Bullies are insecure, scared, people who don’t feel they have power.
For instance, in school children where the news has been focused, bullies may feel scared at home. Perhaps a parent is a bully, demanding obedience without consideration or listening, acting out his own stress. If a parent is loud, harsh and overbearing, because he is much larger the child is frightened and intimidated. The child feels helpless and so goes to school and finds someone he can wield power over: a younger, smaller child he can intimidate.
Or maybe parental divorce or fighting is causing insecurity. The child is afraid but has learned either at home or at school that it isn’t OK to express fear or weakness. So he does what he sees modeled by the adults in his world, he turns his fear, sadness, worry into anger and aggression.
In psychotherapy we call this projection–putting our own feelings on someone else, or displacement–acting out feelings of fear against someone who doesn’t cause fear in us. The point being that we aren’t taught to be OK with our own feelings and work through them, or at least contain them without acting them out.
You can help your children by listening to their feelings, encouraging them to tell you about their day and then really paying attention. If you treat their feelings with respect and don’t discount them, they will tell you if they are being bullied. Then let the school know, and if they brush you off, let law enforcement know. The bullies need help too.
Of course, the best is to bully-proof your children by making them secure in your love. Bullies almost never pick on confident, happy children. They go after the kid who is shy, timid, or feels inadequate or bad about himself. Kids who live with disrespect, either towards them or between parents, feel bad.
Don’t be afraid to tell your kids that you love them. Sometimes we think that is weakness–it isn’t. Also don’t be afraid to set boundaries and tell them no. This also makes them feel secure. Kids need to know that someone is in charge, just not disrespectfully. You don’t like to be disrespected either.
Let them know that you will always do your best to keep them safe, that they are adequate–hardwired for struggle–and worth your time and attention. Actually be present with them and LISTEN when you are with them. Let them know that they don’t always have to agree with you, even though they do have to obey, because it is your job to keep them safe.
Kids need rules, but not shame. They don’t need your anger or fear. Children need love but not permissiveness, thinking they can do whatever they want. They don’t need bullying that pretends to be parenting. And bullying can also be letting them do whatever they want and giving them everything.
Kids just need you to be you, taking care of you, so you can be strong enough to attend to them wisely. If you (or they) are being treated disrespectfully, set boundaries. If your boundaries aren’t respected, get help; you are a victim.