Bullies! Bullying in school has a major impact on teachers, administrators and students. With documentation of one incident of bullying every seven minutes, it pays to look at the characteristics of bullies and the causes of bullying.
Bullies can be male or female, though male bullies are generally more physically abusive to their victims while females tend to be more verbally abusive. While formerly believed to be an outcome of low self-esteem, (therefore victimizing others in an effort to make themselves feel better) new research has shown that most bullies generally have very good self-esteem. Their behavior, it seems, stems from a feeling of superiority and lack of compassion. Bullies are generally physically bigger and stronger than their peers. They tend to have poor impulse control and inferior social skills. Bullies lack the ability to identify the possible outcome or consequences for their behavior. They blame and use others and do not accept responsibility for their actions. Bullies lack empathy and are contemptuous of weak or different children. Their main concern is getting others to focus on them.
The causes of bullying it appears are learned behaviors. Bullies often come from homes where a parent may not be available to supervise them when they need a listening ear. They tend to watch more violent T.V., spend less time with adults, have fewer positive adult role models and either come from very permissive or overly punitive homes. In addition, bullies have fewer positive peer relationships. Bullying in school is exacerbated by bullies receiving the attention they crave from other wannabe bullies who lack the same social skills. They are really in a no win situation!
This does not mean that the bully must now be thought of as the victim of a difficult environment and therefore excused for his bullying behaviors. What it does mean is that new behaviors can be learned. The causes of bullying are complex. Bullying in school does not have to be a foregone conclusion. Bullies can be taught new coping skills. They can be shown that while there will be no tolerance for their bullying; they have other qualities that people admire. Even their leadership skills, when properly channeled and used appropriately, can be valuable. It takes time to build a bully; we need to invest the time in rebuilding them to help them become productive members of our schools and future society.
Next up: Administrators Confronting the Bullying Epidemic