According to research and contrary to popular belief, bullying is not always experienced or learned just in the schoolyard. If you’re thinking this may refer to negative behaviour between siblings, cousins and other relatives—it’s just half the story. It may surprise as well as upset many of us parents to learn that such destructive behaviour may actually be exhibited by and learned from mum and dad at home.
A media report citing UNICEF findings that Canada has one of the highest bullying rates among developed countries further suggests the problem is more critical than we like to acknowledge. And it’s time to take corrective action, especially if the kids’ primary role models viz. parents are the perpetrators.
While much has been said about bullies on the playground, the influence of negative parent-child relationships on bullying has barely been touched upon. This may take the form of berating labels as well as physical punishment. Those of us from India and other South Asian countries are familiar with both approaches and may think nothing of using them. In fact, some still believe it’s the most effective way to parent and will say so. However closer observations of children while playing with their friends or toys might expose the ugly truth.
Several years ago, Indian commercials with kids mimicking the domestic violence they see at home during play surfaced on Facebook and other social media. The aim was to show how abuse affected children as well as helped perpetuate the violence. After all, children model their behaviour on that of one or both parents!
That aggressive parenting can create bullies is not news, just a negative tactic we prefer to sugar coat as tough love. But there is a fine line between assertiveness and bullying. One that is easily crossed to force children into submission. Using physical coercion to keep one’s kids in line teaches them that it is acceptable normal behaviour. One can hardly fault them then for using similar tactics with their classmates and friends.
This aggressiveness can have more serious consequences for boys who may use fistfights to settle arguments and other issues. What’s more some parents may see this as normal based on their own experiences. Even encourage them to do so or admonish them for being “soft” when they don’t.
Bullying at home leads to bullying in school as kids will treat others how they have been treated. Since children spend much of their early formative years at home before they get to school, such negative behaviours may be difficult to unlearn. Especially when they are being reinforced daily in the home. The effects can last long term with bullied children bullying their schoolmates and friends, and ultimately their partners and kids.
Find all this hard to accept? Consider how quickly we point fingers at parents of children who act up. That’s what “an apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree’’ means! However, when it comes to our own kids, we believe their friends might be a bad influence or blame it on the genes of a distant relative.
It is important to realize that the way a child is treated and disciplined at home forms the roadmap for his/her behaviour towards others. Berating your kids on the sports field is a case in point.
Studies show that both genders engage in bullying though they may take different forms. Boys might respond physically like their fathers while girls may resort to manipulation and exclusion like their mothers. Name calling is common to both and likely to be inspired by the home environment.
If your child has been reprimanded for aggressive or bullying behaviour, it’s worth examining how the home environment may have contributed to the situation. This involves monitoring your own behaviour towards your spouse and children as well as the relationship between your kids. Any aggression between siblings and towards pets should also be taken seriously.
Child rearing and discipline can be tough subjects to tackle. Each family may use a different approach. But any of form physical, emotional and mental bullying is definitely detrimental and can have long-term consequences on the psyche of your child. -CINEWS