INA Weekly Brief

The Integral Role That Childcare Specialists + Educators Play In Ending Childhood Bullying: Part One

June 26, 2017
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Bullying is one of the most significant dilemmas facing our children in present times. It can leave a traumatic impact on the child’s life that may manifest even into adulthood. In severe cases, bullying has resulted in serious injuries and even suicide.

Many people still think that bullying is just a ‘normal’ part of growing up, and as a result of this dismissive attitude, many victims and perpetrators often go overlooked and ignored. With proper attention and safeguarding measures taken, both victims and perpetrators can be helped, and the necessary skills to handle conflict can be effectively coached. People who are closer, like parents, siblings, family and friends, can play a majorly influential role in bringing a positive difference in both the victim and perpetrators lives. However, other people like nannies and educators invested in the children’s lives can often see the issues up close and personal and have the unique opportunity to step in and make a difference.

What is Bullying?

According to one of the publications at the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), bullying is defined as a form of aggression that a child will repeatedly display towards another. A bully will intentionally intimidate, physically harm, or even harass another person who is generally unable to defend themselves. Two key elements in bullying behavior include repetition of the aggressive behavior and the development of an unhealthy power dynamic that is coercive and asymmetric.

Signs of Bullying

Signs of Perpetrators

While help for victims of bullying is important, to truly eradicate bullying, it is absolutely necessary to nip the negative behavior in the bud. To this end, it is important that relevant, influential, and involved adults pay attention to the signs of someone bullying others.

Kids that may be bullying their peers may show the following signs:

  • Prone to physical and verbal fights
  • Have friends that are known to bully
  • Excessively aggressive
  • Put blame for their problems on others
  • Deny responsibility for their actions
  • May show competitive behavior
  • Are known for troubling behavior at school
  • Worry about their reputation and popularity

Signs of Victims

Children who are bullied may show certain changes in their behaviors and as childcare providers, we need to be extremely aware and perceptive of these changes. However, it’s also vital to keep in mind that not all victims show warning signs. With some children, it is often easy to overlook the signs and symptoms of a bullied child. It is important to be conscious of your nanny kids day-to-day life and monitor their typical behavior patterns for any changes. Ask questions about their interactions with their peers and stay involved and invested in genuine connection with them so that should they find themselves in a dangerous or uncomfortable social situation, they know they can trust you to support and nurture them.

Following are the signs that may be exhibited by bullied children:

  • Come home with unexplainable injuries
  • Lose or destroy clothing or belongings
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Experience difficulty sleeping, including nightmares
  • Prone to show reluctance about school
  • Decline in class participation and grades
  • Avoid social situations and has fewer friends
  • Lack of self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Show self-destructive behavior including running from home and self-harm
  • May talk about suicide
  • Show actual signs of illness or may fake it to avoid social situations

Why Children Become Bullies?

There is no doubt that children acting out as bullies are typically seeking attention, affirmation, and emotional security and interestingly enough are often bullied themselves by adults, other children, or even their own siblings. Studies indicate that children are not born violent, but rather become violent and intimidating as a result of the environment and social factors in which they are raised. Addressing the well-being of the perpetrators and identifying ways that their emotional health can be supported is essential to truly impact and end bullying. There are significant reasons behind why a person chooses to mentally or physically harass others and as a caretaker, we need to be empathetic in seeking an understanding of which factors are involved and precipitating this negative behavior.

One of the common reasons that children may become bullies is due to a lack of affirming attention and genuine, meaningful connection with their loved ones. This emotional neglect can be the consequence of divorced parents or other difficult family conditions like addiction to drugs or alcohol. Another main reason for the bullying behavior can be the presence of violent role models in the children’s life. Bullied children often learn their violent behavior from other violent people in their lives, oftentimes parents, older siblings, or other socially significant mentors. Despite the destruction and danger that this behavior can cause, it is so important to remember that this behavior can be corrected and even unlearned.

Particularly with younger perpetrators, they are often unaware that their actions are having such a negative impact on their targets. They are so often just reenacting the hurtful jabs and social belittling that they have experienced, and are simply mirroring this behavior to their peers. They are so often unaware of how to properly employ compassion and kindness because they haven’t been shown that example, but these children can be exposed to such emotions through proper guidance and effective corrective measures, and then learn how to embrace empathy courageously.

As nannies, childcare specialists and educators, we spend a huge amount of time with children under our supervision. If close attention is paid, we can easily recognize and correct the dangerous and violent behaviors around bullying. Keep your eyes peeled for part two of this series on bullying to better understand the consequences of bullying, and how you can make a difference.