There has been a lot of conversation lately about bullying, what actions to take, how to prevent it, how to help the victim, how to teach the bully. Most of the conversation has been centered around children. But what about adults? Sometimes adults are bullies and they don’t realize it. When joking isn’t funny anymore and a child’s requests to stop an action are ignored, adults become bullies against kids. I think it’s time we start talking about that.
Ways Adults Become Bullies:
1) Teasing a child about their appearance, voice or physical mannerisms. Saying “You’re so tiny,” “Your voice is so cute & squeaky,” or “Butterfingers,” are all forms of bullying. Imitating a child’s voice, mimicking their statements, or causing them to have an accident is bullying.
2) Touching a child’s body after they have asked for the action to stop. This does not only apply to inappropriate physical touch. This can be as simple as putting your arm around a child. If the child asks for an adult not do that and they continue, it is bullying. (In general, you should always let the child initiate physical touch of any kind.)
3) Taking or using a child’s personal belongings. This can include projects they are working on, purses or backpacks, toys, knick knacks. Anything that the child views as their personal property. Children give value and importance to things most adults wouldn’t. Taking a special rock that they found, a trinket they want to keep, or a drawing that they created without their permission is bullying.
4) Giving a child a nick name without their permission. Most children have a name that they like to be called. Unless they have given you permission, either through their silliness or expressed words, only call them by their name. If they ask you to stop calling them by a particular nick name at any time. Stop. No questions needed.
5) Not allowing a child to have breaks from interactions with people. Some kids have a strong need for personal space and personal time. Even very outgoing kids. Forcing them to constantly be around people and forcing them to constantly be in conversation or play with others is not fair.
6) Commenting about a stutter, vocal tic, or voice stop. It is highly unlikely that the child doesn’t realize that it’s happening. Commenting on it does not help.
7) Allowing another child to be a bully while in your presence. When an adult doesn’t stop a child from bullying another child, they become a part of the bullying.
8) Not helping a child who feels emotionally overwhelmed with a situation. Seeing that a child is having a difficult time dealing with something, is becoming frustrated or angry, and allowing the situation to fester is bullying.
9) Negatively commenting about a child’s learning abilities or difficulties.
10) This should be obvious, but apparently is not… saying a child is stupid, ignorant, a trouble maker, or making other negative remarks is bullying.
Most people would never think about doing these things to another adult, but forget the fact that children are people too.
This goes far beyond good manners though.
We teach our children that when they have a problem, they should find an adult they can trust to help them with the problem. If a child consistently feels like adults will only become part of the problem, they eventually will stop trusting.
We also teach our children that when we say “No.” we mean it. They should be given the same courtesy. If we ignore them when they say “Stop.” or “No.” we are effectively teaching them that we can be ignored as well.
We want our children to respect other people’s bodies, belongings, time, space… just respect in general.
Just because they are little does not mean they should not be respected.
I do believe that children ought to have many adults in their lives with whom they can have positive interactions. This is how we teach them how to behave and respect others.
It’s when those interactions are not positive that there is a problem.
I also believe that most adults mean well. Kids are cute, they say silly things, they are still learning proper etiquette.
However, we, as adults, need to pay attention to the words the child is saying and the physical cues they are giving. It’s our job to be the mature ones who know when to stop (or never start).
What are some forms of adult bullying that you have seen? How do you intervene?
Let’s get this conversation flowing.