The Parent Coach: How Homelife Can Lead To Bullying

The Parent Coach: How Homelife Can Lead To Bullying

Dr. Steven Richfield:

A parent writes: "It seems to me that kids are bullying and taunting more these days than I remember when I was young. Why is that? Is there something that parents are overlooking that is planting the seeds for this widespread problem?"

The roots of bullying behaviors dig deep into the fabric of our culture, setting the stage for a host of responses our children learn from an early age. Intolerance and discrimination are two long-standing cultivators of bullying, especially when kids are confronted by obvious social or racial differences between themselves and others. When these distinctions lessen, as in many suburban communities, some children refer to other areas to polarize and foster antagonism. Areas such as athletics, academics, appearance, popularity, habits, attire and a myriad of others become the grist for the judgment mill that quickly separates the haves from the have-nots. Certain kids call attention to these distinctions and reinforce them by inflicting pain upon those whom they deem lacking.

Parents may mistakenly believe that their child is not prone to such social intolerance. This is because many pathways to bullying fall outside of parental awareness even though they are apparent everyday at home:

? Intense sibling conflict leaves children ripe for enacting similar social conflicts. ;The callous and mean-spirited behaviors fueled by negative feelings towards one's sibling(s) seeks expression within the peer group. This bullying pathway typically takes the form of an intense, yet groundless, dislike for another child. It appears as if the bullying child needs an enemy to despise and look down upon, as if trying to discharge ;pent up feelings ;and even some kind of score. Parents with children embroiled in hostile rivalries are urged to closely examine how much negativity is being repeated in their kid's peer relationships. Carefully listening to how your children talk about their peers is one way to determine if rivalry has sown the seeds for bullying.

Feelings of low self-worth, anger, and sadness create a combustible combination when confronted by the presence of happy, well-adjusted peers. Imagine the raw frustration when angry and unhappy kids must endure the daily happiness of their peers. Bullies emerge with a misery loves company agenda, capitalizing upon random opportunities to deflate a popular kid, further humiliate an unpopular one, or taunt a committed teacher. Children who follow this bullying pathway are often critical and moody, fixated upon what is wrong with people and events around them. If your child fits this description it behooves you to offer them a nonjudgmental ear and understanding voice. Gently ask if their unhappiness ever makes them want to hurt others. Suggest that this is understandable, yet not acceptable. Brainstorm ways to help them feel better quickly.

Exposure to judgmental, narrow-minded views plants judgmental, narrow-minded attitudes. Some parents overlook how their own biases and other perceptual filters are absorbed by their children. Just because children may not always listen to our requests and instructions doesn't mean they aren't intently listening to our views of other kids, parents, teachers, neighbors, and so on. These views may then be adopted to a more extreme degree, since kids often don't understand the context within which they are expressed. Signs of this bullying pathway surface in the form of sarcastic and inappropriate comments that sound more like an adult's inner thoughts than a child's perceptions. Other adults and children may be especially struck by the adult nature of the child's statements and quietly suspect that these views have been heard at home. If this circumstance exists at home it is critical to discuss it in an open and nondefensive manner, taking responsibility for unfortunate social programming that has already aired. Try to do a better job at shielding children from bias and innuendo, and someday they will appreciate the freedom to accept others as they are, not as parent's measure them.

Dr. Steven Richfield is a child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting, PA. He can be contacted at 610-275-0178 or

A LOT of Links

This AWESOME list of links is courtesy of :
Mike Savory
AWAK(e)A (c) 2001
"Advocacy With Abundant Keys to
Excellence and Access"
Offering Advocacy in: Community Service,
Student Advocacy, Facilitation & Mediation


Asperberger's Home Page
Autism Network International
Autism Society of America Home Page

British Columbia-Autism Society of British Columbia

Canada -Quebec Society for Autism

Canada -Autism Treatment Services of Canada

Cure Autism Now (CAN)

England -All Lewisham Autism Support

France -Pro Aid Autisme

Ireland -Parents and Professionals and Autism

Japan -Autism Society of Kyoto

Nova Scotia -Society for Treatment of Autism

Saskatchewan -Saskatoon Society for Autism

SYNAPSE -Parent support group- Niagra Autism Connection

United Kingdom -The National Autistic Society


Alabama Association of the Deaf
Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf
American Society for Deaf Children

American academy of Audiology

ASDC- American Society for Deaf Children

Boystown National Research Hospital

California Association of the Deaf (CAD) Organization

Connecticut Association of the Deaf (CAD)

Deaf-Blind Perspectives

Directory of National Organizations of and for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People from The National Information Center on Deafness

Kansas Association of the Deaf

Louisana Association of the Deaf (LAD)

Maryland Association of the Deaf

National Association of the Deaf

National Technical assistance Consortium for Children and Young Adults Who Are Deaf-Blind

New York Empire State Association of the Deaf

North Carolina Association of the Deaf

Oregon Association of the Deaf, Inc.

Rhode Island Association of the Deaf (RIAD)

Self Help for Hard of Hearing People

Texas Association of the Deaf

Utah Association of the Deaf

Virginia Association of the Deaf

Deaf Association of Wyoming

See related organizations in the SPEECH/LANGUAGE/STUTTERING/VOICE section


American Association on Mental Retardation
The Arc, a national organization on mental retardation

Elwyn, Inc.- a service organization
FRAXA Research Foundation Home Page

Hydrocephalus Association Homepage

National Association for Down Syndrome

National Down Syndrome Congress

National Down Syndrome Society

Virginia Dept. of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse


American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA)

American Physical Therapy Association

Cleft Palate Craniofacial Journal

Genetic Alliance - Formerly The Alliance of Genetic Support Groups

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (Library of Congress)

National Organization for Rare Disorders

National Pediatric & Family HIV Resource Center Home Page
National Spinal Cord Injury Association

Office of Rare Diseases (ORD)

Patient Advocate Foundation

Sensory Integration Int'l

Starbright World

Tourette Syndrome

United Cerebral Palsy of Colorado


American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Alabama -Speech & Hearing Association of Alabama

Arizona Speech & Hearing Association

Arkansas Speech-Languague-Hearing Association
California Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Head Injury Society of New Zealand

Pacific Brain Injury Association

Saskatchewan Head Injury Association


American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Council of the Blind

American Foundation for the Blind

Canadian National Institute for the Blind

Climb- A Unique program located in Sierra Madre California, dedicated to helping the multi-handicapped blind achieve a more fulfilling life

National Eye Institute

National Federation of the Blind

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (Library of Congress)

NAVH (National Association for the Visually Handicapped)

Prevent Blindness America

Recording For The Blind & Dyslexic


Advocates 4 Special Kids
American Therapeutic Recreation Association

Camps for special needs children

Council for Exceptional Children
Comfort Connection Family Resource Center

Dolphin Facilitated Healing

Dyspraxia Foundation

Family Voices - organization of families of children with special health needs

North American Riding for the Handicapped Association

Elwyn, Inc.- Organization for people with special challenges

March Of Dimes

National Easter Seal Society

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)

National Lekotek Center

National Parent Network on Disabilities -NPND

National Parent to Parent Support and Information System, Inc.

Sibling Support project

Special Olympics

TASH- Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps

Teens With Disabilities Zine

Telephone Support Service-Speech to Speech

Very Special Arts

We Move- Worldwide Education and Awareness for Movement Disorders

Wheels for Humanity


Using Simple Tools in Oral-Motor Therapy
Part II: Horns Using Simple Tools in Oral-Motor Therapy
Preventing Oral-Motor Problems in Down Syndrome


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