How Do Bullies Get Started?

Are bullies born that way or is it learned behavior? We’re not 100% sure, but we do know that it can start early. And it can at least to some extent be learned.

Last month when I was discussing recent cyberbullying statistics I offered up the possibility that maybe young girls are more mean-spirited than young boys, since the data I was looking at showed a higher incidence of bullying among girls than boys. There is nothing for us to gain making broad generalizations, but parents need to see events clearly and deal honestly with what is going on.

basketballI took my 6-year-old daughter to her basketball game this weekend – it was the 3rd Saturday of the program but due to Christmas vacations, the first where my daughter would be together with her team, The Maryland Terrapins.

We picked up her uniform from the coach and got her changed, and then we were milling about waiting for the team photo to be taken. There were two teammates standing nearby but neither of them spoke to or approached my daughter. I asked Kara about the girls, hoping to get some interaction going. This is what followed:

Me: “Do you know those two girls?”

Daughter: “Yes, that one was in my acting class and I know that one from school.”

Me to the girls: “Hi girls, do you know my daughter Kara?”

One of the girls: “We’re in second grade and she is in first grade.” The girls then turned away and continued talking between themselves.

That was just plain mean, and had no real point to it, which I guess is the gist of most bullying. I didn’t say anything to the rude girls, unsure of how to best handle it. When I told the story to my wife later, she said she definitely would have said something. I did talk to my daughter later to make sure she didn’t feel too badly, and thankfully she is a real trooper.

Comfortable that my daughter’s feelings were not damaged, I went to work on a little teaching moment. I explained to her that what the other girl said and how she acted was wrong, and asked her never to treat anyone in such a way. I also assured her that she could talk to her parents any time she had her feelings hurt by another person.

I didn’t think that a first grade/second grade rivalry was even a thing, and I’m not sure whether my choice to not address the other girls was correct – please leave a comment if you feel strongly one way or another. I do feel that after having witnessed this incident first hand and talked to my daughter about it, chances are she’s less likely to be a bully herself. I hope.


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