If your child is a bully, is it your fault?

Kimberly - posted on 10/05/2010 ( 53 moms have responded )

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Who is to blame for bullying behavior?



Edited to add: Do you wait for the bullying to occur or do you proactively talk to your children to make them aware of the hurt they can cause before it ever takes place?

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Johnny - posted on 10/07/2010

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When I was working with children, I never had to deal with a child bully whose parents were not bullies themselves to some degree. The kids who attacked other children for their race, or size, or appearance always had parents who I had already heard express these sorts of opinions themselves. The parents are not necessarily picking on other people, but when they drive down the street with the kids in the back and make insulting comments about the people walking down the street, kids pick up on that pretty quick and assume it's acceptable.

At one program I worked at, we actually finally had to remove one kid for bullying. His parents did nothing to stop it, defended his actions constantly and were always blaming the other kids. When the parents were informed we were kicking him out, the dad made threatening phone calls to the administrator and our boss took out a restraining order against him. Gee, wonder where the kid learned to be like that. He'd been suspended from school originally too.

I feel very responsible to teach my daughter not to bully. I plan to involve her in a roots of empathy program and follow a few other techniques I've read up on to help them learn empathy & compassion. I am also trying to be very careful of expressing opinions about others that could give her the impression that mean commentary is okay.

Amie - posted on 10/07/2010

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Yes it is the parents fault. Argh!

Nothing drives me up the damn wall more than a parent who knows nothing of their child! We have a bully that lives around the corner. His parents don't give two craps. Awesome.
The ones with their heads in the sand are great too. "Oh my Jonny would NEVER do that." Are you kidding me?! You have an adult standing here telling you what they saw! *head/desk*

They learn the behavior somewhere. Whether it's at home from their parents or out from other 'friends'. Each scenario the parents are to blame. You are responsible for setting a good example and for making sure you know your childrens friends and their families. I don't know why this is lost on people now a days.

This is the leading reason we don't let our daughter go to a few friends houses. We know the friends, and while they seem ok, their parents have yet to meet us. They are ok with their kids coming here, which I find odd since they've never met us. So it works out for our daughter. But really, what if we were complete assholes? What if we were a bad influence?

Parental responsibility seems to be going down the crapper. I believe it's the reason so many kids go astray. I know my kids, I know what they are capable of. I know they have their off days where they are little turds. I have no problem accepting this. It's not a reflection of my parenting because they are not like this day in and day out. Argh!

Ok, done ranting. =)

[deleted account]

Before! My husband was bullied most of his life because he was the English kid in a French school and he was also the short chubby one...

This is not something that will ever be tolerated to any degree in our household whether our children are the bullies, the bullied or the bystanders.

We talk about constructive ways to solve issues, the impact of violence (physical or emotional), tolerance, etc. My husband has been scarred for life by those bullies and I never want my children to be part of that cycle. Education is the key IMO.

I am going to read the Barbara Coloroso's "The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander" as soon as I am done her other book. Her approach is logical and looks at the long term results not only the immediate impact.

Johnny - posted on 10/09/2010

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The parents taking responsibility for the child's bad behavior does not negate the need and expectation for the child to ALSO take responsibility as well. I don't see anyone on here at all suggesting that we should let off these bullies and not force them to account for their actions. Parental responsibility & individual responsibility are not mutually exclusive. Do as I say and not as I do never turns out to be a particularly effective parenting technique.

JuLeah - posted on 10/05/2010

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Bully behavior is learned behavior. I don't think 'fault' is a good way to look at it. Blame seldom results in a positive outcome, but somehow this child has gotten the idea that the behavior is okay or expected. Something is not working in this kids life. It doesn't mean the kid is bad, or that the parents' are bad, just that something needs to change; new lessons need to be learned. If handled correctly, the whole family might be better off for the effort put into the needed changes.

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Jodi - posted on 10/11/2010

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Yeah, you did...., because I agreed with it. Somehow, I think it got lost amongst all the other crap.

Jodi - posted on 10/10/2010

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There is blame, and there is responsibility. They are actually two different things. "Blame" the parents, no. Hold the parents "responsible" as well as the child, yes.

Sara La - posted on 10/10/2010

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To be honest yeah i do blame the parents they should teach there kids right from wrong thats what parents are here for!

*Lisa* - posted on 10/10/2010

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I think it completely depends on the child's age. My son is 13 months old and has started hitting out of excitement. He thinks it's a game. So I've been saying 'STOP' every time I see him do it and if he continues, I sit him on the floor and say stop again. He still does it because he is too young to completely understand. He hit one of his little friends the other day. I take responsibility for his actions. Not because I've taught him to hit, we don't hit in our house, but because it's my responsibility to teach him right and wrong. Until he is able to understand fully the consequences of his actions and damage his is causing other kids, he can't be held responsible for his actions really IMO.
However, if he is still bullying kids at age 10 and beyond, then I am still to blame because I haven't found an effective way to teach him not to, but he should also be held responsible for his actions so he'll learn not to do it in the future. If at an older age like 16 he suddenly took a bad turn and made terrible choices despite being a good kid and brought up to not do such things, maybe then I can say that I'm not to blame for that. I think as parents we will always be wondering 'where did I go wrong?' if our children grow up to make poor choices.
I also think kids need to at least be made aware of the damage of bullying from an early age. My boy is still young but I think I'd like to make him aware of the dangers of it before he starts school. Not sure how to do that yet! But at least if he does come across bullying, he may recognize it because we've spoken about it at home.

Jodi - posted on 10/10/2010

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I had a big post agreeing with Carol, but it disappeared, and I can't be bothered retyping it. So Carol, I absolutely agree!!

Dana - posted on 10/10/2010

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Carol I couldn't agree with you more! People never know what goes on behind closed doors. My family was perceived as perfect! Everyone just adored our dad, we went to church every Sunday, people literally referred to us as the "Brady Bunch" family because we were so wholesome. It was a nightmare behind our closed doors.

Johnny - posted on 10/09/2010

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Good job Jes Lyn! Seeing a parent demonstrate accountability is an excellent way for kids to learn it. So often, when kids of even nice families act up, their parents make excuses rather than take responsibility. The kids don't learn to take responsibility for themselves that way, they just learn that you can get away with shit if you make excuses.

Jess - posted on 10/09/2010

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I know a young lady that is very much a bully, has been from the time she could speak and will be until someone finds a way to pull her into line ! Her parents are both pastors at my parents church. Couldn't ask for a nicer family, more grounded or loving parents. The issue is she was allowed to get away with murder because her mother felt people expected too much of her kids because they are the pastor's kids'. Because her daughters knew this they played on that.

Its her parents fault she is a bully because they let her be, they let her be nasty and just horrible to other children and even adults !

Parents are always responsible for their children's actions. When Ava bit a child at daycare, I personally rang and apologised to the other child's mother ! No I didn't make Ava bit, I wasn't even there to stop it, but she is my child and the buck stops with me.

Johnny - posted on 10/09/2010

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Families can seem all peaches & cream on the outside, even if you've known them for years. But in private, it's a world of hurt. You never really know what goes on behind closed doors. Many many families that I've dealt with in my work appear perfect as pie, but hide terrible secrets. Kids can be seeing a father berate and humiliate his wife in private at home, and be acting it out in school. Everyone on the outside is wondering why a kid from such a "nice family" is being so bad. There is almost always a reason, occasionally, it is because the kid just wants to be a brat, but generally, there really is more than meets the eye.

[deleted account]

" I think most parents of bullies truly have NO IDEA."

Just because they have no idea doesn't mean it's not their fault. If they're not aware perhaps they should be more pro-active in the child's life. Perhaps they're inadvertently acting a certain way at home in front of their child that's causing the behaviour. Sherri, if a child is a bully the parents need to take a good hard look at what's causing it. Children aren't bullies for no reason.

Alahnna - posted on 10/09/2010

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I'd say 9 times out of 10, it is the parents' fault for either modeling the behavior themselves, not disciplining their child properly or just plain letting it happen and not caring. In rare cases, as some have pointed out, it can be a psychological issue and there's really nothing the parents can do in these cases. Bullying needs to be nipped in the bud immediately.

[deleted account]

This is a difficult one. I'd say some children are bullys because of the environment they've been brought up in - for example if they've been abused/shouted at they may do this because they have been conditioned to think it's "normal" behaviour. But at the same time bullying is part of human nature. Some children who have been wlel raised still fall to being a bully sometimes but it's up to the parents to try and stop this behaviour and make sure they know it isn't right.

Francine - posted on 10/09/2010

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I feel it's entirely the parenting and the environments allowed in their life. Solely that has everything to do with a child's upbringing. As parents we are the ones to allow and not allow and weather to make the changes for our children (changes in parenting, household situations, etc..) or just complain about it like children/kids are suppose to know right from wrong, and suppose to know better than an adult about proper behavior that is probably being portrayed right in their own surroundings. Sometimes as parents we don't realize even our own spousal relationships of bullying and undermining our partners can be an easy habit to pick up for children to use back at you or toward others.So yeah, I agree with Amie, a lot has to do with the parents.

Stifler's - posted on 10/07/2010

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Bullying is human nature. We have pack mentality, we pick on those weaker or different than us. We feel powerful when we hurt others. Especially as children. It's not always the parents fault but it is their fault if they think their child's an angel and don't punish them or attempt to teach them social skills to combat them turning into a bully.

Dana - posted on 10/07/2010

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Yes, it is your fault if your child is a bully. Yes, it' a learned behavior but, it is also up to you to recognize that behavior in your child and correct it.



Some one was just recently telling me that they were hanging out with a friend, her son jerked a toy out from another child's hand. What did the mother do? Turned to my friend and said, "That was great, I love how assertive he is!" It's little things like that that parents allow and in turn their child becomes the bully. And just to be clear, this was a very, highly educated woman.

Kimberly - posted on 10/07/2010

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Not true Kati, he did collect road kill. Not normal. They were not very involved parents and abandoned him. He was killing/lobotomizing his victims so he could keep them with him and not be alone.

Rosie - posted on 10/07/2010

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this is a hard one! as parents we are responsible for our children, but sometimes i kindof wonder about that. i mean if we aren't responsible for our children growing up to be a murderer, than how can we reasonably expect out CHILDREN who are very impressionable and impulsive, to behave the way we taught them at every moment.
hell, even jeffrey dahmers parents said he was a pretty normal child-no warning signs that he liked to kill and eat people and keep their body parts all over his apartment. i don't know, i'm torn.

Tah - posted on 10/07/2010

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this is a tricky one. I think that it can be the parents fault, esp if they dont take steps to correct the behavior. Technically we are responsible for our children's actions. They break a window, they knock on the door for you. I talk to my children about it often. My 13 year old is somewhat of a leader, when i went to his open house no exaggeration 6 guys followed us from room to room that didnt even have class with him because they wanted to be his friend andtalk to him. I teach him the importance of making good decisions and letting people see that and learn from them all the time. I also show him online and on the news when children are commiting suicide because they are being bullied and i tell him that you never know what someone is going through annd if you being mean or unkind or excluding them can be the straw that breaks the camels back. I can only hope he is hearing me and be the bigger person.

I also think you can have a good kid and good parents and they can be caught up in a mob behavior. They may associate with the bully or be swept up in it and that needs to be addressed also.

Isobel - posted on 10/07/2010

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most of them end up as ceos though...cause profit's an easy motivator to understand, and that pesky conscience doesn't get in the way of business decisions.

and I agree that usually it's the parents' fault.

Amie - posted on 10/07/2010

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Obviously in the cases of medical issues, I can concede that's not the parents fault.

Sad fact is, most bullies don't fall into that category. So yes, parent's fault.

Sharon - posted on 10/07/2010

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I did present the other side of the coin but I agree with a lot of post'ers. A lot of times it is the parents fault. They preach racism, they don't care, don't pay attention, make no efforts at actually parenting. yeah the bullying is their fault.

[deleted account]

Wow, this can't be the parent's fault. Most sociopaths are born this way... Nothing will change them, their brain just doesn't create the emotional connections of "normal" people.... sad

Sharon - posted on 10/07/2010

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Laura - seriously - you're so right. She just keeps trying, keeps calling new specialists and (looking furtively around) I wonder if her teen drug use had anything to do with it. I love her to pieces. She's awesome, loving, kind and generous. Her other bio son is a wonderful kid, especially when not subjected to his brother. and the evil kid has his "normal" and sweet moments - which makes us all wonder what "WE" are doing wrong.

Isobel - posted on 10/07/2010

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isn't that a sociopath? Basically a kid who's born without a conscience so they just do what works and study how other people act so they won't look crazy?

I think I know one of those too...and it's creepy

Sharon - posted on 10/07/2010

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If your child is a bully, is it your fault?

Not always. I have a friend who has a kid who just can't seem to get right & wrong straight. He is in counseling, he takes meds, he has been 'scared', grounded and as a last resort spanked. I honestly believe that this kid will grow up to be a killer. He just doesn't give a shit. He doesn't care that he hurts his mothers' feelings or his siblings. I would NEVER say this to her. But one of these days this kid is gonna be in the news and it won't be a positive story unless something miraculous occurs. She has blown TONS of money, years of her life, trying to fix him. He has been diagnosed with various mental disorders and none of the treatments pan out.

after all of that - is she still at fault? She isn't abusive, her husband isn't abusive, the other 3 kids don't have these issues.

Do you wait for the bullying to occur or do you proactively talk to your children to make them aware of the hurt they can cause before it ever takes place?

Before. At the first sign of cruel behaviour you take action. Biting other toddlers, etc.

Jodi - posted on 10/07/2010

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My child is not even 2 years old, but we work on appropriate ways to show our anger, frustration and even happiness. I always tell her that her actions, such as hitting (rare), pushing, taking toys and other things make others feel bad, hurts their feelings and that it's not okay to make people feel that way. I also teach her, at the park or with her cousins how to stand up to someone who is pushing (her cousin) taking toys (other cousin) or just being mean. I feel that I'm doing everything I can to prevent her from being a bully, but heaven forbid, she does turn out to be a bully, it will absolutely not be tolerated and actions will be taken. I don't think it's always the parent's fault if their kid initially shows bullying behavior...but if they allow it to continue then they are responsible for the behavior.
That being said, I had a bully in middle school who's parents were wonderful people, tried to control the behavior and it was only after sending him to a counselor found out he had been sexually abused by a relative...so there are situations where the parents do everything right...but someone else ruins the child's life and chances at social success.

Jessica - posted on 10/07/2010

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@Mylene
"being nice to the child doesn't necessarily mean that all their needs are fulfilled"

Sorry, should have been more clear. That was pretty much my point.

[deleted account]

being nice to the child doesn't necessarily mean that all their needs are fulfilled. Some kids lack the structured environment or have parents that don't allow them to express themselves which can make the child depressed and/or very aggressive.

I think that a lack of responsibility on the child's part is often an important contributor in children getting aggressive and bullying. If parents are rescuing their child from every situation instead of showing them how to solve the problem themselves, it can be a big factor in how the kids behave around others.

IMO, there is ALWAYS part of it that is the parent's fault. Whether the child is raised in a family where "Do as I say, or else", a family where nobody cares about anything or a family where the parents do everything for their kids instead of letting them learn, it is ultimately the parent's responsibility to deal with the situation.

Jessica - posted on 10/07/2010

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I think in some situations (though admittedly rare) the parents can be the nicest people and still have a problem child. There are several factors that contribute to that sort of behaviour including whether the parents are consistently disciplining them to peer pressure. However, if the parents do not make a 'reasonable' effort to correct the behaviour then I would consider them top be at fault.

[deleted account]

Just on a side note here.. the worst bully who tormented my hubby had a very hard home life and ended his life at age 14. Very sad that his parents didn't intervene even after several complaints...

Riana - posted on 10/07/2010

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I do agree in a way but bulling is not all that common or serious with kids 3-6 yo that are still developing interpersonal skills. I think it is more the 7 yo and onwards when it becomes a real problem. And honestly 7 years is a big opportunity to teach your child compassion?

I would definately feel very responsible if my kids were bullies.

Lindsay - posted on 10/07/2010

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I don't think if a child shows a bullying behavior that it is necessarily the fault of the parents. Some kids just have very dominant personalities and honestly haven't picked up yet on proper behavior ettiquette (for lack of a better word). I think that especially kids that haven't been exposed to many social setting with other kids before school can have the attitude that it's their way or it's not going to happen. I think that if a parent sees or hears from a teacher of these behaviors and does nothing about it, it then does sort of become a fault of theirs. Kids are selfish by nature but that doesn't mean that they can't learn how to properly interact with the other kids around them.

On the other end of the spectrum, I really think that some bullies can result of them being bullied at home. Some kids have such a horrible home life and get picked on know nothing but to hopefully make themselves feel superior by pushing other people down.

Riana - posted on 10/07/2010

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Parents are to blame and responsible for finding a solution. Children need to learn compassion and respect from day one.

Kimberly - posted on 10/07/2010

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Do you wait for the bullying to occur or do you proactively talk to your children to make them aware of the hurt they can cause before it ever takes place?

[deleted account]

I completely agree with JuLeah on this. Definitely a need for change in the child's life. Personally, if my child was a bully I would blame myself at least a little bit. then of course I would take action. Find out what is making my child angry/upset, violent, etc. and work on these issues.

it doesn't mean that the parents are "bad parents", it just means that something is missing somewhere and it is the parents' RESPONSIBILITY to find out why this behavior occurs.

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