Breaking Down Bullying, Part II: The Bully

Steven Kairys, M.D., MPH Chairman of Pediatrics Jersey Shore University Medical Center K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital

In the second of a special three-part series for Meridian Momtourage, Steven Kairys, M.D., MPH, Chairman of Pediatrics, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital, discusses why certain children bully and offers strategies to help parents and school adults change bullying behavior.

Children bully for control and power, for peer attention. Bullies are often children who are impulsive and strong willed, easily frustrated, lacking in empathy, and view violence in a positive way. They often come from homes where there is a lack of warmth, either a lack of parental involvement or an overly-permissive parenting style. Sometimes there is a physical type of discipline that sets up a model for bullying by teaching children who are at risk of bullying that physical retaliation is acceptable.

Bullies are not socially isolated and do have friends. They have average self esteem and often show other forms of aggressiveness in addition to the bullying, such as frequent fights, truancy, and anti-social behaviors. Long term, these children have a higher percentage of becoming bipolar, using alcohol and drugs, and developing personality disorders.

Just as with victims, school adults and the parents of the child who bullies need to actively communicate with the child. The child who bullies needs to know that the adults in their lives take bullying seriously and will not tolerate the behavior.

  • Set clear rules at home that have predictable consequences
  • Model behaviors that show respect
  • Show positive problem solving strategies
  • Set a good example for the child

At the same time, work with the child who bullies to encourage the child’s talents, to get him or her involved in prosocial activities like clubs, lessons and sports. Schools and parents need to communicate with each other to monitor progress and changes.

There are specific programs that schools can develop that are evidence based. These include:

  • The Method of Shared Concern, which targets the alleged bully
  • The Support Group Method, which develops a shared responsibility between the bullies and a group of peers who are convened to help with changes while adults facilitate

Join us next month for “Breaking Down Bullying, Part III: CyberBullying.” Here, Dr. Kairys will discuss behaviors, challenges and strategies unique to internet/social media-based bullying.

In case you missed it, be sure to read Breaking Down Bullying, Part l in which Dr. Kairys provides an overview of bullying and discusses prevention tips for teachers and parents.