All of us believe that our grandchild, who is sweet and lovable at home, behaves and shows the utmost respect while at school. Most parents and grandparents are horrified and downright defensive if they are told that their child is the one who is descending upon other kids with a controlling blow. Not my darling grandchild is a common thought among grandparents when hearing this news about their grandchild.
1. Bullying is about power and control.
It is often the case that children who are bullying others in school are feeling powerless and out of control. It is common for them to feel unacknowledged or that somehow things are just not fair to them. Sometimes grandparents may be able to pick up on these signs quicker than the child’s parents because they are not with them as often and these signs may be apparent when spending time together.
As a grandparent, you may even be the target of some of that aggression as your grandchild may feel like they can get away with more while under your care. Grandparents can be in a tricky position because they may want to talk about this with the child’s parents, but may feel like they should not or have been told not to intrude.
At the same time, grandparents are in a unique position as it may be easier for the child to open up and express how they feel to you as the grandparent. But, even if they have a hard time expressing themselves to you directly, pay attention to how they are communicating with you and with others. Are they responding to most things anyone says feeling criticized? Do they put others down or correct them constantly? When feeling frustrated do they look to others to blame for their feelings or frustrations? These could be warning signs that your grandchild is feeling a bit out of control.
2. Bullies tend to lack empathy.
One of the hardest things to acknowledge is our grandchild not showing any empathy toward others. Empathy develops at a young age and is crucial for the overall development of a child and then an adult. Children who are bullying may show signs indicating that they are lacking in this area of development. They are unable to feel how they may be hurting another child by their taunting, teasing or sometimes even physical violence.
Grandparents can encourage empathy while pointing out the feelings of others. Sometimes a simple example of ‘put yourself in their shoes for a moment’ helps the child to begin to feel what it might be like for the other child and it could open up a dialogue about what your grandchild might be feeling that is causing them to exert this power over others. Sometimes the sharing of memories and experiences with your grandchild can put them at ease to talk about things that are bothering them.
3. Children who live in chaotic homes may be more prone to becoming a bully.
While not all children who live in homes where things are chaotic due to divorce or unstable relationships become bullies, many of these kids do have the potential as it may be the only area that they can exert some of their own control or express their feelings of anger or frustration. These kids may not have the appropriate outlet to express their feelings of pain or anger and so they take it out on other kids who are perceived to be weaker.
This may be one of the hardest things a grandparent witnesses and again is in a terrible position of having to maintain a boundary and not say a word. You may want things to change but are powerless to do so and need to sit back and let things unfold. The risk of stepping over that boundary can jeopardize your own relationship with your child and their spouse. The pros and cons of expressing your experiences and feelings should be weighed.
4. Bullying may increase social status.
This almost sounds counter-intuitive, but many times the bully increases their social status among classmates as they dictate the social norms for others around them. Others fall in line with what the bully says or does for fear of facing the ridicule for not going along with the prescribed way of being. This is common among girls prescribing the “right” clothing to wear or the latest haircut. This can be especially tough for classmates who may not be able to have the material things that are being prescribed in order to have that social status and may be ripe for being bullied.
5. Social media sites are easy outlets for the bullies to exert their power.
With the advent of the Internet and the ever increasing use of social media sites, kids are communicating mainly though these means. Even though they are not anonymous these sites do provide a false sense of anonymity while posting. Kids feel freer to say anything they want without realizing the impact of their words.
There are instances when entire pages are created in order to defame and demoralize another individual. These spread like wild-fire and the recipient of these becomes open to more ridicule by others whom they may not even know. As a grandparent it is crucial that you monitor the sites that your grandchildren are on while they may be in your home and on your computer. They may see this as free time while not under the watchful eye of their parents.
Even though it may be difficult and potentially devastating to learn that your grandchild may be the class bully, it is crucial that it is not waved off as just a stage. Bullying behavior that is exhibited at a young age can be a life-long way of relating unless it is taken seriously. Things need to be put in place and changes made in order to create an atmosphere where your grandchild can begin to express themselves in a more appropriate manner.
Jennifer Kelman has a BA in Sociology from American University and a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has worked with children in a variety of psychiatric and medical settings. She is the Creator of Mrs. Pinkelmeyer, Silliest, Warmest Know-It-All, who inspires self-esteem in children through her love, warmth and silliness and author of the new award winning children’s book, Mrs. Pinkelmeyer and Moopus McGlinden Burn the Rrrrump Rrrroast, available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Booksamillion and www.MrsPinkelmeyer.com.