Why Some Kids Bully: Personal Reflection from a Recovering Bully

Bullying and Jenni. How does my story reflect or fit into the theme this week. Honestly, it’s been a question I have been grappling with all month. Numbers show and personal stories reflect the high levels of prevalence and effects of bullying on children and youth. But what about those who “cause” the damage? What about the bullies? Why do they bully? What’s their side of the story? Is there something to do for them?

When reflecting on my childhood, I think all too often I was the bully. I am a tall girl who grew much faster (and more) than other girls and boys my age and felt out of place. I also often didn’t know how to express the hurt and emotions in me so I internalized them and then would explode. One incident I vividly recall was when I put my hands around another girl’s neck because she had been mean to me and others and was still well liked. I felt it was not fair that I wasn’t liked as much even though I tried to be nice and talked to everyone. So in my fourth grade mind, I just wanted it to stop. I wanted her to stop taking my friends. I wanted to stop her making fun of me. And so I lashed out physically because I did not know how to handle the hurt. I made her stop.

Fast-forward seven years to when I am a junior in high school. I loved my friends but often their good natured teasing cut deeper than they knew. Over the years, I had learned to stuff down my hurt and just laugh along. Then a teacher asked my mom if I was all right at a parent-teacher meeting. He went on to say that he realized that other kids didn’t realize how sensitive I was and wanted to make sure I was okay from the teasing in class. When my mom told me this, I lost it. I had never before had someone other than my family recognize or validate my hurt. For a long time, I have been deeply ashamed of moments like the one in fourth grade. I’ll always wonder just what was going through my head that I would physically lash out at someone like that. My pain does not excuse my behavior, but I still sometimes reflect and wonder who I would have been had I not had a loving family at home to help both support and correct me. How could I have turned out if my bullying behaviors where not addressed in a “tough love” way?

You see, even bullies have scars from what they have done and sometimes what has been done to them.  We need to remember that bullies are children too and that in their actions are messages and meanings we as adults need to pay attention to. Could that bully be aggressive because he has issues with his self-image? Does she feel like this is the role she’s been given, that a bully is all she can be? Is this how he experiences relationships in his home? What is the intention behind his actions? Part of the solution to bullying must include bullies and helping them change behavior as much as it is about stopping the behavior.

Below you’ll find some interesting interviews, resources, and stories about other bullies. Though circumstances are different and there are exceptions, the main storyline is they bullied because they felt attacked. This does not excuse the wrong and hurtful actions done by bullies. However, we need to remember this in our dialogue on how to help the bullied and stop bullying.

Here are some more background articles about bullies and some video clips from bullies. Please comment and/or share you story with us!!

Bully Boys and Bully Girls


Cruel, senseless bullying needs strong opposition


How to help kids deal with bullying, whether they are targets or inflicting pain


The Reason Children become Bullies


Bully Richard Gale Interview (Bully of Casey Heynes)


Tara Bank’s Bully Interview


Why I bullied



2 Responses

  1. What I find interesting in what you are saying, Jenni, is that you come across more as a bullying victim than a bully. I think there is some truth to that statement. If the title didn’t say recovering bully, I would have thought your lashing out was due to the fact that you were hurt from being picked on for your size.

    Perception is an interesting challenge in the bullying issue. I think many victims of bullying do go on to become a bully as well in order to exact some form of revenge. Statistics show that many bullies actually have issues at home as well, whether it be domestic violence or just being ignored.

    I fully agree that recovery needs to happen for both the bullying victim and the bully. Both need to get help. I have many stories that I share on my “Bullying Stories” site at http://bullyinglte.wordpress.com as well that help further shed light on this issue.

    • Thanks so much for you thoughtful response. That is the exact idea we were trying to show last week through the different stories. I was seen very much as a bully with girls because of my size and my actions, even if they stemmed from teasing and low self-esteem. There’s always two sides to the coin and that cycle needs to be remembered when we think about solutions for bullying.

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