Dr. Warren Seiler is a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist and the author of Battling the Enemy Within. He recently discussed children and bullying with LoveToKnowKids.
Kids and Bullying Interview
Please tell us about yourself?
"Born and raised in New Orleans in 1947, I was the first board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist to open a private practice in my field anywhere in the history of Arkansas. I have been in solo private practice since July of 1978 and am located in Little Rock, Arkansas. The most important things in my life have and always will be the lovely lady who has tolerated me for 38 years and who is the mother of our three now adult children.
"It has been an incredible experience to have the privilege and pleasure of working extensively with so many children, adolescents, young adults, and their families in both outpatient and inpatient settings over my 32 years of private practice. I have attempted over many years now to understand the concepts and develop the tools necessary to facilitate healing in oneself and in others. In my recently published book, Battling the Enemy Within, I describe these concepts and tools which are unique in their ability to bridge the gap between the realm of the psychological/emotional and the realm of the spiritual that have heretofore been kept separate by most."
How serious is the issue of bullying among children?
"First and foremost, it is important to understand that there are different degrees of bullying among children and adolescents, and adults for that matter. On the benign end of the continuum we have children who on occasion in their life attempted to bully or intimidate others into doing what they might want them to do, but the bullying characteristics have not yet become in any significant way ingrained into the character structure of the child.
"On the other end of the continuum we have children and adolescents who have become most severe in their characterological pathology along these lines and will stop at nothing to torment an individual into doing whatever it is they want them to do. Such severity, until proven otherwise, is almost always the result of a young person who has become significantly narcissistic and who exhibits a lack of empathy for the feelings and needs of others."
What is your definition of bullying?
"My definition is essentially the same as that found in Webster's New World Dictionary. A bully is simply a person who hurts, frightens, threatens, or tyrannizes those who are viewed as smaller or weaker in some sense than the bully in an attempt to get these individuals to do something that the bully wants them to do or stop doing something that the bully wants them to stop doing."
What steps can parents take to teach their children not to bully others?
"Although I do not mention the word or concept of bullying in my book, Battling the Enemy Within, I do discuss the many different important concepts both psychological and spiritual that are important for parents to teach their children in order for their children to become really good, healthy, wonderful, delightful contributing human beings to society at large. Viewed another way, such children do not grow up to be bullies. It is most important from the time a child is born until he is truly ready to go out into the adult world, for parents to be ever aware of their children's needs and to minister to those needs (physical, emotional/psychological, spiritual) so as to teach them everything that the parents can think of about how to be a good decent caring human being. Children growing up in families where they are neglected emotionally automatically focus their energies in an attempt to get their needs met."
What should parents do if they learn their child is a victim of a bully?
"Parents should offer what is always the healing love of their empathy for the suffering that their child has gone through as a result of being the victim of a bully. Children learn from and further appreciate examples that the parents may offer of their own childhood and adolescence and times when they may have been bullied, and how they handled this themselves. It is also at these times that children can be helped to understand why it is important that they themselves not mistreat others because of the feelings that they would cause such others.
"Of course, ignoring the bully and making use of various other concepts described in my book routinely assist them in getting through the rough times that occur in everyone's life. Children who are acutely aware on a day-to-day basis of how much they are loved and valued by their parents, or whoever may be taking care of them, are typically able to tolerate significant amounts of stress and discomfort without being damaged by such.
"In those cases where parental support and suggestions as to how to deal with the bully do not end the bullying, it is routinely necessary for the parent to take some action in order to intervene and end the bullying. If this occurs in a school setting the teachers and the principal need to be notified. If it occurs in a neighborhood, the parents of the bully need to be informed (occasionally the parents may need to seek legal advice as to what can be done in more extreme cases)."
Where can we read more about you and this topic?
"More information about myself and my book, Battling the Enemy Within, can be found on the website Battling the Enemy Within. In regard to the topic of bullying, I mentioned above that this topic is not specifically discussed in my book but what is discussed in my book is crucially important to understand and convey to our children in order to help them grow up and become increasingly loving, empathetic, confident, strong, and healthy adults who contribute significantly to the world around them throughout the rest of their adult life. Such healthy children are by their very essence incapable of really being bullies to others because they are so acutely aware of the feelings and needs of others and the pain that such bullying type behavior would cause other people."
Do you have any other tips or advice you'd like to add?
"I am flattered that you would ask me such an open-ended question. I have attempted to put the essence of this into what is an easy-to-read relatively short book, Battling the Enemy Within which can be found either through the website mentioned above or via Amazon books:
- Marriage-The absolute most important relationship in the family is the marital relationship. To whatever degree the marital relationship is less than ideal, the parent/child relationship can be no better and the children will typically suffer one way or the other.
- Parental example-If parents serve as good examples in every aspect of life that's important, their children will almost always follow suit since the apple doesn't fall far from the tree in either a good sense or a bad sense.
- Relationships-In regard to the parent/child relationship, I would advise parents that they must recognize that their children will almost certainly grow in strength of character, in strength of morality, and in strength of spiritual awareness to the degree they know and experience at all levels the fact that their parents cherish them above all else.
"Finally, if only we as parents treated our children from birth until adulthood with the same loving and cherishing time and energy as are devoted to thoroughbred animals and marvelous gardens, there would be no bullies growing from these situations and the world would become an incredibly better place as the years go by instead of the world that seems to be struggling as the years go by."