Experts often state that kids bully other kids for one of multiple reasons. First, bullies identify kids that appear to be emotionally or physically weaker than other kids. This is the “unwritten mantra” of all bullies.

A bully’s self-esteem typically is low or destroyed. They try to raise their self-esteem by picking on and belittling other children. It seems that most typical bullies need to feel more important or popular by intimidating and dominating others. They often are acting out what they see at home, a lack of basic respect for others.

Bullying Has Changed in the Last Four, Five and Six Decades

In the “old” days of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, kids were expected to solve the “bully problem” themselves. Even the Classic Christmas Movie, “A Christmas Story,” has, as a subplot involving protagonist, Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), tormented by the neighborhood bully, Scut Farkus (Zack Ward). Even in this comedy, Ralphie was expected to handle the much-bigger bully himself—which he eventually does, giving Farkus a beating.

Historically, bullying seldom made headlines, as it does in modern society. Also, the “rules” have changed to prohibit children from solving the bullying by themselves. The popular focus spotlights teaching kids not to bully in the first place. Long-term this is a smart policy (to eradicate bullying before it begins) to sap the self-esteem of victims.

In all cases, it’s vital for parents to address the problem immediately after finding out their child may be a bully. From a victim perspective, parents should help their kids learn how to handle a bully without resorting to violence. The key is to take bullying seriously, as it can lead to more dangerous behavior as the bully gets older with more damaging results.

How to Teach Your Kids to Treat Others with Respect

If your child gets in trouble for bullying, tell the child that it’s wrong to ridicule other kids that are “different.” Impress on the child (as long as it takes) that his/her behavior will not be tolerated from this day on. Make a point of stressing that you will not condone this bullying at home, school, or anywhere else.

Take a stronger interest in your child’s behavior at school or any place he/she is bullying. Your child’s “social setting” may be a source of the child’s unacceptable behavior. What can you do?

  • Talk to your child’s teacher(s) to learn if he/she is a bully or victim.

  • Encourage and possibly reward good behavior, particularly if your child is accused of bullying.

  • Display examples of good behavior at home, emphasizing respect and empathy for those who are different from you.

As you can see, changing your child’s behavior (bully or victim) begins at home. Is your child witnessing yelling, harsh criticism, or putdowns from a sibling or parent? Work hard to set a good example of proper behavior, monitor the way you talk to your kids, and be positive and respectful at every opportunity.

Children often adopt the same behavior they see at home. If their self-esteem is impacted, they may try to build it back up by intimidating their schoolmates, they perceive are weaker or different from them.

They will take a specific cue from parental behavior. If left unaddressed, this problem could escalate in the future, sometimes progressing to physical violence, attracting the unwanted attention of law enforcement personnel.

Your child’s self-esteem will not be enhanced, whether he/she is a bully or a victim. Anti-bullying efforts must be consistent, but words only go so far. Actions that display respect and tolerance for others who are different looking will go far in reversing the potential long-term unfavorable results of bullying in all its forms.