Please Don’t Call Them “Bullies”

Posted on by John Olesnavage

When did we start believing it was okay to call a child, even one who is displaying terrible behavior, names?  And, did we ever stop to think this is an extension of the same behavior we are trying to eliminate?

Children who feel alone, who have boundaries torn by shame, abuse, and loss are most vulnerable to be either abused themselves, or to be abusive toward other children.  And, the thing they have in common?  They are both scared and afraid. The surest way to improve both their situations is not to call them names or enroll them in karate, (nothing against the martial arts) but rather to help them feel loved and connected to someone important in their life (ie parent or mentor).

For the child who picks on other children, this means feeling valued and important, and not needing to make another child fearful to ease their own anxiety and aloneness.  They typically do not feel that other children like them for themselves because they do not experience that in their lives.  They may well have a home-life that involves parenting by dominance and abuse.  That means the only model they have to achieve a sense of safety is to make others scared of them.  It gives them a feeling of pseudo power that tries to address the aloneness and fear they feel inside.

For the children being picked on by another child it means knowing they have someone powerful in their corner who values them for who they are and will stand up for them in an unconditional and non-judgmental way.  Knowing they are not alone helps them find the courage to see the abusive behavior as not their problem, but another child trying to repair torn boundaries.  In this way they do not lose power to self judgment, “I am weak/ I am afraid,” but gain power by seeing they can actually help repair the fear and aloneness another child has, by finding something to value in them.  This moves the abused child from a place of fear to a place of power and helpfulness.

Boundaries are not formed alone, and repair of boundaries does not happen alone. It happens in relationship.  Do your children know you are there for them and with them in a non-judgmental, unconditional way?

Would you commit to help by remembering that all children have value and all children have needs.  Would you remember, and remind others, that calling children names is not helpful?

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