Eye-opening reasons people bully others (and what to do about it)

Anyone who has had their child bullied knows all too well the emotional and physical toll it can take. Millions of people experience it yearly in schools around the country, leaving many to wonder who it is that bullies and why they do it. The more we learn about why people bully, the more we as a society can help bring it to a much-needed end. The good news is that plenty of information is available explaining why people bully others.

“When communities understand more about bullying and who does it, they can help prevent it,” says Kirk Smalley, co-founder of Stand for the Silent. “Reducing and eliminating bullying is a community-wide issue and should be addressed that way for the best results.”

Bullies are not born. Instead, they become that way through their environment as they grow up. According to Psychology Today, becoming a bully usually starts at an early age, during toddlerhood. When toddlers become aggressive, if not handled consistently, they fail to learn internal restraints against such behavior and feel they can use it to get what they want.

This is essential information for parents and child caregivers alike. How toddler behavior is addressed helps lay the foundation for the child’s behavior in the future. Teaching children this age to express their feelings through words and healthier options rather than aggressive behavior will help them develop a healthy sense of what to do with their emotions.

According to research published in the journal American Psychologist, here are four additional reasons why people become bullies:
• Family issues. Children who grow up in a hostile family environment, lack parental emotional support, or are raised with an authoritarian parenting style are more prone to becoming bullies. Authoritarian parents set strict rules without providing explanations and give their children severe punishment if they are disobeyed.
• Peer influences. Children are more likely to become bullies if they are affiliated with aggressive peers, including gangs. Plus, bystanders, who we would think would help stop bullying, often encourage the bully, who wants to impress them.
• School climate. The school climate plays a significant role in bullying because much of it takes place there. School climates where teachers or the schools lack a response to bullying or a negative school atmosphere help create ideal settings for more bullying.
• Community environment. When children live in a community that is unsafe and negative and are exposed to violent television or video games, they are more likely to become bullies.

“We all live in communities and need to work together to help solve this problem,” adds Smalley. “We must make it a mission to create a community culture of kindness in school and around the neighborhood. Putting out that good energy will have a ripple effect.”

Knowing what leads people to become bullies is only half of it. The other part is knowing what to do if someone is bullying. Once it is identified, it needs to be addressed. Schools need to have a zero-tolerance policy for it. Children should be taught how to handle their emotions healthily from early childcare and elementary school. Communities and schools must focus on creating an environment that pushes bullying out and makes a welcoming and kind place for everyone. Communities and schools should consider hosting bullying seminars, parenting classes, etc.

Smalley and his wife, Laura, started the organization following their 11-year-old son, ending his own life due to bullying. They turned their pain and loss into a mission of helping others. He travels the country giving presentations about bullying to schools, providing bullying prevention, giving out scholarships, offering intervention strategies, and more. Those interested in getting involved can start a chapter of the group in their area, obtain a free K-2 bullying prevention curriculum  or cyberbullying handbook for parents, host a presentation at their school, and donate to help support the cause. To get more information, visit the site at: https://standforthesilent.org/

About Stand for the Silent
Started in 2010, Stand for the Silent is an organization on a mission to help eliminate bullying nationwide. Kirk and Laura Smalley founded the group after their child took his own life due to bullying. They offer free resources for parents and educators and travel to schools to host presentations. They have been to over 6,025 schools and spoken with more than 4.15 million students. To get more information, visit the site at: https://standforthesilent.org/.