To call bullying a phase in a child’s life that they are bound to grow out of misrepresents and over simplifies the issue. Things such as bed-wetting, temper tantrums, and general moodiness are common behaviors that most children and teens exhibit at some point in their life. Bullying, however, is very different from these sorts of behaviors.
What Is a Phase?
Phases are characterized by a distinct set of physical, physiological, and behavioral features that take place during a given period in a person’s life. Different behavioral patterns are common during certain stages of human development. Testing boundaries, challenging authority, sexual curiosity, self-perception: these are all part of growing up, and can be expected at different ages.
Phases will come along as physical and cognitive development progresses. They occur naturally and should be handled with that in mind.
How Bullying Differs from a Phase
Bullying is a learned behavior, not a common stage towards human development. A person doesn’t simply wake up one day and feel the need or urge to act aggressively towards others. It is a combination of years of observed behaviors, experienced social pressures and engagements, and complex emotions that culminates into targeted aggression towards others.
Unlike a phase, bullying does not cease once a person has reached a certain age or level of cognizance. Those who are seen engaging in bullying behavior need support that will help them understand the effects their actions have on others. A child will stop bullying only once they fully grasp the implications of their misbehavior, and learn to channel out their aggression in a healthy way.
To do this effectively, however, children who bully sometimes need to be helped through thought patterns that contribute to the underlying issues of their behavior. Contributors could include, depression, a history of abuse, self-esteem issues, body consciousness, etc. These issues are discussed at greater lengths in our posts on The Perpetual Bully Cycle and Why Children Bully.
Because bullying often stems from deep seeded emotional disturbances in the psyche, it’s important for parents and teachers to facilitate resolutions between bullies and their victims. Ignoring the issue or passing it off as a temporary phase tacitly condones and tolerates the behavior. It also lessens the severity of the issue, and fails to place responsibility on any of the parties involved.
If children continue to show a persistent mistreatment of others and it goes uncorrected, this sort of behavior can have a dramatic effect on how they relate to others once they’ve reached adulthood. These children may grow up to become people who solve their problems by overpowering and belittling others, not by engaging in healthy, open dialogue. This is why it’s important to help students learn appropriate ways to deal with emotions and interact with peers early on so that children can grow up to become well-adjusted adults.