An expert answers moms' questions about school bullies.

By Laura Broadwell
October 03, 2005

The Root of Bullying

Allan L. Beane, PhD, author of The Bully Free Classroom (Free Spirit Publishing, 1999) and a nationally recognized speaker on bullying, offers his insight into the topic.


At what age does bullying behavior generally start, and what is at the root of the problem?


Research indicates that bullying behavior can start as early as age 3. While it's hard to know exactly why some children become bullies and others don't, there is evidence to suggest that some children are genetically "hardwired" or predisposed toward being aggressive; it's inherent in their nature. Research also shows that children who are exposed to aggression on a consistent basis may imitate the behavior they observe. Such children, for instance, may live in an abusive household, witness their parents' uncontrolled anger, or feel neglected and unloved.

Dealing with Bullies


How can children effectively deal with bullies?


Children must understand that bullies have a need for power and control over others and a desire to hurt people. They often lack self-control, empathy, and sensitivity. With that said, it's helpful for children to use these strategies when dealing with bullies:

  • Avoid the bully as much as possible. Stay away from him on the playground, or walk down a different hallway if you can.
  • Practice standing and walking with confidence. Bullies usually pick on people who are smaller and physically weaker than they are, or who they feel will not retaliate. To avoid being an easy target, stand up straight, hold your head up high, keep your shoulders back, and look into the bully's eyes -- not at the ground or elsewhere.
  • Don't let a bully make you feel bad. When someone says something bad about you, say something positive to yourself. Remind yourself of your positive attributes.
  • Tell the bully how you feel, why you feel the way you do, and what you want the bully to do. Learn to do this with a calm and determined voice. Say, for example, "I feel angry when you call me names because I have a real name. I want you to start calling me by my real name."
  • Don't reward the bully with tears. The bully wants to hurt your feelings, so act like his name-calling and taunts don't hurt. You can do this by admitting the bully is right. For example, when the bully calls you "fatty," look him in the eye and say calmly, "You know, I am overweight. I need to start getting more exercise." Then walk off with confidence.
  • Disarm the bully with humor. Laugh at his threats and walk away from him.
  • Use your best judgment, and follow your instincts. If the bully wants your homework, and you think he is about to hurt you, give him your work and walk off with confidence. Then tell an adult what happened.
  • Don't expect to be mistreated. When walking toward a group of children, think of them as being nice to you, and do your best to be friendly. Most important, treat others the way you want to be treated. Stand up for other students who are bullied, and ask them to stand up for you.

Making Schools Safer


How can parents help make their child's school a safe place?


Ask the staff-development coordinator of your child's school system to train teachers, bus drivers, counselors, and other adults to prevent and stop bullying and to help victims. Ask local parent associations, civic organizations, and corporations to sponsor antiviolence workshops; and help your school system implement an antibullying campaign. Increase the awareness of the problem through articles in your local newspapers and presentations at local civic and parent-teacher meetings. In all ways possible, work with others to create a safe school and community environment.

For more information about The Bully Free Classroom, call 270-247-8521, or send an e-mail to

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

Healthy Kid


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