Editor's note: Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, MS, LPC, is the co-author of T..." /> Editor's note: Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, MS, LPC, is the co-author of T..." />

What About Those Doing the Bullying? They Deserve Our Help, Too

raychelle lohmannEditor’s note: Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, MS, LPC, is the co-author of The Bullying Workbook for Teens. Her continuing education presentation for GoodTherapy.org is scheduled for 9 a.m. PDT on March 14. This event, free to GoodTherapy.org members, is good for two CE credits. For details, or to register, please click here.

A Child’s Plea

Don’t call me a bully, please.

OK, so I’m a kid, and not a very nice one at times. I’m constantly in trouble at school, and my only friends are the ones who are afraid of me. They don’t think I know that’s the only reason they stick by me, but I’m not stupid. It’s the only way I can keep friends. I usually find kids who have things I don’t, such as money, cool clothes, nice things, etc., and pick on them. I guess if you really want to know, I’m jealous, but I’ll never admit it.

My grades suck, my home life sucks even more, and yeah, I guess I like seeing others who “have it all” suffer like I do. My anger can be explosive at times—some say I’m just like my dad, but I’ve never met him; he took off when I was 5. My mom busts her butt working two jobs just to make ends meet, and my sister beats the crap out of me when we’re home alone. We have to do a lot of work around the house because Mom gets home late every night. For dinner, I usually throw something in the microwave or heat up a frozen pizza. Pretty exciting life, huh?

As for school, who cares if my homework gets done? Sure, Mom rides my case when I get my report card, but she’s not very consistent and says she’s too tired to do anything with me. I am sick and tired of being told that I “have the ability to do well.” Yeah, I know I could make better grades, but the fact is I don’t want to.

If you really want to help me, don’t call me a bully. Please just help me to feel loved and cared for. Teach me kindness and how to control my anger. Help me learn to care for myself so I can care for others. Teach me how to make real friends, but please don’t label me and call me a bully.

There is a growing movement to combat a very real epidemic in our country: bullying. Between 40% and 80% of school-age children experience bullying at some point, according to the American Psychological Association. When it comes to this complex issue, most of our concern goes out to those who are victimized by bullying, even those who witness it (the traumatized bystanders)—and understandably so.

But what about the child who bullies?

Before you answer that question, consider this: Research (from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health) shows that children who are both victims and perpetrators are more likely to have experienced violence in the home. Children who bully are about four times more likely to have been hurt by someone in their family than children who were neither bullies nor victims of bullying. Children who engage in bullying are also at an increased risk of being involved in crime before the age of 30.

These children desperately need our help. Bullying is a changeable behavior that warrants our attention.

 Children who bully are at risk of:

Signs that a child may be engaging in bullying behaviors:

  • Instigation of physical or verbal altercations
  • Hanging out with peers who bully others
  • Acting out aggressively
  • Getting into trouble frequently at school
  • Blaming others for their problems and failing to assume responsibility

Skills that children who bully often lack:

  • Impulse control
  • Social skills
  • Anger-management skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Empathy

“Bully” is a label that doesn’t belong on a child. It is a learned behavior that can be unlearned. Children who engage in bullying frequently experience disciplinary consequences, but do not receive appropriate counseling interventions. It’s time we stop viewing children as bullies and start realizing it is the behavior that needs to be addressed.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Jessica

    February 17th, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    It’s hard to look at it from this perspective, but these are children who are crying out for help too. If they didn’t need something from someone then there is no way that they would be treating others this way. I know that we automatically just want to point the finger of blame at them and say this is all their fault, and granted, what they are doing is wrong and should not be faced by anyone. But it is clear that a kid who feels good about themselves would not be treating others like this so they need the same help that we are offering to the others. This is hard because so often we are just made at them for that behavior, but they are children too and need us for that guidance that somewhere along the way they are missing.

  • Mica

    February 18th, 2014 at 3:46 AM

    I know that as an adult I should be the one taking the high road, but when this is a child who has hurt my child, rarely will I feel any sympathy for the kid.

  • sharon e

    February 18th, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    So where does all of this begin? Do the parents see something at home before the behavior starts playing out in more social settings like school? And are they just closing their eyes to the bahavior hoping that it will just go away?

  • floyd

    February 19th, 2014 at 3:49 AM

    Maybe I’m old school but these kids don’t need sympathy, they need a good scolding.

    The ones who need sympathy are the ones who are having to put up with these bullies attempts to be bigger and badder than everyone else.

    I think that we sometimes lose sight of the ones who are actually getting hurt by trying to be all PC and show our concern for all sides. There is a time that being fair doesn’t involve showing that to both parties, the ones who are being hurt, those are the ones who need that. The ones doing the hurting? Maybe they need to be taught a little lesson about how this really feels.

  • Rhianna

    February 20th, 2014 at 8:16 AM

    If we don’t do the hard work today and help them while they are still bullying as a child, just stop and think about the hurt that will eventually come when they are still bullying as adults. You wouldn’t want to live like that and you sure wouldn’t wish to be the victim of an adult bully either. We don’t stop too often to think about the fact that without some help this is usually going to follow people into adulthood. We sometimes think that this is just a problem that kids deal with on the playground, but it isn’t. It is on the work force, it is everywhere, if we don’t get childhood bullies some help and guidance that is much needed while they are still children. You wouldn’t think that you have to necessarily teach other people to be kind, you would hope that this would be inherent but sadly it is not. It doesn’t mean that you have to like everyone but it does mean that you have to maintain a level of respect and that it is not right to tear someone down the way that a bully can and will.

  • thalia s

    February 22nd, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    I would just want someone to be honest with me and let me know if this is my kid doing that to someone esle. Don’t try to cover it up or say that they are just being a kid. Kids raised right don’t do that kind of stuff. I want to know it so I can correct it before someone gets hurt.

  • Aaron Agne

    February 24th, 2014 at 7:16 AM

    It’s good to see this conversation happening. The idea of empathy for so-called “bullies” has been absent from conversations I’ve seen on this topic. I strongly believe that no one is born a “bully” or a “criminal” for that matter. People hurt others because they themselves have been hurt in some way. Individuals who have been nurtured in a loving and supportive environment see that reciprocal care and concern is what makes life happy and fulfilling. If someone (an child or adult) does not see the value of positive connections with others, it is likely because they have never experienced it. From this perspective, I feel sad for such a person and not angry at them. And, whether you see the value in empathy for these individuals or not, from a behavior change standpoint, I believe counseling will go much further to reduce the problem than disdain and punishment.

  • Hollis

    February 24th, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    I simply ask that by giving help we don’t mislead these kids and make them confident that what they are doing is okay, and that we can overlook their actions if they go through the motions of getting help. They need to know just how much they are hurting others and why it is critical that they stop engaging in this type of hurtful behavior.

  • Bullied

    March 12th, 2020 at 5:06 AM

    No. Bullies are bad people who deserve punishment. They don’t deserve to be at school. They deserve to end homeless and alone. And if you care more about the victim than the criminal, then you’re part of the problem. Shame on you!
    You will understand it when your kids get bullied, sexually touched by other children and ignored by teachers.

  • Steven

    December 6th, 2020 at 8:02 PM

    Yes, the poor bully, who torments others for their own amusement and their need for their little slice of power, is the real victim.
    Articles like this sicken me. “Professionals” like this author who advocate for bullies, who excuse their behavior and try to convince us that they are the real victims (and not the other children they beat, steal from, ect.) need to be disregarded.
    Do you also tell domestic abuse victims that they need to have sympathy for their abuser?

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