money to buy an ice cream. These things develop. When children watch parents gaining control over them with the cane or spanking, they immediately see an equation: Beating = Power. Hence, the recess bully is born. They imitate their parents among their peers and realise they can rule over kids who are smaller and younger than them by inflicting pain, just like Mummy and Daddy.
We’re not saying that all children have to be angels. That would be ridiculous and in reality there is no such thing. (That’s right Margaret, your little princess may not be naughty in front of you but we’re sure she has her moments!) A little good ol’ mischief never did anybody any harm. We’re all guilty of it ourselves, aren’t we? Like when we switched the salt with the sugar and Uncle Patrick wondered why his coffee was salty. Or that time we hid nǎinai’s (grandma’s) glasses and helped her look only if she promised to reward us for the effort. But what do we do when mischief crosses the line into the territory of harming someone?
Check your child’s daily routine and see if there are any frustration-‘bombs’ ticking. It could be a certain teacher’s constant ridicule of him in class. It could be a nearing piano exam. Not knowing how to deal with stress properly, children tend to take their frustrations out on others. If your kid enjoys screaming and running all around, this is an indicator that perhaps, your kid has too much energy bottled inside so get those trainers out and let Junior enjoy a fun sprint around the stadium until he has had enough.
How well do you really know your child?
What is his favourite colour?
What does he enjoy doing?
Who is his current favourite singer?
Does he like dogs or cats?
What is the name of his best friend?
If you can’t answer these questions, it’s time you gave up the title of ‘Parent’ because obviously you’re doing a rotten job. Having a child doesn’t mean giving birth and pushing the responsibility to the maid or the grandmother. It is important to form a bond with your child (and no Mom, just because you carried the load for 9 months, doesn’t mean the bond has formed!). Take some time after dinner to have a casual chat with your child, even if he is only 4-years-old. Ask him about his day, do some colouring with him, put on a Barney DVD and make up silly dance moves. You’re not only bonding but you’re paving the way for a good trusting relationship for your child.
There is a common stereotype in Asia that needs to be smashed and that is the way parents treat their roles – one parent is the good cop which is all loving and the other is the bad cop or rather the disciplinarian. Why can’t both parents be the good cops – fun and loving? If you’re ready to yell, ‘because then the kids won’t respect either’ then you’re wrong! Children should be able to come to either parent with problems, friendly chat or a hug. Do not create fear of yourself for your child. What if you’re the disciplinarian and one day your wife has to fly to Japan for a month long business trip? Who is your child going to be able to talk about his problems with?
One thing which parents are guilty of is writing off the misbehaved child in front oh his siblings and others. Embarrassment may be the one thing your child dislikes but don’t use it to change him. If he keeps hearing negative things about him in front of others, chances are, he will start believing in them, himself. “My parents used to tell me I’m not fit for any kind of sports when I failed to make the school soccer team. Pretty soon, I was convinced myself and never took up another sport until a decade later,” remembers Malik Osman, 31.
Talk to your children about rules and boundaries and explain the reason there are such things around. Never use the phrase, ‘because I say so’. That’s ammo for a kid to rebel. If your child is still acting up, perhaps a trip to a counsellor might be a good move. Try not to let you child’s naughtiness escalate into something regrettable in the future.