Karyn Ellis, M.A., L.M.H.C.

The Truth about Bullies

Bullies: All of us have had them. You might even still be dealing with them. You even remember your first bully or your worst bully ever. That is because as a child or teen that person was somehow able to strike you at your core by somehow knowing your weaknesses. Unfortunately that hasn’t changed. It has even gotten worse now with social media, emailing and text messaging. We all know to what extremes people go through to escape their bully.

How can some kids be so mean?

Bullies are consistently picking on others. They name-call and start fights. Bullies push their boundaries and feed off cues as well as their peers. Keep in mind bullies are just kids too. There are numerous causes for a child to be a bully:

Sometimes there are just “mean kids,” but more often than not bullies are struggling themselves. Bullies can be angry. Anger is usually caused by fear, pain, anxiety and other emotions. It just happens that most the time anger is much easier to express. Other times when a child has low self-esteem they will find someone else to pick on so they feel better about themselves and so the attention is taken off of them and is put on someone else. Jealousy often causes children to pick on someone or maybe the child is self-centered and really can’t understand how their behavior is hurting others.

Lastly being a bully can be picked up from behavior they have seen at home. Children pick up on relationships and conflict more so than what adults give them credit for. If you say “he/she has never seen us fight or heard us yell,” your child still knows. Behavior is modeled and carried out. Family conflict also contributes to bullying behaviors. Children know stress, fighting, pain and it can be hard and confusing. They will deal with it one of the only ways they know, taking it to school and acting out with their peer group.

How to deal with a bullied child

If your child is being bullied take the time to listen. Talk to your child and teachers. If necessary take things to the school administration. Don’t minimize bullying. Something to keep in mind is that unfortunately some children make “easy” targets. If your child has difficulty picky up social cues he/she could potential be perceived as annoying, difficult or rude, just as an example. Children are usually the same at school as they are at home so if they do anything that gets on your nerves at home they are probably doing that at school as well. Usually that behavior alone can be justification for the bully and makes it easier for others to tease or your child. If this is the case, working with your child at home on correcting the behavior by reinforcing the positive behavior and giving positive affirmation can turn the “annoying” behavior around

What if my child is the bully?

If your child is the bully they need someone to talk to. Listen and help them problem solve. Try to be understanding and not harsh but they need to understand what they’re doing hurts others. If your child is angry, following modeled behavior or is struggling to make sense of family conflict, it would be a good time to seek counseling.