What causes children to be abusive and how can parents help them stop hurting others?
cyberbullying (illustrative) Practically every parent sends a child to an educational setting with certain concerns, and prays that he/she won’t be harmed, humiliated or insulted. And this fear is well-founded – children from kindergarten age to youth in military settings suffer from ridicule, shaming, exclusion, humiliation, slaps, beatings, sexual assault and other forms of violence, which is very frightening.
But just as we fear that our children will become victims, how will we react if we find out that, actually, it’s our son or daughter who’s the one threatening others and acting out violently?
Before we’re overwhelmed with feelings of severe parental failure – it’s important that we understand that how we behave has a purpose and is observed by our kids, and even if the path is negative, the final goal will be positive and bring us to a place where we feel loved, wanted, accepted, capable and belong to family and society.
Indulgence leads to inferiority
We make mistakes due to a variety of emotional difficulties or physiological disabilities, yet they also reflect the relationships we have at home, the family atmosphere and the lifestyle our child adapts to as an outcome of all of these.
A family atmosphere based, for example, on dominance and inequality, one that distinguishes between the dominant and the controlled and which elevates the strong over the weak, may lead the child to think that in order to belong to the family and society, he/she must be strong, insist that his/her way is the only way and adopt a powerful stance.
Children who have been weakened or attacked themselves and can’t confront the abuser with his/her pain will direct the negative feelings that have accumulated in them toward others.
A child who doesn’t experience warmth, love, encouragement, acceptance and whose physiological and physical needs are ignored so he/she can’t properly grow and develop; he/she may believe that his life has no meaning and so will turn his hopelessness inward and on others to thwart any intention to help him.
On the other hand, Alfred Adler, the father of Adlerian theory, is against indulgence. He claims that a girl whose parents treat her like a princess, removing every obstacle and providing her with everything – will go out into society without coping techniques and won’t believe in her abilities. A pampered girl who is used to getting everything she wants, always and on-demand, will express dissatisfaction when her demands aren’t met and will express arrogance towards adults and children around her.
Similar to pampered children, who don’t feel capable and can’t recognize their inner strengths, disadvantaged children risk developing a superiority complex to compensate for certain perceived gaps between them and classmates, and to lift their sense of worth – they’ll hurt and demean others.
Stop-go in another direction
If you discovered that your daughter is defaming another girl on social media, that your son is throwing objects at the heads of friends from kindergarten or that your little girl is leading a boycott of a new girl in the neighborhood – it’s time to uproot the pain.
It’s highly advisable not to handle matters alone, and to first involve the school staff. The school counselor, kindergarten teacher or homeroom teacher has the tools, experience and familiarity with the various treatments.