Experiencing family, community and/or school trauma or significant difficulties can lead to a child relating to others in aggressive and manipulative ways. Some reasons for this can include:
- Lower self-esteem: the use of bullying to gain power and acceptance
- Poor coping skills: children learn from what they see. If they see adults solving problems using violence, then they are more likely to do the same.
- Egocentricity: Children who feel under threat, whose mental health is of concern, can become less concerned about the impact or consequences of their actions as they fight to “survive” emotionally.
- Insecurity: Being unable to trust adults, or feeling vulnerable when with them, can lead to defiance. Would you do something you had been told to do by someone you don’t trust?
These characteristics can lead to a life-time of social difficulties. BUT….
… It doesn’t have to be this way. The course of a child’s life can be changed by a kind but firm word, informal and formal counselling and support, friendship, respect, mentorship, positive role models who really care unconditionally…
In short, helping a child feel secure, supported, loved, accepted and understood, whilst being challenged to learn and change their behaviour is likely to help them avoid being bullies for life.
This doesn’t explain the behaviour of all children who bully, nor is it in any way implying that all children who have experienced any of the mentioned risk factors will become bullies. It is just about helping professionals and parents untangle to mystery of bullying, and identify what solution may best fit individual bullying events.
Walker, H.M. and Sprague, J.R. (1999). The Path to School Failure, Delinquency, and Violence: Causal Factors and Some Potential Solutions. Intervention in School and Clinic, 35(2), pp67-73.