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Why do kids bully?

Bullying is a serious issue that can cause some serious psychological damage for the victim, but often we only hear from the victim’s side. There are many reasons a child might bully another, and it isn’t always a case of simply being evil. Bullying is complex. It’s not always a black-and-white issue. Here are a few reasons kids bully.

two kids picking on a single kid

A sense of power

Power corrupts, and this concept is true in children as well. There are numerous reasons a child would want to gain power over another: they might feel helpless at home in the shadow of an overbearing parent, they could be being bullied themselves or they could just like the power and fear associated with pushing another around. When you put fear into the hearts of your peers, they will always respect you, even if they hate you for it.

Trouble at home

Children who do not come from warm and loving homes are more likely to bully, according to If you’re not feeling love at home, you’re going to try to win some love at school. Often, respect and popularity are earned by making fun of others. Children who experience inconsistent discipline are more likely to bully as well, the website says. They simply don’t know their boundaries because they were never strictly enforced.

No one is telling them to stop

If administrators and teachers learn about a bullying situation and choose to turn a blind eye, that’s when bullies thrive. Plus, if the victim isn’t feeling brave enough to stand up to the tormentor, the behavior is only reinforced. Eventually, thanks to the passive behavior, the bully learns that his actions are OK and don’t necessarily have to be punished. This will not only cause the child to bully, but the cycle to continue.

Peer influence

The media might portray bullies as social rejects who are too miserable to have any friends, but research shows that bullies often have large social groups, Dorothy Espelage, a psychologist from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, tells A feeling of support and superiority is reinforced by her peers, leading the bully to think her behavior is acceptable, if not encouraged.

Feelings of inadequacy

Whether they’re having trouble at home, problems with grades or an unsatisfactory social life, bullies will act out to get attention and will show their aggression toward someone else. When they’re bullying someone physically weaker than them, at that moment, they’re better than their victim at something — being cruel.

Read more

How to talk to kids about bullying
How to befriend a bully
Bullying in schools: What you need to know

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