The Bullyimage

The role of a bully is described as one who repeatedly inflicts intentional harm to another – the victim. In most cases, the bully is seen as having more power and social support than the victim. The bully gets even more power when peers support the bully, are too fearful to stand up to the bully, or don’t get an adult’s help.

The harm that a bully causes to another may be physical, emotional, or relational in nature.

  • Physical harm occurs when the victim is pushed, hit, tripped, or endures abuse that causes harm or hurt to their physical body.
  • Emotional harm is experienced when the bully’s ongoing behavior makes the victim feel sad, worthless, afraid, or upset. Examples include name calling, exclusion, negative gestures, and rude statements to name a few.
  • Relational bullying happens when the bully uses relationships to harm the victim. Specific examples may include: the bully spreading rumors about the victim, telling others not to hang around with the victim, or convincing peers into being mean to the victim.

Several theories exist as to why an individual behaves in ways that bully others. Perhaps as a parent of a potential bully you wonder what has happened to cause your child to act this way. Maybe you are concerned to the point of needing some answers. For some of you, you may be content with your child being “top dog” (FYI…your child is not “top dog” they are feared by others who stick around because of this fear. Your child most likely does not have loyal friends and they know it, even if they won’t admit it).

Regardless of where your stand in your view of the bully, many people still wonder what could have caused this behavior. Listed below are some possible explanations that attempt to explain why bullies bully:

  • Poor parenting. Parents who are authoritarian in nature demand perfect behaviors, maintain strict rules, and are inflexible in compromising with their kids. In essence, they are bullying their kids as they grow into adulthood. This easily equates to children acting in this way to others. After all, that is all they know.
  • The bully may have been a victim of abuse or bullying sometime in their own life. They may feel that playing the role of bully gives them more power and feelings of safety.
  • They may lack the social skills and problem solving abilities to get their needs and wants met so they demand and take from others by using means of bullying.
  • They have never been taught or shown empathy. Caring about others is a key social skill needed to get along with others in society.
  • Difficulty controlling one’s impulses in order to stop and think before interacting with others could result in bullying.
  • Perhaps they don’t recognize that they are being a bully. Behaviors that are not seen as a problem are difficult to change.

It is hard for most parents to hear that their child has made some poor choices and have been unkind to others.  Sadly, some families don’t see any problem with their child being rude to others or pushing them around.  They seem to think that it is just part of life and they support their child making these detrimental choices.  However, chances are that if you are taking the time to read this it is because you truly care about your child and want the best for them.

Take note of these interventions for your little cherub who may have turned out to be a bully (hopefully just temporarily).

1. Provide your child with consistent consequences for their behavior.  If the school and you provide positive (for good behavior) and negative (for poor behavior) consequences for your child’s actions, chances are that their behavior will improve.

2. Work together with your child to come up with and agree on rules of how to treat others and how to behave.  Build in praise and rewards when these rules are followed along with negative consequences for when they are not. A school report can be created to allow you to get a daily report on how your child is doing with following through with these rules.

3. Request that your child be given constant supervision by teachers and caregivers when you are not around. Adult presence deters acts of bullying. This intervention can be used as a negative consequence and also as a helping tool to encourage your child to make better choices.

4. Discuss and role play with your child on how to positively handle a stressful situation.  Present options such as walking away, using words to solve problems, using the stop, think, go strategy (stop what you are doing, think of a positive choice, go do that positive choice), taking deep breaths, talking with an adult, and counting to 50 as ways to manage frustrations vs. taking it out on others.

5. Never, ever use physical punishment. This teaches your child that it is okay to hit others and to be unkind.  This is completely opposite of what you are trying to teach your child. Being a positive role model for your child is a must. Showing that you hit to solve your problems will encourage them to do the same.

6. Express your disappointment in your child’s bullying actions and tell them how you expect them to behave in the future. Never condone any act of bullying against another – even if your child says that it was in retaliation.  There are better ways to solve social problems as listed in number four.

7. Keep your child busy in extracurricular activities and encourage them to hang around peers who make positive choices.

8. Know who your child’s friends are and who they are spending their social time with.

9. Use books, DVD’s, online media, or any other resource that focuses on bullying and how to show empathy to others.

10. Include your child in a structured social group where social norms are addressed and practiced with others under the guidance of a trained mental health professional.

11.Talk with your child about having empathy for others. Empathy must be shown to your child in order for them to learn it and use it. As a starter, have your child make a list of how they think a bully feels and how a victim feels. Empathy and respect go hand-in-hand. This activity should open the door to brainstorming ways that your child can change some of the negative feelings identified into positive ones.

12. Contact the victim’s parents in an effort to resolve the problems between your child and theirs. Ask your child for solutions before calling.

13. Build in one-on-one time with your child everyday to play a game, talk about his day, or plan an activity to do on the weekend together.  Spending time together shows that you care and want to be part of every aspect of their life. You can even tell them how much you care and love them while spending time together.

14. Say, “I love you” everyday.

15. Remember that change is not easy. Be patient with the process, be consistent in the positive and negative consequences earned by your child, and stay in communication with all those involved.

Key Points of Reference from the Bully Page:

Types of harm that bullies can cause

Why do bullies bully?

Interventions for the bully:


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