s/o At what age can a child be considered a "bully"? - Mothering Forums

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Old 05-29-2010, 01:03 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm curious (after reading the cousin thread) at what age a child can be considered a bully?

How do you define bully?

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 05-29-2010, 01:10 AM
 
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2

I had a friend who's child was a physical bully. She knew she was strong and once grabbed my dd (4 months younger) around the neck and took her down WWF style.

I've also seen an emotional (for lack of a better word) bully as young as 3 at a BWing group in town.

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Old 05-29-2010, 01:57 AM
 
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Maybe 7/8? Old enough to almost really understand what they're doing does to other people.

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Old 05-29-2010, 02:09 AM
 
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Four. I've seen the kids with the strong personalities, and a bit of a mean streak bully other kids as early as age four.

I had a student who could get the other kids to exclude and physically bully one particular boy before she was four years old.

BUT, I think Bullying, and physically aggressive behavior are a little different.
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Old 05-29-2010, 02:17 AM
 
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My oldest had two bullies in his nursery school class - at age 3/4. I'd have classified them then as brats, but now at age 6 they are full-fledged bullies. Ironically, the mom of one is a teacher.
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Old 05-29-2010, 02:37 AM
 
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I think kids need to be able to really understand that behaving in a certain way isn't right and why it isn't right before they can be classified as a bully for behaving that way. I think by about 6 most kids are well out of the violent stage and able to talk about why it isn't right to hurt someone else. It is hard to separate kids who have no control from kids who are bullies though, but I don't think it really matters that much. If a kid is hurting another kid physically or emotionally on a frequent basis they need to be stopped no matter what label we use to classify them.
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Old 05-29-2010, 03:01 AM
 
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Looking at aggression as separate from bullying, although it is a tool used by a bully, I'd say it's when they can understand other people's emotions and take deliberate action to provoke negative emotions to gain a sense of power.

This means that the 2 year old who tries to make mom feel the same way he does so he can tell that she knows he's angry--not a bully. (and in typing this, I'm reminded that I need to mirror dd's frustrations more so she doesn't have to flail at me and objects.)

It also means that it's the charismatic empathic child who has the greatest chance of being a really horrible bully to someone. Nip any exclusionary behaviors in the bud ASAP if you have a social butterfly. Make sure they use their powers for good!

That said "bully" can be a convenient short hand to reflect that there is an ongoing problem with aggression going on. Even if a young child can't be a true bully, they can certainly mimic the behaviors and need guidance in appropriate ways of interacting with others.
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Old 05-29-2010, 03:11 AM
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I've seen "bullying" behavior in 3 and 4 year olds corrected to the point that children behave in completely appropriate ways. I think a child has to be old enough to decide they want to make another child feel bad and maybe even feel satisfaction from the pain they are causing.
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Old 05-29-2010, 01:15 PM
 
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Originally Posted by phathui5 View Post
Maybe 7/8? Old enough to almost really understand what they're doing does to other people.
Certainly not at a younger age than this. Maybe 10. Sure younger kids may do bullyish behavior but they aren't old enough to have a moral understanding. It's normal for young children to try to control their world and to experiment with different methods. And it's easy for something that works to become a habit or a go-to method of getting control of a situation. Boys stereotypically react physically to a variety of nonphysical situations or feelings. But without the maturity and the impulse control that comes at older ages, a child cannot BE a bully. A bully seems to have a need to have a target. So a child who sometimes does aggressive things but not in all peer situations, is not a bully. And there are certainly many non physical methods of bullying.

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Old 05-29-2010, 01:54 PM
 
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I have seen children as young as four or five years old lie, sneak, physically and mentally intimidate other children, and manipulate other children in a very calculating way. They definitely knew what they were doing, and were behaving in a way to make someone intentionally feel bad or to get their own way at someone else's expense. They sought out certain "weaker" children on a regular basis and targeted them especially.
Someone else may have a different name for that or a reason why "they don't really know what they are doing," but I call it bullying.
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Old 05-29-2010, 04:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Summary so far:

Most feel that a "bully" consciously intimidates or manipulates others, and that they are doing so with at least a partial understanding of what they are doing. It is the intent of the child that determines if the behavior is "bullying." There is wide disagreement on what age children are capable of this.

I think it needs to be an on-going pattern that is not easily corrected.

I've always thought of "bullying" as being about behavior (either physical or emotional) rather than the intent behind the behavior, but I could tell from other threads that this wasn't the popular understanding on the word. It seems that most people don't feel the word "bully" shouldn't be used unless the child is truly old enough to understand what they are doing and be held accountable for it.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 05-30-2010, 01:13 AM
 
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It's also to do with how easy it is to help the kid stop the behaviors even when they think adults aren't looking. Like a kid who is hitting because they don't really get that it hurts other people and who is doing it out of frustration is going to be easier to teach gentle interactions to than the kid who gets a reward from her brain chemicals.



http://news.uchicago.edu/news.php?asset_id=1477
Basically, slapstick comedy could actually help keep some people from being bullies.
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Old 05-30-2010, 01:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post
Like a kid who is hitting because they don't really get that it hurts other people and who is doing it out of frustration is going to be easier to teach gentle interactions to than the kid who gets a reward from her brain chemicals.
so for the same behavior, you would be more likely to label the child a "bully" if their brain was wired in a more violent way?

That seems to go in the opposite direction of *intent.*

For example, there was a boy with an asperger dx in my DD's social skills class who has a history of violent behavior. In the past, when his sensory issues spiraled out of control, he would react violently. He currently attends a school for kids with behavior problems because he is considered high risk for violence. However, he has no desire to hurt any one and really wants to be under control (it's part of the reason he was in social skills class.)

I wouldn't consider him a bully at all, but his brain is more wired for violence than most peoples. He's working really hard, far harder than most people need to, to not be violent.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 05-30-2010, 04:08 AM
 
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I don't think there is a single specific age. It is whenever the child becomes aware enough to make a deliberate choice to behave in a way that they understand is wrong/mean in order to intimidate, manipulate and control others.

The child needs to be developed in several ways to do this. They have to have a true understanding of right and wrong (not simply knowing what the rules are.) They need to have a well developed sense of empathy. They need to have the self control to choose when and when not to act out. Finally they need to understand cause and effect.

Obviously some children will develop all 4 of those at different times. They even will not always develop them in the same order.

I would say a few children probably developed all of these by age 5, I bet many others have not. This is why with young kids behavior needs to be looked at very very carefully before labeling a child a bully. Even with older kids, such as 10 yo, who you would expect to have all these fully developed, you have to consider whether there is a SN involved, such as ADHD that causes poor impulse control or some such before simply saying th kid is a bully.

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Old 05-30-2010, 11:48 AM
 
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There's some recent research that indicates that "children who bullied were often motivated by a desire to increase their popularity and that they chose generally unpopular victims to avoid losing social status."

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/...ho-are-bullies

If you buy in to this research, then it would suggest that bullying is intentional and that the bully would have to have a level of social finesse to understand who is a potential victim and what the "positive" outcome would be for bullying.

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Old 05-30-2010, 02:35 PM
 
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I've seen late 2s definitely bully other kids.

At my DD1's daycare there were 2.5yos who knew if they did certain things the other kids would give up toys and they'd get what they wanted. They were bullies.

I think we do all the children a disservice by thinking that kids need to be much older to bully. That's how bullies get started and it gets ingrained into the culture.

Because a 2.5yo threatening to hit another kid, and that other kid giving up a toy is bullying.
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Old 05-30-2010, 04:32 PM
 
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I completely agree with JL83. I'm not sure what the point of not calling a 2/3/4/5 yr old a 'bully' is, when what their doing is clearly bullying - threatening to hit others in order to get their way, purposefully pushing others down so they can go 'first', etc. What good does it do either the child doing the 'bullying' or the child that is the victom of it to not label it as such? I suppose it keeps parents from having to think about their kid being a bully so early, but beyond that?? Really?? Whats the purpose??
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Old 05-30-2010, 05:26 PM
 
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I completely agree with JL83. I'm not sure what the point of not calling a 2/3/4/5 yr old a 'bully' is, when what their doing is clearly bullying - threatening to hit others in order to get their way, purposefully pushing others down so they can go 'first', etc. What good does it do either the child doing the 'bullying' or the child that is the victom of it to not label it as such? I suppose it keeps parents from having to think about their kid being a bully so early, but beyond that?? Really?? Whats the purpose??
By properly identifying problematic behavior it becomes possible to address the behavior in an effective manner.

When a 2 yo is doing these things they most likely are exhibiting poor impulse control, poor communication skills and a lack of empathy. One therefore focuses on helping the 2 yo understand the other child's feelings and tries to help them find a better way to interact. One simply waits for impulse control to develop more.

When an 12 yo, who has no delay in various social cognitive skills, does the same thing trying to help them empathize is not going to change the behavior one iota. The 12 yo knows exactly how their victim feels and doesn't care. This is bullying and is a much harder problem to solve (since in reality bullying often works well for the bully.)

The behavoirs may look similar, but the solutions are worlds apart. Also, a 2 yo displaying these behaviors is probably not displaying a pattern that will follow him/her for the rest of his/her school career. Most 2-5 yo will display this kind o behavior to some degree, but only a few (and not necessarily the ones who did it the most as 2 yo) will go on to full fledged bullying as teenagers.

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Old 05-30-2010, 06:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The 12 yo knows exactly how their victim feels and doesn't care. This is bullying and is a much harder problem to solve (since in reality bullying often works well for the bully.)

The behaviors may look similar, but the solutions are worlds apart.
Whatever we start calling it "bullying," I think the more serious we take it in two years olds, the fewer 12 year olds will end up with the problem.

I don't think these attitudes go away on their own. Sometimes I feel like when people say that the child (of whatever age) is too young to be a bully, they are minimizing the problem. I don't think that minimizing helps.

I also think that the fundamental attitudes of the parents have a huge role. My niece, (who used to bully my DD until I cut off contact) has a mother who sees people in levels and wants her children to be the top level. Adults can be far more subtle, but I feel that often the parent of the top dog or the queen bee often have taught their child the *attitude* that is the root of the bullying behavior.

May be that's the difference between the typical child who tries pushing kids around when they are 3 but is taught better behavior and the middle school bully who enjoys his role too much quit (at least when no adults are around) -- what their parents really believe about the value of a pecking order.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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