Bullies and the Bullied: Stopping the Cycle

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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


School Innovations to Fight Bullying: Resources and Stories

“Bullying is nothing new, but attitudes about it have changed. Some of those things that were accepted as part of the norm aren’t as accepted as part of the norm any longer…Now, our hope is to teach children not only the academic skills in school but also those social skills: How do we get along together? How do we build a more successful community? How do we work together? These are skills kids can use throughout their lifetime.” – Cindy Skala, the school social worker

“How to UnMake a Bully”

 There are many approaches schools can take to combat bullying within their walls, but the better ones are the innovative ones. For example, Glendaal Elementary School in Scotia’s new video project. With the help of Skala and Mike Feurstein, a filmmaker who serves as a teacher’s aide, students at Glendaal created a 30-minute video about how three students stood up to their school bully Russell. The video portrays many of the strategies schools everywhere try to teach their students. One of the most successful strategies is letting the students participate in teaching. “It’s important to do this in kids’ voices and to listen to what kids have to say. Simply telling kids these behaviors are bad and here’s what you should do about them is not a real effective strategy for getting things to change. Adults can’t really know the reality the kids are dealing with,” says Stan Davis, a school counselor and author of “Schools Where Everyone Belongs: Practical Strategies for Reducing Bullying.” Glendall and Feurstein have already begun a sequel about bullying and bystanders and hope to continue producing videos about other issues students face.

To watch this movie go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_430612&v=N0f6qQrvD8k&src_vid=8c2AR62HRlc&feature=iv

For further information about the project and the sequel, go to http://www.timesunion.com/living/article/Unmaking-a-bully-2195325.php#page-1.

Other schools are getting creative as well. For instance, the New York Association for Pupil Transportation is using the 2011 National School Bus Safety Week to highlight issues of bullying both at school and on the bus. (http://readme.readmedia.com/Bullying-Not-on-Our-School-Buses/3064207). Also, New Jersey school districts have declared the first week of Bully Prevention Month as “Week of Respect” and “pull out all stops with daily doses of anti-bullying reinforcement.” (http://www.app.com/article/BZ/20111005/NEWS01/310050025/Schools-turn-peer-mediation-battle-bullying)

Here are some resources for schools, teachers, and parents to work together to create innovative programs of their own:

General overview of the problem, action steps, and links for schools.


Connect for Respect – The national PTA provides resources and trainings for parents, caregivers, and teachers on how to work together to reduce bullying and its effects on students.


The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program provides resources, training, webinars, and other information about what bullying is and how to deal with it. It also provides specific resources for administrators, teachers, school staff, and parents.


Free Casey and Bella books, DVD, and curriculum created by Jan Lavascio to help children learn about bullying and how to deal with it.


Children exposed to violence is a global epidemic

Tanzania report reveals extent of violence against children


This post from the UK Guardian Poverty Matters Blog, discusses a new breakthrough study conducted in Tanzania and put out by the Muhimbili University in Dar es Salaam and the CDC. Study findings note that close to 75% of all children had been exposed to some type of violence before reaching adulthood. In addition, the researchers note that reports show that violence exposure in childhood can cause numerous social and emotional problems for the rest of the child’s development.

The outcomes of the Tanzanian study also parallel the findings of the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NATSCEV) and The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study which also reiterate that children coming into contact with violence and trauma may experience long-term detrimental  effects, sometimes in spite of their natural resilience. The NATSCEV in particular notes that, “All too often, however, children who are exposed to violence undergo lasting physical, mental, and emotional harm. They suffer from difficulties with attachment, regressive behavior, anxiety and depression, and aggression and conduct problems. They may be more prone to dating violence, delinquency, further victimization, and involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems” (NATSCEV 2).

Finally, several nations are working to address children’s exposure to violence through studies and legislation. In early 2008, Swaziland was the first African country to conduct a survey of the level of violence exposure of women and children. More recently, in June 2011, in Australia a study was released reiterating that the idea, that children exposed to domestic violence are experiencing a form of child abuse, is becoming a more widely accepted thought. Also, early this month Tanzania committed itself to strengthening laws against violence exposure.

Witnessing or directly experiencing violence, especially children, is becoming a widely recognized problem on the international level. Cultural and emotional barriers exist all over the world which inhibit the recognition and treatment of the effects of this exposure, particularly the mental and emotional health of the survivor. This new study demonstrates the ongoing breakdown of the taboos that surround discussion and treatment of this issue. Such progress is the first step in increasing awareness and supporting prevention, and creating a more trauma-informed global society.

Other Related Studies and Links:

Safe Start Center

Research Studies and Reports


UNICEF United Republic of Tanzania


 Violence Against Children: United Nations Secretary-General’s Study


Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Violence Against Children and Young Women in Swaziland

A Brief from UNICEF Swaziland





Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Children Praises Tanzania’s work pioneering work in data and research on violence against children!














Adaptability of training is critical

Maternal and Child Health Leadership Skills Development Series


The John’s Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is offering a Maternal and Child Health Leadership Development Series for the public. This series offers an online tutorial on the conceptual framework needed to help build the neccessary leadership skills required for those working in this field. This framework helps participants to use the skills they learn from the series to develop and create personalized training sessions which can be completed at their own pace and according to their specific needs. A clear outline and description of the training modules used in the series is located here on the site.

Many organizations and groups have difficulty forming a clear and shared vision for themselves that will motivate staff and encourage program growth. This series is an excellent example of a leadership training that can be adapted to each individual person or program’s cultural needs and help the participants reach success. The ease of adaptability and compatibility of a training program with an individual’s or organization’s cultural needs is vital to its success whether it is a community organization, Federal agency, or non-profit.

More information and resources on a variety of trainings and curriculum related to child health and wellness can be found here:

Resources on Training and Curricula


Zero to Three Training and Professional Development


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