It's hard to picture your child as the aggressor in an bullying situation. But, as hard a pill as it is to swallow, noticing that your child has certain behaviors should send up some red flags. It possible the early signs your child will be a bully are right under your nose, but it's easy to dismiss these tendencies as developmental growing pains or challenging personality traits if you don't know what to look for. Some of these behaviors can seem like typical adolescent behavior when seen on their own. But concern should be raised when one or more of these signs appear together or one specific behavior becomes an ongoing issue.
According to Very Well, there are two types of bullying: physical and relational. As the site explained, the former includes hitting, kicking, taking something away, while the ladder involves excluding someone, spreading gossip about them, or making fun of them. And it can start at a very young age. Although the research is relatively new, experts agree that bullying exists in children as young as kindergarten, and behaviors can range from hiding shoes, to destroying a picture, to saying nasty things, to refusing to sit beside the targeted child, according to Education.com. Signs of bullying in young kids are easier to spot because they are more noticeable, which means parents should stay vigilant for these nine tells of budding bullies.
1. They Lack Empathy
Having the ability to understand how other people feel is an important life skill, and can be crucial for kids when dealing with peer conflict. As therapist and former school counselor Dr. D. Janell Dietz told Everyday Health, kids with bullying behavior tend to lack empathy for others. If you notice your child has trouble relating to other's emotions, intervene and help them learn how to build their capacity to empathize.
2. They Have Behavior Problems
A history of behavior problems is a strong indicator that your child is more likely to bully other children. According to MSN, children who are hot-tempered, easily frustrated, and prone to fighting have a higher risk of being bullies. Although a child's temperament can change as they grow, noticing these behaviors early on could help eliminate the likelihood of them bullying others in the future.
3. They're Drawn To Kids Who Bully
Even when kids are young, the company they keep can give you insight into their behaviors and choices. If your child has friends who bully others, it's probable they your child will be in on the bullying too, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This group mentality can start as young as preschool, so being aware of how your child's friends treat others pays off.
4. They Have An Excessive Need For Attention
Most children wants adults to watch them, but when the amount of attention they desire doesn't seem to be satiable, you may have a problem on your hands. According to The Huffington Post, bullies feel a need to be popular, powerful, and in control. This desires to be top dog lends itself to exerting power over others in unhealthy ways.
5. They Are Master Manipulators
When people think of bullies, the image of a brute beating on a little kid is often conjured. However, the majority of bullying is not physical, but more geared to batter the emotions. According to Education.com, bullies are skilled at manipulation and recognizing which kids are easiest to manipulate. Noticing manipulative behavior in your child is a sign you need to be on the lookout for other bullying tendencies.
6. They Make Negative Comments
If there's anything young children are known for, it's their unfiltered honesty. But there's a difference between blurting out an observation and taking a jab at a peer. As psychologist Dr. Stephanie Mihalas told Very Well, kids may say things like, "I don't like what you're wearing" or "Your lunch is smelly," in addition to leaving others out when playing; all of which are signs of bullying.
7. They Test Limits
Seeing how far they can push is not uncommon for kids as they learn and experiment with boundaries. But as Stomp Out Bullying's website pointed out, children who frequently test limits and break rules are displaying behaviors linked to bullying.
8. They Have Built Up Anger
Constant frustration may be one of the easiest signs of a bully for parents to spot. "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," according to Working Mother magazine.
9. They Have Trouble Sleeping
Ongoing struggles with sleep problems may be an early indicator of bullying tendencies, according to research. Psych Central reported on a study from the University of Michigan, which found a link between sleep issues and bullying behavior in a group of 341 children.