Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What About the Bully?

If your house was on fire, would you run around throwing water on your kids as they came running out of the house, or would you call the fire department and have them put the dnged fire out? I think anti-bullying programs that focus only on how to deal with bullies are missing a very important element and are assuming that bullies are beyond help.

I used to have an 8th grade student who I had heard was a big bully. The September day that I met him, I asked the young man (who was a big farm boy) to please go help a little sixth grade girl open her locker. "Who, me?" he asked (probably wondering if maybe I hadn't heard about him yet). "Yes," I replied, with a confident smile. He went and helped her; she was very sweet about thanking him, and it was clear he felt like a hero. I never observed a single bullying behavior from that boy the entire year. I had seen the good in him (or at least assumed it was there) and reinforced it as often as I could. I also had a zero-tolerance policy for disrespect to peers in my classroom (no laughing at mistakes, only supportive comments, etc.) and with rare exceptions, it worked for all of my students.

Just wondering...

Who's reaching out to the bullies?
Who's asking them why they are so angry or who might be bullying them, for example?
Who's reaching past their ugly expressions to get to the kids inside and find out how to meet the need that bullying does?
Why are we so reactive when it comes to bullying, and more about "fire" fighting than fire prevention?

Don't get me wrong--I do think that kids need to be empowered when it comes to responding to bullies. There are some great programs out there. I just feel like there's a bigger picture that often gets missed.


  1. there's a kid bullying my #2 son in KINDERGARTEN. to the point he's come home with marks on his neck and back (different times). The teacher is wanting evidence to get the bully kicked off the playground. Apparently he rotates around the class picking on the kids.

    I always stop and think....what is wrong in this child's home that he's so mean....at age SIX??? poor kid.

    But truly. get the hell away from my kid bud.

  2. Who's asking them why they are so angry or who might be bullying them, for example?

    I think this is a big one... I really don't think most people are born mean, something else is usually going on when they decide to take it out on other people.

  3. I agree, there are usually reasons behind behavior.

  4. I totally agree! One show I love watching is Glee but it bothers me how there is so much bullying going on. Have a great day!

  5. I agree with you wholeheartedly. If we can just find a little something to help counter the behavior, then we might be able to reach those who bully. Unfortunately, many go home every night to adverse situations over which we have no control. Still, even if one person can be reached, then it is worth it.

  6. My complaint with the programs here is that they focus on physical bullying. What about the subtle bullying: the snarky whispers, the quiet ostracizing, the sneers, the saved seats at every single lunch table, the outstretched leg across the bus seat so a child has nowhere to sit? Those things are brutal.

  7. Right, as usual, King Friday. Everybody needs to be affirmed, and the kids who are doing the bullying may need some recognition for their good points. Your example was heartening.

  8. I wonder about this as well, particularly as I have watched a boy, the son of a friend, join the world of bullies.

  9. The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander. It's a book and is a good book but reads more like a psych text book. I want a book more parent friendly with better suggestions on how to handle these situations from each standpoint. Ideas to pass on to the kids and ideas for the adults involved with each type of child.

    But anyway, check the book out. It IS a bit of a good read but like I said, it was written from the standpoint of a psych major or something because there is way too much bleh going on.

  10. This is so very true. I've found through experience that the bullies of the world are cryin' out for help. The are often physically and mentally abused at home or have just as serious problems in their lives.

    Don't get me wrong. Bullying should never be tolerated and the bullies can be pros and very sneaky around adults. It is a problem to be reckoned with.

    I had two children in Kid's Church want to pray because of bein' bullied at school and on the school bus.

    Great post sweetie!

    God bless and have an amazin' day!

  11. I made a post on bullying and linked back to this post.

    You still work in a school, right? I wonder if you could get a book club together to discuss the book I mentioned. I'd be very interested in hearing what was discussed. I think this would be a great subject of a book club within a school. Of course, you have plenty of time for stuff like that....right?

  12. We have so far to go with this problem. I love your idea as part of the solution.

  13. I think you might remember that we had to deal with bullying behaviors from our kindergartener this past fall. I think reaching out to the bully is most important and I think YOU would be the exact right person to spearhead such a thing!

    There was a show on MTV where there was a program that cam einto a school with clique issues and they did this day long event or soemthing... can't recall the name... but the bullies and jocks and nerds and prom queens and misfits were all together and in small groups and would share about who they really are and these kids would come to realize that they are all so much the same underneath.

  14. I certainly agree with you. Every bully has a story. A little bully unchecked will only turn into a big bully.
    Sometimes they just have not been taught how to be nice or they are being abused the causes are endless.
    Sometimes it just takes a really good and insightful teacher (like you) to turn a childs life around.

  15. Innovative approach. Glad people like you are in education!

    I read once that prisons were giving inmates small pets to take care of. It was very effective.

  16. Awesome analogy! I often wonder why we don't spend more time trying to prevent the problem on the front end rather than running around all willy-nilly after we got exactly what we asked for.

    Great job following your instinct with the kiddo...you ARE a Difference Maker!

    (s/n I got a new email address so I could eliminate my dead Blogger profile...the one gave you so many issues a while back.) ;)

  17. Okay...so apparently Blogger is insisting on posting my old email address. Sorry!

    my blog: moldingyoungminds.wordpress.com


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