How early can you start working with your kids to prevent them from being a bully and from being bullied?
Children need to learn how to be strong from the inside out from birth onward. With that said, children as early as 2 years old need to begin learning social-emotional skills that foster kindness, cooperation, and understanding (versus being pushy, mean, and bulldozing other kids). Of course, children imprint what they see -- so whatever you are doing will show up in your little angels.
What tips can you offer to prevent each?
You can offer your child unconditional love (versus conditional love based upon being good, getting good grades, doing certain household chores) so they understand they are good and worthy of their own love no matter what is going on. This alone will help a child begin cultivating a positive regard for the self thus making him or her strong -- and a strong child is not a good target for a bully.
One of the key tips to help a child early on is to begin creating mottos or sayings that build their sense of positive self confidence. Because as they truly embrace that they are talented, smart, and worthy now, they will be able to stand up for themselves amidst a bullying episode.
Also, you are going to want to read stories to them that emphasize being kind, harmonious, and peaceful with self and others. With repetition and fun these messages will begin helping them cultivate inner qualities that are completely different than a bully.
What's the most important thing parents need to know about bullying?
It's learned. Children will do what they see, hear, and believe to be helpful. So if they watch television that has bullies (and you are not monitoring it), then they might pick up some poor behaviors. Watch what goes into your child's mind and heart.
Do you try to instill anti-bullying behavior in your toddler?