November 21, 2010

Families Today: Path to teen bullying begins at an early age

By DR. T. BERRY BRAZELTON and DR. JOSHUA SPARROW

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The victims of bullying and teasing will need help in learning to value and feel proud of their differences so they can't be used as weapons against them. Parents can help by accepting them as they are and valuing their differences as strengths.

If a child continues to be victimized, over and over, he may need a fresh start in a new, more protected peer group. Children who consistently flounder in social situations may have a more serious disorder that interferes with understanding body language and other important but subtle aspects of communication. Your pediatrician can refer you to a child psychiatrist, psychologist, and/or a speech and language pathologist.

HELP FOR THE BULLIES AND TEASERS

A bully is an insecure, unhappy child. Peers shun him. He may attack when he feels threatened by signs of vulnerability in another child that remind him of his own. He may use intimidation to keep others from threatening him.

Often an aggressive child has been the victim of aggression. Has he been made to feel small and weak by an older sibling or peer? Is he vaguely aware of his own immaturity -- perhaps in the area of language or social skills -- and does he compensate by teasing his peers?

Bullies and teasers can be helped to feel certain enough of their own competence so they are less threatened by other children's displays of weakness. They can also learn to face their own vulnerability as a sign of strength and a source of pride.

If their bullying persists, damaging their relationships, they, too, may need help from a child mental health specialist.

(This article is adapted from "Mastering Anger and Aggression: The Brazelton Way," by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. Joshua D. Sparrow, published by Da Capo Press, a member of The Perseus Books Group.)

Questions or comments should be addressed to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. Joshua Sparrow, care of The New York Times Syndicate, 620 Eighth Ave., 5th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10018. Questions may also be sent by e-mail to:

nytsyn-families@nytimes.com

 

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