Do kids become bullies because they were never spanked?  

I decided to write this article because a person posted a comment to an article about bullying that if more parents spanked their children, these kids wouldn’t become bullies.

Here are some fair reflections:

Just how on earth can receiving NO spankings inspire a teenager, adolescent or grade-schooler to push around a classmate? Why do kids become bullies?

– To prevent being a victim.

– Low self-esteem; bullying makes them feel 10 feet tall.

– To be revered by classmates as a leader.

– Learned behavior: the parents themselves are bullies.

On that last note, what’s more likely to “teach” a girl to be a bully:

Not getting spanked, or…

Regularly witnessing her mother get riled at other people, like slamming her palm down on the counter at the store’s service center, eyes glaring, leaning towards the clerk…demanding a refund.

Or the daughter witnesses Mum charging outside early in the morning, cussing out the neighbor for waking her up when he whistled for his dog.

Expert’s Perspective

“It’s unfortunate when blanket statements are made regarding specific parenting approaches,” says Kyle Gillett, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and Executive Director and Founder of Solstice East and Asheville Academy for Girls.

He leads groups and conferences on bullying, aiding only victims but also the bullies.

“The truth is that spanking or the lack of spanking in a parenting skillset has never been shown to cause anything—the association lies much more in the overall approach that parents apply in their parenting.”

Parenting can be divided into three categories: permissive, authoritarian and authoritative.

“A permissive parent has too few boundaries/rules and/or does not enforce them in a healthy way in the home (may be seen as a pushover).

“An authoritarian parent has too many boundaries/rules and/or may enforce them in too strict or demeaning of a manner (yelling, punitive punishments, could be seen as a drill sergeant).

“An authoritative parent has just the right balance of boundaries/rules, and enforces them consistently and with a respectful tone/approach.”

Dr. Gillet further explains, “So, a permissive parent not spanking his/her child could—along with MANY other passive and permissive parenting approaches—inadvertently teach a child how to manipulate a situation, take advantage of others, have very few boundaries, etc., which could lead to bullying.

“An authoritarian parent spanking his/her child on a regular basis could teach a child that physical confrontation is the way to solve problems and enforce differences in opinion.

“The good ol’ ‘kick the dog’ syndrome could apply here in which a child feels powerless with his or her parents, and in craving some power, determines to exert it through bullying behavior towards younger siblings or same-aged peers.

“An authoritative parent may choose to spank their child or not, and apply alongside their spanking strategy [or not] many other well-balanced boundaries/rules and ways to enforce those rules that teach their children not only to follow rules, but also how to appropriately show respect for others, communicate in healthy ways, and ultimately how not to be a bully.

“In other words, spanking or not spanking has little to nothing to do with whether a child will become a bully.”

And that’s what I thought all along.

Dr. Gillett’s career has focused on treating both boys and girls, with specialization in trauma, processing difficulties, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, OCD and difficult family systems.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  spanking bullying