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Why are kids so mean sometimes? - Page 3

post #41 of 51

I don't really believe in original sin...but I also don't believe that kids fully understand the consequences of their anti-social actions and that this ignorance is ingrained. Even though I agree that young kids can show empathy and so on, I'm not sure that it's part of their brain and moral development to really be able to step into other people's shoes for a long time.


I see aggressive behaviour or power-play behaviour a bit like I see a baby dropping food off a tray.  It's experimenting with the forces around us - in the baby's case, gravity. In the kids' case, social capital (withholding, and giving), tribal pecking order, etc.  I think some kids may experiment once (or not at all), others are going to experiment over and over. 


What shapes them is how those around them respond to that experimentation.  Fighting on a school bus where the bus driver can't notice makes it clear that there will be no consequences. So, over time, it escalates and even becomes part of the 'riding the bus' culture. I don't think we can blame any one environment...and actually I've worked with kids who were very kind in one environment, and not in another.  Bullying could be reinforced at home, in the media, at school, on sports teams, etc. Or at least not negated.


In my experience not all the kids who are bullies grow up to be bullies. Some do, but a lot meet up with some kind of insight or pressure. There are definitely adult bullies, but some of them weren't bullies as kids.


When I was in school in the 70s, I have to say that bullying was basically acceptable. Not only did teachers participate in it, I bullied on a couple of occasions where we were hauled in and in 2/3 cases that I remember, the attitude of the teacher was more along the lines of "don't do that, even though so-and-so is a total screw up" than "what's wrong with you."  However I was mostly on the receiving end of the bullying and a few things that happened to me that didn't result in very significant consequences would probably produce a suspension or expulsion these days. There's tons of bullying in literature going back.  So I don't buy that it's getting worse. We may be noticing it more.


I do think some of the new anti-bullying stuff is making some progress, especially programmes that focus on the role of the bystander. It will be the bystanders (the majority, whether child or adult) who end up setting the tone.

post #42 of 51



I think when you put kids of varying ages in, you are creating an automatic peeking order. The older kids are at the top of the heirachy, and the youngest is at the bottom. The younger ones with the stronger personality will automatically take up head over the older ones who are quiter and not as dominant.

See, I haven't witnessed this. IME it's more that the older kids ignore the younger kids a bit - more like they consider them beneath their notice (both in terms of friendship and bullying). This is mostly from homeschool events - not sure if that changes the dynamic any. As a generalisation, a lot of homeschooled families are big, so maybe the bigger kids are used to having bevies of smaller kids tagging along, and kind of tune them out? :p

post #43 of 51
Originally Posted by bluebackpacks View Post

VisionaryMom is right.  Also, childhood as we know it has only been around for a 150 years.  Prior to this, children were considered little adults.  The idea of protecting 'childhood innocence' is a very new one.  I believe that we often tend to romanticize childhood... not that this is wrong.  It's just helpful to realize that this is a newer philosophy.  Otherwise, we become susceptible to chasing an old world kinder dream.  

ITA with this. It seems to me that children are kinder than they were in the past, generally speaking of course. Adults are more aware of instances of unkindness, perhaps. There's no such thing as the good old days...

post #44 of 51


Originally Posted by Super~Single~Mama View Post

Originally Posted by LROM View Post


Originally Posted by Super~Single~Mama View Post

While I think that bullying can be learned, it isn't always.  For example, my ds is in a very small daycare center, there are 4children under the age of 2.  My ds is the oldest and is 23mo, 2 of them are a week apart in age and are 18mo, and the youngest is 15mo.


One of the 18mo's went through a period of hitting, biting, and kicking the other children - none of the others have ever exhibited this behavior at daycare. He would do it out of the blue sometimes (when the teachers thought he was giving hugs, kisses whatever), other times when he was angry, other times when he was frustrated.


I don't think anyone on here would label him a bully - he's too young right? But where did he get that behavior? Not at home, I'm good friends with his mom, and she has never done CIO, she's very gentle in her discipline (far more gentle than I am), and she does address the behavior (unlike some who use GD who just don't do anything). She's a great mom!


I don't thin the behavior itself is "learned" - but I do think it needs to "unlearned" with the guidance of adults. I think when parents notice, or are told, about their child displaying bullying behaviors they need to act on it. But saying, "Oh, we are a GD household so my son doesn't know how to bully" certainly isn't doing anyone any favors. I'm sure its true that some children will not engage in bullying, but as parents we need to have our eyes wide open and watch for it so that we can address it if it comes up.


I also disagree that young children don't display empathy - just the other day my 23mo gave me a hug and kiss when I was crying (I stubbed my toe and it hurt so bad!), and he and his friends at daycare hug each other when one of them is crying.

Just on the bolded part, your post assumes that a parent who doesn't CIO, is gentle in discipline, and addresses behavior is still not capable of parenting in a way that makes a child act out.  I agree that on the surface those factors should give a child a better chance of not exhibiting those behaviors, but you simply never know what else is happening in a home.  Everything from subtle negative influences to blatant meanness is possible when no one is around.  I'm NOT saying your particular friend is like that or her home is like that... just saying you really can't be sure that because a parent does those 3 things, there aren't other factors/dynamics in play that could make a child act out.


I also agree that whether a child turns into a bully/consciously mean or not is a sum of 3 factors that are all very influential: how they're parented (or not); how their peers act; and the temperment they're born with.  I think parenting and termperment are most influential though, because that determines the base behavior on which they'll process and respond to peer behavior.

Thats not what I was saying at all - I was pointing out that children go through aggressive stages, and it has nothing to do with our parenting.  A child who has never been left to CIO, whose parents practice GD, etc can still be aggressive - most 18mo - 2yo children go through a stage similar to the one my friends child is going through right now.  My ds did too.  It's NOT b/c of the way they were each parented, and just go check out the GD forum here on MDC - there are posts about hitting/kicking/aggression going up almost daily.  If we did not address those things, our children would grow up to bully other children.


I don't think that practicing AP gives our children a better chance at not exhibiting those behaviors, I think it gives us parents a better chance at being able to effectively ADDRESS those behaviors - which I think is an important distinction.  I don't AP b/c I think it will make my child "better" than the next child, I do it b/c I want to be in tune with my ds so that when something is wrong I know about it, and then can address it. 

Thanks, I understand the point you were trying to make now.


And very interesting the posts about "There is no such thing as the good ole days" re: a time when children were kind and allowed to be children (or rather, that concept is still fairly new and does not go back as far as we think it did.  It does feel like things have gotten more intense and kids have gotten much meaner, but maybe it is the combo of public exposure to it all... both the increased exposure makes it seem like there's more of it, but also kids learn from it.  How many post-bullying teen suicides have their been in the last year?  So did just as many kids commit suicide because of bullying in the 10-20 years prior but we hear more about it today... or has it actually gotten worse?  Not sure what I think, but it's very interesting to consider...

post #45 of 51
Thread Starter 

Well, suicide used to be a huge scandal. People did not talk about it. It was shameful. At least that's the impression I get from things I've heard and read about how things were 50 years ago or whatever. So I think it may be very possible that, like many other things, we are just more open about and aware of it today. .


Unfortunately, I don't see much kindness from the children we see. I see a lot of teasing and meanness and even fighting. A few weeks ago I had to break up a fight between 2 6 or 7 year old girls. As if it weren't bad enough that these children were fighting, there was a group of boys standing around them chanting, "cat fight." Where in the world did these young children hear and understand that term? Also disturbing was the fact that I was the only adult around who intervened. I had to run two houses down to reach the girls and break them up. The adults in the house of the yard where the fight occurred didn't even open their door. The mother even told me she looked out her window and saw it but didn't think it was a big deal. And we live in what's considered a good neighborhood.


I'm so tired of it all. I don't want my children going outside or playing with the neighbor kids at all anymore.

post #46 of 51

Interestingly, fighting - among boys, at least - was pretty much accepted by adults several decades ago. Even encouraged - pugilism was considered a necessary manly art, and not fighting was seen (probably not by all adults, but a lot) as a sign of cowardice rather than moral strength. So a teacher at a British public school might have refereed a fight to make sure the boys fought fair, but wouldn't actually try to prevent it.

post #47 of 51
Thread Starter 

Yes, I know fighting used to be considered a sort of rite of passage for males. It still is a lot. I think you can see that with the popularity of boxing and now MMA fighting. IDK. Maybe I expose myself to much different info than most people but everything I hear now on the news or read in news or scientific reports is about how fighting among children is not a good thing. It's all about cooperation and team players these days. I thought our society had evolved a bit beyond the gladiator days. Guess I'm wrong.

post #48 of 51

This is true, ime, as well. I was bullied fairly badly in high school, and several of the guys involved apologized at the 10 year reunion. They were very obviously sincere, and it had obviously been bothering them for quite a while.


I don't know most of them very well, and don't know most of their families at all, but I do know one of the families a little bit, and they're very nice people and I think they were very loving parents. (The dad just died a few weeks ago.) They divorced just after their youngest graduated, so I'm sure there was some tension at home...but there was all kinds of tension at my house, too, and none of us were bullies. I think this whole thing depends on many, many factors, but I do think it's natural, and it's not really about parenting. I agree with those who say it's a form of experimentation with control, social dynamics, etc. I don't assume that a child who is mean to another chlid has mean/shaming/whatever parents, any more than I assume that a five year old who throws things (ds2, for instance) has seen that behaviour modelled at home. Different kids learn and process life differently...and for some of them, meanness is at least a temporary part of the process. (Two of those bullies I mentioned are really, really nice people as adults - their behaviour when they were younger was very temporary.)



Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post


In my experience not all the kids who are bullies grow up to be bullies. Some do, but a lot meet up with some kind of insight or pressure.

post #49 of 51
Originally Posted by bluedaisy View Post


When I was living in another culture, I tripped while walking.  Several of my friends immidiately rushed to my side with genuine concern to see if I was ok (it was a little stumble and it was obvious I wasn't really hurt).  Nobody laughed or even smiled.  Here, if a kid trips while they are walking, everyone bursts out laughing and will probably make fun of the kid for weeks.  We have been conditioned to think that others mistakes or misfortunes are funny.  this is not typical human nature but it goes beyond that and I think the media is a huge factor in creating this culture of meanness.

It all depends on the country you are using as a reference point. We've spent time in my husband's home country (Jordan), and my children have been shocked by how physically agressive the children we've interacted with are there. We started avoiding events where there would be children in our last week of the most recent visit - we were tired of watching our kids get hurt and having everyone (except us) treat it as 'oh, kids will be kids'. Our boys wanted absolutely nothing to do with other children after the first few experiences. We had a thread recently in the multi-cultural forum, and it was interesting to see how many American ex-pat children have similar experiences in widely divergent cultures. Our kids, at least the ones who have grown up in your average American suburb, do not expect to have to put up with physical violence - and when it happens, they expect someone to get in trouble. That isn't always the expectation in other places.


Intercultural issues aside, I guess I fall into the 'kids are no meaner now than they were in the past, and maybe even less mean' camp. I certainly see meanness among my son's friends, but I also see a lot of kindness, caring and generosity. For little ones who are still working out how to behave properly with others, I think they do pretty well.

post #50 of 51

I haven't read the rest of the responses yet.  Just want to share that I think that the school bus experience is basically a distillation, an amplification of the very worst parts of the school experience. I rode the bus during middle school. It was Hell on wheels. 

post #51 of 51

Wow, what an interesting discussion!  I have been reading a good book on the topic http://www.abebooks.com/9781402219443/Why-Good-Kids-Act-Cruel-140221944X/plp since my 10yo son has been starting to experience it (like I did, many moons ago), and my 7yo daughter (at both ends).  It's a great book for practical strategies to assist both the "victim" (in asserting themselves and understanding their options) and the perpetrators (in parents guiding more prosocial behaviour).  At essence motivated by  the need to conform  and assert social social status by differentiating from the "other"  (identifying with might highlight one's own otherness) and attacking with preemptive strategies.  Fascinated by the social psychological side, but distressed by its actual manifestations.  I guess it's part of human condition, and one can only hope to protect/educate our children with useful strategies. From my observation or P&C behaviour, it feeds directly on from learned behaviours from parents about asserting social status.

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