by Al Campbell
VANCOUVER, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- The best prescription for keeping a child safe and less susceptible to bullying is in fostering relationships with adults to provide the proper nurturing and direction needed until they become their own person, according to a Canadian child behavioral specialist.
Speaking on the subject of "Making sense of bullying" in a recent presentation in the Vancouver suburb city of Burnaby, Dr. Deborah MacNamara, a faculty member of the Neufeld Institute, said about one in five children have shown bullying tendencies in North America and the phenomena remains a mystery.
"Our top researchers in the field, in the world, are still baffled, and no one can make sense of the bully from this perspective," she said. "We are still trying to understand what this is. So we have to be patient. We have to take responsibility and we have to lead."
In her presentation to parents and students at a local high school, MacNamara talked about the rise of the "alpha complex" among children. Typical signs of such behavior include being bossy, controlling, demanding, showing superiority, being a know-it-all and driven to trump interaction, among others.
She added it's "not nature's intention" for a child to be the boss. This can be caused by asking them too many questions about what they want to do and weak, inadequate parenting. Instead, a parent should have the last say and provide direction.
As children with a bullying instinct are typically defendant against caring and responsibility, something that can caused by too much separation from adults, shame and a feeling of being unsafe, MacNamara said a well-balanced child needed to have at least one adult in their lives that he or she knows is "absolutely crazy" about them.
She pointed out attachment is "our preeminent need and most powerful force in behavior and personality." The primary purpose of attachment is facilitate dependence and caretaking from the top of the family down to its youngest members.
With adolescence now ending at age 21, in many cases, MacNamara said the challenge for parents is to keep their children ' s hearts and guard such attachments. Adversely, too much separation, shame and alarm for a child will only serve to push them away.
She recommended five measures to keep children close. " Collect" involved engaging a child's attachment instinct, either through a look, a smile or a nod, making a connection and letting them know they matter.
"Bridging" is preserving that connection, such as in eating dinner together regularly, either at home or outside, or perhaps showing up at school unannounced as a surprise to pick them up and go out.
Arranging scenarios where a child has to be dependent on an adult is good for strengthening the attachment. A parent should put themselves in their child's shoes and pick an activity that they can do together, such as playing sports, among others.
With rapid advances in technology in recent years, something children are largely much quicker to adapt to than adults, MacNamara said parents needed to put safeguards around such communication tools for younger family member for their own safety. Internet use, for one, needed to monitored.
Lastly, attachment hierarchies needed to be embedded in children, such as in peer mentoring.
"The thing that is meant to go around and buffer them is our relationship when we (adults) matter more (to children)," MacNamara said. The problem today, however, in a world where parents can be "neglectful or consumed with their own pursuits" they can often matter less in a child's life, making them susceptible to bullying.
"When we matter less our children's hearts are out there unprotected," she said. "When you matter more you will protect your children more."