Bullying in its many forms has been an issue among young people and adults alike, since the beginning of time. In all social groups, no matter how large or small, bullies appear and enact their emotional torture on those around them to varying degrees. Bullying can be seen in school settings, church settings, organized sports, work environments and even among sibling groups. With the advent of the internet, we can even add our cyber world to the possibilities of bullying potential. The last few decades have seen an explosion of what is now referred to as “cyber bullying” in which bullies can actually follow their victims into their online worlds and social groups and bully them there as well. So, Why Do Kids Bully?
Despite the fact that much time and effort has gone into the obliteration of bullying, it continues to be a problem. Why do kids bully other kids? It continues to be a problem because bullying is a human nature issue. Why do kids bully? The ancient story of Cain and Able from Jewish literature relays the story of two brothers, the first two brothers on earth, and their struggle with bullying. In that story Cain ultimately bullied his brother to death. In modern times it is not an uncommon thing for bullying to escalate into extreme acts of violence. It is also not uncommon for kids being bullied to seek solace through suicide attempts.
To simply say that people bully each other because it has always been that way, though, is an over simplification and a lazy answer. There are deep psychological issues at work as to why kids bully which pushes them into their behaviors.
The predominate motivation behind kids bullying is insecurity. When an individual who lacks emotional intelligence, begins to feel vulnerable, insecure or jealous of another, the knee jerk reaction is to lash out. Individuals like these have never learned emotional coping skills. They do not understand how to process their own feelings of desire for something they want into positive action in order to make that desire a reality. If the kid down the street has a new bike, a bully does not process his desire for the bike as a motivation to save his money and buy his own. Instead he immediately feels jealousy for the bike and animosity for the person owning it. The same principal applies to non-material items as well. When a person lacking emotional intelligence encounters someone who surpasses them in skills, intelligence, athletic ability or even charm and personality, they do not think to learn from the person in order to acquire those desired skills as well. Instead they instantly put that person on a “hit list” in their mind. They are better and therefore they are bad. This is insecurity at its worst.
In some cases bullying happens as a cycle. One person is bullied on some level, and the only outlet for the anger, frustration or even hatred that they feel is to bully also. For instance, children from abusive homes will often bully other children as a means of processing their own helplessness. They are afraid to lash out at their abusers, who may be bigger or older than they are, so they find smaller more helpless victims at school or in some other environment.
This is also very commonly seen in adult bullies. Many adult bullies have, at some point in their life, endured abuse themselves, and now it is a learned behavior to pick on those smaller, slower, or weaker. In this sense the bully, unlike the insecure bully, is picking on people they know to be beneath them either in intelligence, strength or skill, whereas an insecure bully picks on those who are superior to them in these areas.
In some cases a bully is neither insecure nor a victim of abuse themselves. In some cases an individual who suffers from a sociopathic personality will actually get enjoyment from the unhappiness of others. These individuals lack empathy, a necessary personality trait that most humans have which encourages us to assist one another physically and emotionally. There are many reasons for the development of sociopathic personalities. Some people are simply born with a chemical imbalance which hinders their ability to see others as people with feelings. To them people are objects, no different than a cat or a car. Some people develop sociopathic personalities because of some form of attachment disorder. Attachment disorders can develop when infants and young toddlers are not able to sufficiently attach and bond with a caregiver. This lack of bonding and security at such a young age hinders the brain from making certain connections concerning love, affection and empathy. This is often seen in orphans or children in foster care.
Sociopathic bullies are the most dangerous type of bullies, because their lack of empathy will put no boundaries on the bullying behaviors. To a sociopathic bully there is no difference between tripping a victim in the hallway, or beating him unconscious. Sociopaths do not understand boundaries in human interaction.
These descriptions may sound like a depressing summary of bullying behavior, however, there is some hope to creating solutions to these problems. It is important for parents, first and foremost, to instill in their children a sense of emotional intelligence, confidence and coping skills in order to learn how to deal with feelings of insecurity and jealousy. Children should understand that anyone who can ignite a sense of jealousy in them must possess some trait which could be admired. Jealousy is admiration gone awry. Teach your children to be humble enough to learn from others, to turn jealously into admiration and motivation to also earn what that person has, or to learn what they know.
Bullies who have been victims of abuse themselves are in need of strong support systems at school and within the social service system in order to make sure they receive the necessary counselling to deal with the huge emotional impact of abuse. An abused individual is not condemned to life of recycled abuse. Counselling and therapy are key.
It is important for teachers and caregivers to be trained in order to spot and understand sociopathic personalities in their classrooms and care environments. These individuals are in need of intense therapy and in many cases it becomes important that teachers and caregivers provide protection to the other students around the sociopathic bully. Individuals with sociopathic personalities are very unstable and unpredictable. In most cases they do not need to be in a traditional educational environment. Providing teachers with resources in order to deal with these types of extreme cases in imperative.