An observation is usually only hurtful if it has some ring of truth to it. So calling a fat person fat can be hurtful, but calling a very tall person tall, or a beautiful person ugly, has far less effect.
Children can often make observations as well as adults, such as noticing if a person is obese or doesn't have as nice clothes as others in the class. But when they are very young, they lack the inhibition that most adults have learned to not express the observation. Worse, once they get a bit older, they may understand the pain that it is causing the other person, and yet they may persist in making the observation out loud anyway. These types of observations are examples of bullying.
My question is: why do children do this? And if it is so hurtful, why don't adults (i.e. the teachers and parents) make it a huge priority to teach children not to do them, so they will understand how hurtful it is. Surely if they understood they would not?
Why would a child WANT to hurt someone else? It is not as if adults go around pointing and laughing at homeless people.
Is it something to do with the fact that children are put in classrooms of 30 of their peers who have nothing to do with one another except that they are similar in age, and essentially forced to socialize with one another? Perhaps if adults were placed in a similar situation we, too, would find it irresistible to treat others in the group harshly in order to preserve our place in the social hierarchy?
Or perhaps adults placed in that situation would continue to restrain their behaviour. That indicates there is something special about children that causes the behaviour. Perhaps at a young age they lack empathy, behaving like sociopaths until sometime in their late teens they acquire a moral sense.
Bullying is not just the stereotype of a lone, damaged, large boy physically pushing and taunting other boys. It is also a phenomenon of socially well-adjusted and otherwise decent children who see some abnormality (fat, poor, disabled, etc) in their classmates and then make hateful statements. Other children may not join in at first but may lack the education or training to know how to stand up in defense of their classmates.
I remember knowing that it was wrong to make fun of the mentally disabled children who attended Pine Street School. However, some of my classmates would spank their own bums and make "retarded noises" when the mentally disabled children were present, to mock them. Even then I knew that was wrong. But I nevertheless made fun of a select few of my economically disadvantaged classmates, taking a strange pleasure in making fun of them and thinking of hateful things to say, like making fun of their body odor or weight. Why would I do such things? Just to make a joke and be funny, like I would make any other joke, just to pass the time? Or was it to become popular? Or was I just copying the behaviour of others? Why didn't I realize that I was causing them pain?
Now that I think about it, I could have, on any Saturday during the school year, taken the initiative to walk down the street to a popular girl’s house, and asked her to invite an unpopular girl over to play with dolls or something. I could have implored the popular girl to do this not just to make the unpopular girl feel better, in some patronizing sense, but moreover to integrate the unpopular girl within the circle of friends that existed in our class, transcending any notion of being patronizing or of their even being a hierarchy. I certainly did not such thing. The real question is, why didn’t our parents and teachers educate us into doing it. Perhaps they could not - perhaps it’s not really possible to modify a child’s personality so they become generous of spirit and kind-hearted.