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Why do Kids Bully? The 3 Most Common Reasons

Bullying can affect our mental health and make people feel insecure, assumed and angry. Whether they are being bullied at home, primary, middle school or in a sports team it can be detrimental making the young person not want to be here. So how do we change this? In this article we’ll be addressing the 3 common reasons kids bully and potential solutions.

What do we do after the bullying has occurred?

As a general rule if it’s physical and only happened once, it’s a good idea to seperate them, tell them off, then get the person(s) who did the bullying to shake hands and apologise. In a lot of cases that will be that. As mentioned in my article; what is bullying? a lot of this behaviour happens because they were not aware it was bullying in the first place. Maybe it was seen as just a joke, or things just got out of hand in the moment. There are 7 Major Types of Bullying.

However, If it does happen again It’s important you get to the core reason behind the physical bullying. Ask them “Why do you think it’s okay to hit someone?”

The 3 Major Reasons Bully

A child who bullies often will do so for entertainment, to feel strong and make friends with others over a shared dislike towards another person. Let’s go through each common driver and its solution.

1. Entertainment

If a student is bored or lacks attention or if they have seen “fighting” on tv, at home or the playground before? Often it is a TV program and the parents are unaware which is normalising violence and creating aggressive behaviour. In the same cases it’s when the student comes from a family with older siblings and they fight.

Make sure you write notes and list possible reasons and communicate this back to the parents. If siblings fight a lot at home ensure the student knows “we can play fight at home – but not at school”. If it’s a TV program say “ TV is not real. In real life people would get really hurt if that happened” etc.

2. Feel Strong

It’s common for children and adolescents to have been a victim of bullying then in turn demonstrate  bully behaviour. None of us like to feel ‘weak’. So to lessen the emotion from the first encounter we seek to feel “in control” and one negative way of doing this is to do what happened to us to others. This helps us both normalise the original situation, and makes us feel less victimised.

This often happens because the original situation wasn’t talked through and thought through entirely. If the person who got bullied ‘believes’ the bullies were ‘strong’ they are going to have a positive emotion linked to their behaviour even though it’s wrong.

Most students in my experience would rather feel strong and do wrong, then feel weak and do right.  That’s why we need to ensure the student understands that happy, healthy, secure kids don’t bully. They use their words & truly strong kids help others out of strength.

Only kids who are having a really bad day are mean to others. Only “hurting kids hurt kids”. If you can make the link between bullying being insecure – and being nice is strong you’ll set your kids on a path to acting a lot better.

This is all about helping the young person understand emotions and can really help if they lack empathy. For more information about this point I did a video explaining my experience where I go through impulse control and how to feel more secure: How to Stop a Bully.

3. Make friends

Often students who bully, bully because they don’t know how to make friends correctly. They assume by cutting someone down or pointing out something different in a student in-front of others will make them look better. Like “feeling strong” the key is to help the student understand that although it may seem funny in the moment – no one likes a bully long-term.

The best way to make friends is to be friendly, ask questions and remember names etc. I have a blog on how to make friends in school. This is why it’s important if multiple students are bullying another student, that you separate the bullies and talk to them one to one.

Being told off doesn’t have as much impact if they are together – if making friends is the reason they bully in the first place. Putting the student into time out (or high school detention) works a lot better if they are separated. It can make the student create the mental link that “bullying = being separated by my peers”.

(To understand the physiology of a bully this is an interview I had with strong mind. strong life)

The key is to find out why they are bullying and help them see it’s hurtful, unwanted and won’t achieve what they think it will. But also on the other hand you’re giving them tools and suggestions on how to better achieve what they actually want.

For a full step by step guide on how to defeat a bully I can downloads on my blog: The different types of bullying and how to stop it (expanded).

For some great links on bully prevention visit: bullyingnoway.gov.au

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Jonny has spent the last 10 years in youth work, speaking and interviewing counsellors on best practices.

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