I read an interesting mainstream article the other day (and which mainstream magazine it was in, I cannot remember), but the article was talking about the massive rise in incidents of bullying across the United States and possible reasons for this increase.

One thing that was mentioned in the article that I found very interesting from both a Waldorf perspective and a homeschooling perspective is that researchers believe a contributing factor to bullying is that children no longer spend their free time playing in groups.  Instead, children have nearly all of  their free time scheduled in team sports, classes.  Recess has been all but eliminated at many schools.  In essence, there are no chances for children to get together and play and learn how to interact acceptably within mixed aged groups in creative, free play.  

I have been privileged to work with thousands of families over the years and observe children in a variety of situations surrounding school, places of worship, groups in hospitals, homeschooling groups.  Have you ever watched a truly mixed-age group of children play?  If you have the wonderful and unique opportunity to observe a group of children of vastly different ages all playing, you can see how the younger children are on the outskirts and fringes of play mainly just  watching, how the range of older children help organize the play, and how the children all work together to solve conflict.  Unfortunately, there is not too much of this going on these days.  In this day and age, it tends to be all children of one age playing together.

However, in this day and age there is another skill and piece of this group/free play to consider.  Children these days really get very little constructive practice with conflict resolution at the family level.  They are busy running around with activities and lessons and carpools.  Many children no longer have large families with multiple siblings or huge extended families with many cousins to take these first steps toward group play and conflict resolution.  

So, it is my opinion that naturally small children under the age of 7 do not know how to  “work it out” unless this has been modeling and demonstrated over time for them and that in the past there is no way a group of small children would be playing without the older children of the family or village involved.   There is no way these tiny children would be so responsible for their own play!  And now, these tiny children grow up and become older, larger, bigger children who still have no idea how to interact socially without things being dictated by a coach or someone else.  They missed the beginning foundation!

So, these play dates where  mothers are huddled in a corner talking and the children are running wild and free often do not work out well.  Parents need to be around to show how to take turns, how to show compassion, and how to solve conflict.  I have talked about this frequently on this blog; you can use the search engine to search back posts. 

The other piece is that if children are constantly rushing around, there is no time for the parent to demonstrate how to look carefully at an animal or insect close-up, there is no time to help the neighbor down the street who needs it, there is no time to drive the four hours to grandma after she fell and help take care of her house (since grandma does not live in town near her children in our society anymore).  These are the experiences that build compassion and understanding for the growing child.

I think there is another that the mainstream article did not mention that is contributing to the rise of bullying:  the rise of children who have sensory processing problems and challenges such as  ADD/ADHD.  These children may be bullied simply because they cannot read another child’s social behavior.  You can see the US Government Fact Sheet regarding bullying and children with special needs here:  http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adults/tip-sheets/tip-sheet-24.aspx

One thing this fact sheet points out is that children with ADD/ADHD are not only more likely to be bullied themselves,  but that they are slightly more likely to bully their peers.  The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has a fact sheet here:   http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/bullying  If your child is a bully, professional help is needed.  Children who identify themselves as a bully in the middle school years are four times more likely to have a criminal conviction by age 24, according to a study cited in this article here:  http://www.education.com/magazine/article/what-to-do-if-your-child-is-a-bully/

Two other factors that also seem to me contributing causes for bullying include lack of rites of passages and the inability of children these days to have flexibility and resiliency.  Kim John Payne has tied lack of cultural rites of passage to bullying for older children in this interesting article here:  http://kimjohnpayne.com/files/SocialInclusionArticleCalgary  I talked about the importance of rites of passage when I reviewed this book:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/30/rite-of-passage-parenting-four-essential-experiences-to-equip-your-kids-for-life-heading-up-to-the-nine-year-change-and-beyond/

Kim John Payne also talks about the importance of slowing down, reducing clutter in the environment and other ways to help children lay good foundations for health but to increase resiliency.  You can refer to his book “Simplicity Parenting” for more information as to how to build resiliency in children.  You can see my review of Kim John Payne’s book here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/26/favorite-waldorf-resource-2-simplicity-parenting-using-the-extraordinary-power-of-less-to-raise-calmer-happier-and-more-secure-kids-by-kim-john-payne-and-lisa-ross/

Some parents believe that homeschooling will eliminate bullying from their children’s lives.  I do not think this is the case.  Bullying can occur even in homeschool groups!  Homeschooling children are not immune, and parents still  must be vigilant and involved.  Homeschooling involves being with your children 24/7 and sometimes parents really want to take a break at a homeschooling event – but this may not be the place!  Your children still need your help!  Parents must show their children how to slow down and have compassion for other people and animals.  Parents have a big job.

I would love to hear your experiences regarding bullying, social inclusion and issues related to this – leave me a comment in the box!  This post has many links, and a lot to think about, so I am going to leave this post up for a few days.  Thank you all!

Many blessings,


9 thoughts on “Bullying!

  1. My own person opinion on bullying is that children at not properly taught at home how to interact with others on an acceptable level. Now, there are extreme cases and always exceptions to the rules, but generally speaking the children who are bullying insecure children who are acting out because of problems they have at home. Not feeling loved enough, payed attention to, so it in turn makes them act out with their peers.

    I think as society has advanced we have become more removed from the process of childhood. Forcing our children to grow up before they are reading. That could be through the things they are allowed to watch (why is Hanna Montana geared toward 5 year olds?), experience(the push to CIO, self soothe, send to school for long hours before they are ready) and anything else. You can see it plainly as people refer to the AP lifestyle as “alternative”. How is it alternative?

  2. Oh, what a great article! We have had so many issues with my older son being bullied – particularly/*especially* in homeschooling groups. Parents tend to be absent at park days and playdates, knitting and chatting farrrrrr from the playground.

    My 7 year old son (with sensory issues/asperger’s) so wants to be friends and play with kids, that he even allows them to be mean to him since any attention must mean they are his friends. We have even had to terminate friendships due to bullying – when I have spoken (gently) about it to the other mothers, I get “boys will be boys”, “boys just like to play rough”, and not any more parental attention or interaction, even when my son was injured.

    I have also found that many homeschooling families ‘car school’, afraid to be home, always on the run, in the car signed up for so, so many classes, even at a young age. I don’t know how it can be homeschooling when you are always taught by someone else…that is just portable school. 😉

    I absolutely agree that familial modeling and interaction is the most important thing. We try not to schedule too much, do things as a family, not have ‘drop off’ types of activities (until boys are older)… I do think it is important for parents to stay close in playgroup and playdate situations – yet I am not a hovering parent either. I don’t think we should tell them how to play, but be sure to help them manage conflict, bullying, give and take and new people/experiences as needed. Our attention doesn’t mean smothering, it means being involved, and that is a good thing.

    Wonderful article!

  3. I run a playgroup with a friend for almost 4 years now. In the past we have had incidents of bullying but we talked with the kids about how to resolve the problems. As time has gone on, these kids have figured out a lot on their own, as a group and with our input. Things like:

    how to take turns
    dealing with bossy kids
    clicks and leaving others out of play
    including others
    working it out together

    It has been wonderful to see how they grow and develop and work through these issues. There is a new child now who is deaf and they have included him like he was always there.

    Bullying can be worked through if the kids are given time, space and skills to do it.

  4. This was a great post. I attempted to go to our local homeschool groups’ functions a few times, but decided it was not the place for us, precisely for the reasons you mentioned–most of the moms were talking together, while the kids were running wild, throwing things, etc. I kept looking around, thinking, is anyone going to do anything about this?!?! At a casual outdoor get-together, my then-five year old son got hurt because of some of the wild play, and no concern or compassion was shown towards him at all by the other children involved. I thought, “this is one of the reasons I don’t want my kids in school–why would I tolerate it here?”

    I’ve seen multiple situations this summer at the pool of parents telling kids as young as three and four to “work it out” regarding issues of sharing and taking turns. Of course, the children don’t know how, and pretty soon the situation just escalates because no one is helping them. I have another friend who makes a point of always telling the kids to “go upstairs and play” whenever we visit because she doesn’t want to be bothered with any of their concerns. I’ve decided simply not to go there anymore. It makes me crazy! The strange thing is, on an individual level, many of these parents are lovely people…it’s just that I cannot deal with hands-off parenting.

    The good news is, that after feeling for many years like we’d never find a compatible group, I believe that we have. I am so glad we didn’t settle for an unsafe and unhealthy situation.

  5. Thank you for bringing up such a relevant issue. We have decided to homeschool for many reasons, one of them being the issue of bullying in the local schools. We live in a very “alternative” community, and I am surprised to see that a lot of these parents, while very conscious in some ways, enourage independence and freedom of thought in their own children at the expense of compassion for others. I worked for several years at an “alternative” elementary school, run by the parents, and realized how disfunctional this way of raising children may be. While every parent there wanted their child to be conscious, considerate, compassionate people, they were lacking a lot of fundamental guidance. You are absolutely correct, in my mind, that children need / want adult modeling in social behaviour. This also needs to be supported by adult guidance, whether at home or in social situations. I appreciate those parents who are involved, stay involved, and nurture children to interact in a positive, harmonious way.

  6. this is a great post to read. I can’t say how bullying is effecting maltese children really but so far in school we still have recess with different age groups within i.e all elementary school children together! At the swings children still mix with others of different ages and although a lot of children nowadays have extra classes and sports after school it is still not an out of hand issue since these would mean just 1-2 classes weekly!

  7. I love this post. Bullying is a big issue but it doesn’t effect only the children. I think once a bully, always a bully. I mean, don’t we all know a bully in our life? one of these days I’ll write about our office bully and all the humorous drama that she creates. :0)

  8. I have been tying and trying to find some info on bullying in homeschool communities as my 11yr old daughter is experiencing bullying via social exclusion. It is hard to know what to do. There is no intermediary like there is at school. Either I speak to the girl’s mother or I don’t. At the moment, my daughter has withdrawn from activities the bully is at, because she can’t deal with it emotionally, and she thinks that’s unfair, because she loses out but the bully doesn’t. I am trying to support her the best I can. So yes, bullying definitely exists in homeschool groups!! Even groups where the parents are Christian and supposedly teaching their children to ‘do unto others’.

  9. This is the perfect post ! I am a homeschool mom, and actually pulled my children out of public school because of the rise in bullying and my personal experience with my child in 1st grade getting bullied to the point that they broke his natural front tooth and 3 police reports had to be documented.
    I’ve searched and joined not one, but two different homeschool support groups, and although they are supposed to support you, that is what a support group is for, that is the least that you get…
    The mothers I have found would much rather sit around and let their kids go wild running around and not even caring about how their own children are socializing, and if indeed all the children are being included and or left out… (social inclusion is right on target !)
    I find that either they are lazy and don’t care, or they would much rather sit and gossip about other peoples businesse and who is more righteous than the next, instead of acknowledging that we are all in the same boat, and that if we don’t teach the children how to include everyone, they will become bullies as they see their own parents form their own little cliques, instead of teaching and showing their children, what a loving environment would be like and how to behave properly and exactly, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
    These moms really need to look in the mirror well and take that plank out of their eye, cause it’s not even a plank it’s a trunk !
    Children need to learn social skills and they need to be taught how to behave, or they will be mirroring what they see in their parents, and what a shame it is to see that, because children don’t hate, they naturally love, it’s usually the parents that make them bullies, and separate. shame, shame, shame !!! aren’t we all opinionated !

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