How Young is Too Young to Be a Bully?

Family Matters on 06.23.11


Parents are more alert than ever when it comes to spotting signs that their children are being harrassed, but some experts say that the enthusiastic labeling of toddlers as "bullies" is taking the term too far.

MSNBC talked to child psychologist Dr. Heather Wittenberg -- who has four children of her own; Wittenberg says that kids under six don't really have the ability to bully someone else, since they aren't old enough to plan and execute that kind of behavior. They don't "have the cognitive capability to be intentionally cruel, or to abuse a power differential," she says. "You might as well ask them to do calculus."'

In response to people who say that bullying can start as young as two, Wittenberg points out that age can be a factor. "They're using the word 'bully' to sub for the word 'aggressive'," she says. "Two years old is typically a very aggressive time."

So if you do see your toddler showing signs of turning into a terror? Says MSNBC: 

Though you may be tempted to swoop and scold, that’s really more for the benefit of the other parents who may have witnessed your diapered darling clock another kid. At this age, it’s best to kneel down and speak calmly, explaining in simple terms how to take turns, or share a toy.


What do you think: How young is too young to be a bully?

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