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Why Are Kids so Cruel? Is It Learned or Natural Behavior?

Updated on March 31, 2019

Cruelty in our Children

Anyone who has children know just how cruel kids can be, to each other, and to anyone who interacts with them. Why is this so common, and is it something that can be changed or is it just the way all kids are. Is it the "nature of the beast" or is it something that they learn from someplace?

These questions are not easy to answer, but upon some examination of situations, and taking some examples we can possibly come to some kind of reasonable explanations that might give us a hint of what is going on in their heads, and why this is such a common occurrence.

Some of the very common things that kids are cruel about, to each other at school for example, might be differences in others. Children who are fat, where different clothing that may not be in style, have a bad hair cut, braces, their race or coloring, even hair color is all open season for those children who find it impossible to avoid being cruel to their peers.

This commonly begins around the second or third grade, and continues to get nothing but worse as they get older. Children around the ages of twelve to fourteen seem to get especially bad, and have been known to even become violent, picking fights after school or even in their neighborhoods. The adolescent child is particularly harsh, for they have the communication skills and vocabulary to say the exact things that are hurtful, but have not yet grown old enough to have a conscience to go along with it.

Even the well behaved child who has been taught to mind manners, and to be good to others can be guilty of being cruel. How well can all of us remember the kid who stood out in PE class and would be standing alone after everyone else had been picked for teams, that noone had wanted because they were just not physically coordinated, or were not very strong and could not throw a ball? This is the child that the others will call names like, loser, slowpoke, you throw like a girl, stupid, weak, and many others that we could not even imagine.

Do they know it is wrong? Most certainly I would think that they do. Does this stop them ever, or even sometimes? I would again venture to say not often.

If we were to dig even deeper into this problem, and try to figure out where it comes from and why it happens, I believe the answer is basically very simple. It is human nature to some extent to point out the flaws in others so that your flaws are not as noticed. It is also a self esteem issue, for belittling another person makes you feel bigger and better. But with kids there is another aspect. Children are by nature very honest. It is very easy for a child to say in a crowded room something like, just as an example, "mom, why does that girl have such big hair, or why does that man have no hair at all?"

They are not shy about pointing out such things because they are honest about how things really are or how they appear to them, without taking into consideration at all about how the person they are referring to to might feel or react about the things he just said. So, part of it is just pure curiosity and the lack of sensitivity that is a learned thing as we get older, and have been embarrassed ourselves by others.

So, in ending, the only thing I can say for certain about what to do, is to be very consistent about correcting such behaviors, be thorough about explaining why it is not a very nice thing to do, and that we should always try to spare the feelings of other people if we can, for it is a hurtful thing, but more than any of that the most effective plan is to get the child to change places with the person that they have spoken cruelly about. Try to get them to stand for a minute in their shoes, and try to get them to understand how it would feel to be them in this situation.

After doing this successfully a time or two, children are more understanding than most adults when it comes down to it. Yes, just stand in the other guys shoes and see how it feels. This is the answer that we all need to apply to our lives.


Submit a Comment
  • TeachableMoments profile image


    7 years ago from California

    I often wonder why kids can be so cruel. I try to model for my daughter how it feels when people say or do mean things. In your hub you encourage caregivers to explain WHY certain behaviors hurt others and I think that is the key to stopping cruelty towards others. Thanks for a great hub.

  • ddsurfsca profile imageAUTHOR

    deb douglas 

    9 years ago from Oxnard

    thank you very much. I appreciate all comments

  • JY3502 profile image

    John Young 

    9 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

    DD, good story and well thought out. You're improving. I liked this!


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