Middle-class parents who spoil their children have created a new breed of playground bullies, MPs on the Commons Education Select Committee were told.
The youngsters - described as "the brat bullies" - come from "nice" homes but have been brought up always to get what they want, said Michele Elliott, director of the children's charity Kidscape.
Many parents refuse to believe that their "perfect child" is capable of bad behaviour when schools confront them, she said. Some children now arrive at school believing that they are "little gods" because their over-indulgent parents have never been able to say no to them.
Her remarks follow warnings from headteachers this month that parents who can't say no to their children are guilty of "loving neglect".
Ms Elliott told the committe: "In addition to children coming from homes where bullying is basically fostered, we found a whole other group of bullies who come from homes where they are so indulged that they go to school and they are little gods. They think that everything just revolves around them. We call them the 'brat bullies'."
Speaking afterwards, she said it was a new phenomenon for children from educated, caring, middle-class homes to be responsible for such an upsurge in bullying. "They are spoilt by their parents and feel that the world basically owes them, and that the other children should be as in awe of them as their families," she said. "They expect all the teachers and other kids to kow-tow to them. If they don't, they start to bully the other children.
"The parents of these children are pretty difficult to deal with because they do not see the children in that situation."
She added that "brat bullies" were more likely to be girls than boys, because boys tended to "sort each other out".
Ms Elliott, whose charity receives 16,000 calls about bullying to its helpline every year, suggested that the rise in "only" children was partly to blame.The new breed of bullies is not made up of thugs "who go out mugging people", she said, "it is little Miss Sunshine or little Mr Wonderful".
Earlier, Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said some children were falling asleep at their desks because their parents failed to send them to bed at a reasonable time.
David Moore, a senior inspector at Ofsted, told the committee of MPs that girls often laid themselves open to bullying by being more open about their feelings than boys and giving their tormentors ammunition to use against them. He said girls used "non-verbal communication" to bully each other. A group of girls would walk up to a classmate and deliberately turn away without speaking to her in order to isolate her. "Nothing is said but that actually diminishes the youngster in their self-esteem and confidence," he said.
Mr Moore criticised the lack of accurate figures to ascertain the extent of the bullying problem in English schools. He called for the Government to commission long-term research into the issue, arguing that previous short-term projects that ailed to reveal the true picture. He suggested that one way of tackling bullying would be for teachers to warn older pupils that they could face criminal prosecution for threatening behaviour.
Ms Elliott said children should know they will face punishment if they bully their classmates. She criticised a method of tackling bullying known as the "no blame" approach, in which children are encouraged to discuss the problem among themselves without being punished. "If you have got bullies, these kids are going to get the message that 'nothing is going to happen to me'," she said.Reuse content