A glance back to the day I bullied the new girl… I don’t remember your name. I just know you were sitting on your own during recess and I, the angry teenager, decided to take my own issues out on you! I remember you had blonde hair, and I remember you cried.

If only I knew then what I know now. If only I could understand my own hurt at being bullied, instead of turning around and doing the exact same thing to you. If only I knew how to manage my emotions better. And if only I had had the self worth to know that I was better than that! If only I had the courage to be kind, in stead of the cowardice it took to be cruel… So many “if only’s”…

What can I say to my children now? How do I teach them the immeasurable value of being kind, and how a simple sentence can change someone’s life? For better, or worse. How do I show them the damage that can be done by breaking down the spirit of another person for your own personal self-gratification? Not to mention that the hoped-for-self-gratification that comes from bullying is only ever fleeting and leaves us more empty than we were before.

I’m sure that for most girls there comes a time in life when cattiness, bitchiness and, yes, maybe even some bullying enters the scene. Sometimes this is a “right of passage” in learning about what kindness is. Learning about caring for the person next to you. “You can’t play with us!” is a statement that can, ironically, help children realize the hurt of rejection – and, if handled with care, could lead to building a meaningful friendship through the gift of apology and forgiveness. However, sadly, in most cases this kind of statement devolves very quickly into darker areas than mere ‘cattiness’ and escalates into an ugliness that is unfortunately never quenched.

I have often pondered the question: What causes a child to become a bully? Well, according to Dr. Gail Gross a Human Behavior, Parenting, and Education Expert, who acknowledges that “there is no one single profile of a child bully”, the following points may indeed lead a child to act unkindly toward others:

1. Like Parent, Like Child

Children model what they see. If a child is bullied by his/her parent, or is being abused or treated in a disrespectful way at home, that child is likely to imitate this behavior at school. They are learning from their parent that this type of behavior is acceptable.

2. The Powerless Child

Sometimes, the child that bullies is the child who feels completely powerless at home. Perhaps this child is abused, or watches one of his parents abuse another parent and he/she is left feeling scared and powerless at home. This child may attempt to gain back power by bullying others at school.

3. The Forgotten Child

I have seen children who feel invisible at home act out as bullies at school. Children need constant love and respectful attention from the adults who care for them — and they want and need it most from their mother and father. Nobody is more important than mom and dad; children will try to gain approval from mom and dad, from the time they are born until the time they die. If they do not get love and attention at home, they may feel voiceless and unimportant. That feeling of invisibility may turn into anger, resentment and then bullying others at school.

4. The Entitled Child

Then there is the child who has been given too much power. I have seen children who are given everything they want, raised without limitations and rules to follow, who then grow up to feel entitled and all-powerful. These children may believe they have a right to bully others at school, since they bulldoze their parents at home.

5. Children Who Lack Empathy

Finally, there are those children who come from wonderful, loving homes with actively involved parents who become bullies. These child bullies may simply lack empathy, like to dominate, are possessive and want power. The wonderful thing about this is that empathy is something that can be taught.

However, Dr Gail Gross clearly states that…

Children Who Bully Are Still Children
It is important to remember that children who bully are still children. They are acting that way for a reason, and they, too, need help and guidance from adults. In my experience, bullies may not have healthy social behaviors, empathy, or coping skills. This has the potential to lead to a lifetime of relationship problems, general parenting problems, and even problems with the law.

As an adult I can definitely look back and see that some of my misplaced anger at the “raw deal” that I believed I had been dealt caused me to lash out unnecessarily. The inability to know how to cope with the pressures of “life”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe I was a MEAN kid, just an angry, insecure and lost girl. Fortunately for me I soon realized that I was a “product of my own choices”,  and it was time to put “my big girl panties on” and grow up!.

Teaching my children the gift of giving love, kindness, gentleness and acceptance is a priority I pray I accomplish!