Bullies Need Love Too February 21, 2022 – Posted in: Blog, Bullying – Tags:

Deep inside, bullies feel that interacting with others through bullying is far less painful than interacting with them as themselves. 

If you truly want to help a victim of bullying you need to help the bully first.  

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” ~ Isaac Newton

Imagine you were mugged one night coming home late.  Would you ever go near that area again?  Probably not.  Would you start doing things and carrying things to protect yourself?  You bet! For example, how would you react if a stranger approached you to ask you a question on the street?  Your answers to these questions all revolve around the same idea – you have changed your outlook on life in order to protect yourself from another incident occurring.

For every action there is a reaction – consciously or otherwise.  What all of this boils down to is that actions that affect us on an emotional level cause us to make a shift in our thinking, temporarily or permanently, depending on the level of emotions you feel.

Children’s personalities are shaped by emotional events created by their environment, just like ours are. If there are aspects of your children’s personalities that you believe will have a negative impact on their lives in the future you can be certain that they were shaped by some emotional events or traumatic times in their lives.

But what’s vastly more important than where their behaviour came from is what you can do to change it.  There is no point in assigning blame; it will do nothing for your children and will only waste your emotional energy.  You can’t avoid emotional events in your children’s lives.  They are inevitable.  But what you can do is ‘debrief’ with them on their day’s events so that you can help them understand things in a more positive way.   I call this ‘future preventative maintenance’.

The important thing to note is that everyone can change.  I once heard someone say ‘the past is who you were, the present is who you are, and the future will determine who you will be’.  What I mean by this is that anyone can change at anytime in their life, your present doesn’t necessarily determine your future.  That’s why I don’t believe in the phrase ‘once a bully, always a bully’.  

Here is the key to changing a child’s bullying behaviour. Deep inside, bullies feel that interacting with others through bullying is far less painful than interacting with them as themselves.  To break it down further, it is far less painful to be known as a bully because the bully controls how others view him/her as opposed to the pain which might be experienced if people don’t like him/her for who he/she really is.

As a parent, guardian or counselor you can use this supposition as leverage to help bullies change their behaviour.  They currently link greater pain to being themselves than to being a bully.  You can use this knowledge one of two ways.  You can help them link greater pain to bulling others than being nice to them.  The other option is to get them to equate a larger amount of pleasure or happiness to being themselves than being a bully.  This will also build self-esteem like crazy!  If the amount of happiness is sufficient it will outweigh the pain factors driving them to bully.

So what can you do to ‘turn up the pain factor’ for bullying?  Well, most bullies want attention.  That’s why they are willing to put up with the negative feedback.  Take away their purpose for acting the way they do and all that will be left is the habitual behaviour.

How can you use the ‘happiness factor’ to change their behaviour?  The most effective way to curb bullying is to introduce the bullies to positive peer groups.  But here’s the issue – what positive peer group wants to have someone around who is a bully?  We end up with the chicken and the egg scenario.  So the question becomes how do you change the bullies’ behaviour enough to have a peer group want to have them around?  Give them praise when they are genuine and they do something self-less or kind.  Note positive changes in their behaviour and reward them for it.

There are many ways to get a bully to stop his/her behaviour and our programs and books have some wonderful solutions.  Every solution available works off of the pain/pleasure philosophy in some way.  If you keep this philosophy at the forefront of your mind when dealing with the child your results will increase dramatically.

By Stuart McConnell