Why Do Bullys Bully? Could They Simply Want Love, Attention, Power?

Bully Bean_pg1When bullying affects your child

When your child comes home from school in tears because another child was mean to her, the first thing you probably feel is anger and a need for retaliation to make the bullying stop. After reflection, a call to the school or a teacher might be a better option.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could determine the reason why a bully is a bully?  Would you have a better chance of stopping the behavior?

The definition of a bully

Bullying can be defined in many ways.  One way that is pretty well universally understood is that bullying is …“purposeful attempts to control another person through verbal abuse – which can be in tone of voice or in content such as teasing or threats – exclusion, or physical bullying or violence.” (bullyingstatistics.org)

In our Lima Bear story, Bully Bean, the character Bully Bean, that Mean ‘ole Bean, finds himself in trouble and need of help.  We do not know Bully Bean’s backstory or why he feels the need to bully, but Lima Bear’s kindness to him when he is in mortal danger turns Bully Bean around.  Kindness was shown to Bully Bean and he no longer was a bully but a helper.

The reasons why a bully is a bully are unclear but we have a few ideas of the causes.

Some experts believe that a bully has low self-esteem and is in need of love himself.  Accordingly, it would make sense that “children who experience social rejection themselves are more likely to “pass it on” to others. Children who experience academic failure are also more likely to bully others.”  (bullying statistics.org)

A Webmd.com article entitled, What Motivates Kids Who Are BulliesBully Bean_pg19, that cites a Netherland’s 2010 study, suggests that bullies have fine social skills and high esteem but wish to please the popular kids in school by belittling those they deem undesirable. In other words, bullies are looking for attention and to be noticed.

Here are some interesting views from a few experts on this theory:

“Bullies aren’t looking to be loved, but they are looking to be noticed,” says study researcher Rene Veenstra, PhD, who is a professor of sociology at Holland’s University of Groningen. “They are often perceived as very popular.” 

University of Wisconsin professor of educational psychology Amy Bellmore, PhD, in the same Webmd.com article says that this research “flies in the face of the generally held idea that kids who pick on other kids have poor social skills and low self-esteem,” she says. Even at this young age, bullies tend to be aware of the social hierarchy within the class and are seeking the admiration of specific people.”

Sandra Graham, PhD, who is a professor of psychological studies at University of California, Los Angeles, says the recognition that bullies are often popular should have an impact on interventions aimed at reducing bullying. The thought had been that if we made bullies feel better about themselves they wouldn’t pick on other kids,” she says. “But there is not much evidence that bullies suffer from low self-esteem.”

 A bully can have great self-esteem or bad self-esteem and still need love

It might seem confusing a first glance to learn that all bullies are not always the social outcast, low self-esteem kids we once though they were. Maybe it is not so confusing after all. Maybe we simply need to ask a new question. Specifically, what does the outcast and the popular kids have in common that make them feel the need to pick on another kid?  The answer most probably includes a lack of attention (at home or school) or lack of love and probably a need for power at any cost. Most likely, too, is an undeniable lack of conscience or ability to discern right from wrong.

What is very interesting is that the most successful bully prevention interventions, according to the Netherlands study cited above, in affecting a bully’s behavior are the programs that help bullies deal with their anger. Also, the programs that are directed to the classroom as a whole instead of focused on the bully or the victim specifically were found to be the best behavior changers. When the reason of  bully’s brutish behavior is exposed through such programs,  he can recognize it, cope and change the behavior.  LifeScience.com reveals that bullies do want to change their behavior. Those interviewed revealed they had a low opinion of themselves.   In Bully Bean, Bully Bean’s behavior was changed when his perception changed because he was showed kindness. Perhaps all bullies have a desire to change their behavior if only to improve their own view of themselves.

What has been your experience with bullies.  Do you think they bully because the lack self-esteem or love?



What Can You Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied | Could a Brady Bunch Episode Hold Some Answers

Buddy Hinton in the Brady Bunch Bully episode

Bullying was even covered on the Brady Bunch

It is one thing to determine that your child is being bullied. it is another thing to know what to do about it so that you can help.  Although your inclination might be to confront the bully or the bully’s parents (who can forget the Brady Bunch “bully episode” when Buddy Hinton was teasing little Cindy…”Baby talk baby talk, it’s a wonder you can walk.” ) help might best come in another form.

What to do if you suspect your child is being bullied

We can look to Dr. Borba again for some advice for what to do if you suspect your child is being bullied. Dr. Borba has a more comprehensive list at the link but some of our favorite tips include the following:

** Ask direct questions of your child.

For example, if your child comes home with a torn jacket, ask specifically how the jacket was torn.  Watch carefully for your child’s body language as he answers this question. If your child is losing weight, ask him if he is eating the lunch that he brought to school or if something was amiss with his school lunch account. Make sure you get an answer.

** Get the school’s bullying policy from their website online.

Thankfully schools are more aware of bullying and have policies in place to thwart it.

** Listen to your child’s friends for information

It is fascinating what a parent can find out when driving kids.  For some reason, kids think that the parent driving the car has lost his hearing!  You can glean information this way or simply ask the friend if anything is going on at school.

** Talk to the parents of your child’s friends

If you can not get information from your child’s friend, a friend’s parent might have heard something that would be useful.

** Ask your child which teacher or counselor at school they trust at school.  Contact that person for advice.

** Most importantly, seek the help of a health care professional to help your child and come up with a plan to address it with the administration at your child’s school.  Start with your pediatrician’s recommendations.

Brady Bunch bully episode has a lesson similar to Bully Bean

Cindy and Peter in the Buddy Hinton Bully EpisodeeIn the Brady Bunch bullying episode, Cindy’s brother Peter defends Cindy against Buddy, the bully, and gets himself a black eye.  Peter’s father, Mike, says for Peter to reason with the bully, first, and then it is ok to defend himself as a last resort.  Today, the advice would most likely be to let the school handle it before it becomes physical.  Nonetheless, at the next confrontation, Peter is forced to defend himself and lands a right hook on Buddy’s jaw.  The punch gives Buddy a lisp of his own..the exact same quirk that Buddy used to tease Cindy.  When Cindy, who was watching the fight, starts to then tease Buddy, Peter quickly scolds her and the group gathered to watch ‘the fight.”  It is never ok to tease.

Page1_Bully BeanSurprisingly, Buddy ends up at the Brady residence  to apologize to Peter and Cindy and to ask Cindy if he can borrow her tongue twister books to help with his new lisp.  I am reminded of Bully Bean who after mercilessly torturing Lima Bear, needs Lima Bear’s help when he gets stuck.  Just like Cindy, Lima Bear is there to help the bully and is bullied no more.


Can You Recognize the Signs of Childhood Bullying?

Bully Bean_front coverNo One Likes a Bully

No one likes a bully,  least of all a child who may not know how to handle such mean behavior. It is important for parents to recognize the signs of bullying reflected in your child’s behavior so you can help them to do something about it. In the Lima Bear Book, Bully Bean, the bullying behavior is easy to spot.  Poor Lima Bear is tossed into a hole that he was too small to crawl out of himself. As if that were not enough, he was also pushed into a mud puddle.  Lima Bear has an opportunity to deal with the bullying by showing kidness when the bully of all bullies, Bully Bean, gets trapped.  Not all children have such an opportunity to turn the tables on the situation and they may need a little help to cope.

Recognizing the signs of bullying

Dr Michele Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, says “… bullying is starting at younger ages and may be more intense.” Also that, “…our children don’t always tell us that they have been bullied.” This means parents have to be more vigilant than even when assessing changes in our children and watchful for signs of bullying.  Dr. Borba outlines 19 signs that your child may be being bullied.  Here are just a few from her list.

Does your child:

…have a marked change in their personality?

…suddenly NOT want to go to school?

…have a change in eating habits? either too much or too little?

…have a drop in grades?

or do YOU feel in your gut that something is just not right with your child?

Any of these changes in your child could signal that your child is being bullied.   In our next post we will examine the steps parents can take if they suspect bullying.  Hang in there.  There are ways you can help.