“You’re stupid!” as a young child in day care cowers in the corner. “Nobody likes you!” followed by kicking and hitting by an older child trying to show he is tough and in control!  Sound strange or unreal for kids ages 3-5 years old?  Well it’s happening more over the past two years with the additional stress of the economy.  The economical stress causes additional marital stress on possibly an already stressful marriage.  So this “baby bully” observes his parents fighting, calling names, hitting, kicking, slapping and the child feels his family life is out of control.

Interview below with Bully Expert Jim West, MA, LMHC


The child wouldn’t even consider acting out or trying to take control at home, but rather mimics his parents behavior at school.  Additionally, parents like these are often working two jobs and they are distracted while their children are playing inappropriately or bullying.  The child may have trouble sharing like most young children, but may not receive a consequence or redirection.  The bully’s parents may miss that the child is verbally abusive or physically aggressive when the child does not get their way.  If this behavior happens over a period of time then the bullying forms negative patterns in their social interactions.

Is it a cry for help, or just copying behavior?

Below are 4 reasons kids bully in general:

  • Poor Boundaries, Limits and Lack of Discipline
    • Children need to know their limits and consequences for not sharing, for taking toys, for physical or emotional abuse, etc.  Without the appropriate boundaries and discipline a child grows up with strong insecurities that can be carried on throughout adulthood.
  • What does Insecurity Cause.
    • Without boundary setting in childhood, bullies do not have secure feelings about who they are.
  • False Affirmation
    • Bullies constantly knock other’s down psychologically with verbal and physical abuse in an effort to draw attention away from their insecurities.
    • They will still be nice to their friends, but their friends may only spend time with the bully in an effort to not be a target.
    • The bully’s friends may also be friends with the victim.  The victim will feel hurt more by their friend joining in on the teasing with the bully, but the friend can be charming to the victim when the bully is not around.
  • Inability to Show Empathy
    • The bully may be able to read emotions experienced by those around them, but have an inability to empathize with the feelings of others.  The bully will only act out when experiencing unwanted feelings.  His parents may have given in to his outbursts as a child and rescue him when in trouble at school and therefore the bully did not feel the discomfort of getting in trouble.  Without feeling the same feeling as their victims, it will be very difficult to understand how others feel.

What can a parent do if they hear their child is a bully?

  1. Get past your Denial.  Most parents deny their child is a bully and will try to shift the blame on another child.
  2. Give your child the boundaries they need when they are in the wrong by supporting the day care attendants or teachers when they say your child has trouble with bullying.
  3. Use the AMC planto repair the relationship and the trust between the Bully and the Victim:
    1. A-Apologize:  ”I apologize for hurting you, I was wrong and will try never to do it again.  Will you forgive me!”
    2. M-Make it Up:  Say 4 Nice Character Traits and Do Something Nice – “You are a Nice Person, Great at Math, Good at Sports and Intelligent.”  ”Let me Carry your Backpack for the day or get your Trash at lunch this week!”
    3. C-Consequence: “If this happens again I will repeat the A-M steps of the AMC plan plus do an extra Chore or Task like carry your backpack from Drop off to the class and from the class to Pick up and get your trash at lunch for the week.
  4. Don’t Rescue your child when they are wrong.  Believe the teacher or day care worker before believing your child.  Let them have the consequences and ask them how they felt when they were in trouble.  Ask them if their victim may have experienced similar feelings.  This will help your child to develop empathy.  When your child experiences the pain of consequences this is good.  Pain’s purpose is for us to learn from the experience so we can not feel that pain again.  Rescuing is when we try to help the child avoid the pain or consequences of their behavior.eb8686eee34748b88dea7cb1069cfc5f

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