Why Do Kids Bully? And what you can do about it!

The Dangers Of Bullying

Every day we send our kids to school, and expect they’ll be in a safe environment to learn, develop social skills, and build foundational experiences. But in reality, kids often feel frightened, anxious, and harassed in their school, because of bullying. Bullying can be one of the most damaging experiences children face, and it happens with frightening regularity. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry reported that half of all children are bullied at some point during their school years, and 10% of kids are bullied regularly. Kids who are victims of bullies often experience increased anxiety, depression, and worsening academic performance. These painful effects don’t just harm children during school years- it often carries forward into their adult lives. Kids who are bullied at school, are more likely to be bullied at work as adults (1).

So Why Do Kids Bully?

Reasons for bullying others vary, but most bullies share one or more of these factors in common:

  • Their family life is often dysfunctional and/or abusive and they are mimicking this behavior at school
  • Prejudiced attitudes towards differences in culture, race, or social standing
  • Feelings of jealousy or inadequacy towards their victims
  • They have a lack or reduced ability to empathize with others

One of the most damaging aspects of bullying behavior noted is that it’s often rewarded. If a bully forces a child to hand over their lunch money or a toy, positive reinforcement occurs for the bully. Bullies are also rewarded socially by peer acceptance, attention, and having other students afraid of them for their abuse of others (2).

What Can You Do About It?

With the high frequency bullying occurs, you might expect regular intervention from adults.  But the reality is that teachers and adults notice or intervene in only 4% of bullying cases (3). The good news is, kids have power too! 57% of bullying stops when another child intervenes (4).

That’s right, if one or more peers step forward to call the bully out on their behavior, the incident is most likely to stop. We can teach our kids and their friends about speaking up for each other if they see bullying occur. Simple phrases like “stop bullying him” or “you’re being a bully right now” can help stop the dynamic bullies create.

Other ways to deal with bullies:

  • Walk away to a safe place
  • Tell an adult or teacher immediately
  • Make new friends and strengthen your peer group

Bullying is a prevalent and painful issue we face as parents. Talking with our kids, other parents, and their teachers can help reduce the harm caused by this activity. Building strong friendships is also key to a children’s feeling of well-being and safety in school. At Story Academy, we love books that teach loyalty, bravery, and respect for each other. These are wonderful qualities for children to learn. You can find our selection of stories containing these qualities here.

(1) McDougall, Patricia. “What Happens over Time to Those Who Bully and Those Who Are Victimized?” Education.com. 2006-2011. Accessed: May 21, 2011.

(2) nobullying.com

(3) Rosenthal, Beth. Bullying. New York, NY: Greenhaven Press, 2008.

(4)http://bullylab.com/Portals/0/Naturalistic%20observations%20of%20peer%20interventions%20in%20bullying.pdf   Hawkins, Pepler, and Craig


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