How Parenting Styles Impact Bullying

Tuesday April 30, 2013

By Sherri M. Gordon

I've always been fascinated by different parenting styles. And, I love to talk with my friends about how they handle different situations. But I have come to realize over the years that not all parenting styles are created equal. And recent research seems to support this belief.

In fact, one study on parenting and bullying found that children who are exposed to faulty parenting, including everything from abuse and neglect to overprotection, are more likely to either become bullies, to be bullied by their peers, or even become bully-victims.

While it seems pretty obvious that abusive and neglectful parents put their kids at risk for becoming bullies or victims, what may shock some people is that being an overprotective parent can actually harm your kids. Although these parents' intentions may be good, their attempt to keep their kids from experiencing pain or discomfort actually harms their kids in the end.

For instance, constantly protecting your kids can cause them to have difficulties developing assertiveness skills, building resilience and even developing self-esteem - the very skills kids need to deal with bullies. What's more, if parents never allow their kids to struggle, they end up losing confidence in their abilities. And, they never learn how to handle problems on their own or bounce back from difficulties.

By contrast, research also has found that children of parents who are emotionally warm and supportive, but not afraid to set clear limits have the least likelihood of being bullies, being bullied by others or even suffering the consequences of being a bully-victim. This parenting style even reduces a child's risk of being called names, teased or even ostracized.

If you are an overprotective parent, I encourage you to stand aside sometimes and allow your child to experience life - conflicts, disagreements and all. By doing so, your kids will learn how to deal with difficult situations. This doesn't mean you desert them, especially if they are being bullied, but instead come alongside them and encourage them to take chances, to experience failure and to experience success. The key is to balance allowing your children the space to grow and develop and still being a parent at the same time.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

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