Bullying is usually classified as a person's actions or words that intentionally hurt another person or group of people. It could either be a one-time occurrence or evolve over a period of time, but typically includes physical abuse (such as hitting or pinching), teasing (such as name-calling), and any sort of intimidating language, exclusion, or gesture that belittles someone else. A bully is someone that embodies all of this behavior over a short or long period of time.
Many teachers may be inclined to assume that children who bully others are simply mean-hearted or cruel. While some children may enjoy the feeling of bullying others, there is nearly always a reason behind this abhorrent behavior. Searching for the reasons behind the bullying will help early childhood educators interact with their students more authentically by meeting the needs of both the bullies and those who are bullied.
Characteristics of a bully
The most obvious characteristics of a bully are found in children with domineering personalities who lack empathy, struggle to follow classroom rules, do not have a problem with violence or harsh language, and who may become easily frustrated. Meanwhile, other bullies could be less overt, tending to put others down for their lack of abilities or excluding their peers from playing with them. Being diligent about finding any potential risk factors will help teachers identify the bullies in their classroom so that they can begin to understand the reason behind their behavior.
Main risk factors for bullying behavior
The majority of children who bully come from home situations where there is a lack of family warmth or support. This may cause young children to not understand how to properly treat their classmates or earn attention from their family through any other actions other than acting out. On the other hand, over-permissive parents may allow children to have too much freedom, exposing them to violence or poor behavior. Young children are impressionable and may believe that these actions are the best ways to behave.
Meanwhile, other children may be acting out because they come from an extremely strict home environment and are putting down others as a way to come to terms with their own struggles. To address all of these contributing risk factors, educators should not only treat all of their students with respect and warmth, but should not quickly write off their classrooms' bullies as lost causes.
Making it clear that you will not tolerate your students being mean to others, along with teaching lessons and providing activities about how to nicely treat their classmates, will help young children be able to distinguish right from wrong.
Abolishing a common myth about bullying
One of the most common myths about bullies is that the bullies themselves have lower self-esteem than those that they are bullying. While this may be the case in certain situations, overwhelming evidence suggests that bullies actually have above-average self-esteem, making them feel more confident by putting down their less-confident peers. To address this myth, teachers can focus their classroom instruction on building positive self-esteem and appreciating all kinds of achievements.
Many bullies may be overly confident because they either receive too much praise at home or far too little. Teaching your students to appreciate diversity in all of its forms will help them to realize that there is nothing good to gain from making others feel bad about their own abilities.
At ProSolutions Training, we offer a wide selection of online child care courses, such as "Bullying Basics: Recognizing Bullying Behaviors and Risk Factors," for interested early childhood educators. Contact us today to learn more!