Though Herb Tannenbaum, PhD, has built most of his career on relationship counseling for couples, he has also established his expertise in child psychology. Dr. Herb Tannenbaum has served for several years as the director of a children’s day camp and has been invited to offer lectures and lead workshops on various aspects of child development, including the persistent problem of bullying.
Exact statistics can vary because of differing definitions of “bullying” and methods of reporting, but in general, traditional bullying has seen a decrease only to be replaced by cyberbullying. Regardless of its form, however, it’s a critical issue because those targeted by bullies are more likely to engage in violence, bring weapons to school, struggle academically, and experience both physical and mental health issues.
Parental response is a key element in addressing bullying. Helpful actions include informing the child that bullying is not uncommon nor the fault of the child, listening to the child’s concerns without offering judgment or reaction, and building the child’s self-confidence through developing extracurricular skills and talents. Actions a parent should avoid include scolding the child, assigning blame, or encouraging any form of retribution. In the event that it becomes necessary to speak to the parents of the bully, offering analysis or judgment of their child is almost certain to cause offense and exacerbate the situation.
For those who discover their child is the bully in this situation, several common factors need to be considered. Many children who bully others do so because they are subjected to disrespect or disregard at home, acting out in order to gain a sense of power or draw attention. Children who are accustomed to leniency and unused to strict restraints might bully out of a sense of entitlement. In some cases, the child has trouble feeling empathy despite coming from a loving home and active parenting. In any case, it’s important to remember that a bully is still a child in need of guidance.