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Why do bullies bully?


Why do bullies bully?

Bullying is a horrible fact of life and can affect us at any age. If your child is being bullied, use our action checklist to help them understand why it’s happening and how they can beat it.

Daring to be different – why people bully

When you’re being bullied, the reasons may be incomprehensible. If your son or daughter is a victim, they – and you – are probably wondering why. It's important to remember that a feeling of inadequacy on the part of the perpetrator often causes teasing and bullying. 

If your child experiences or witnesses bullying, talk together about the bully's possible motives. Help your son or daughter recognise that everyone's different and diversity is a fantastic thing – but other people don’t always see it that way. Quite often it’s a lack of understanding or insecurity on the part of the bully, which means they pick on someone who they perceive as different to them.

What makes someone become a bully?

Sometimes, bullies are motivated by a deeper reason, like problems at home or they have been bullied themselves or have other issues they are struggling with, so they may be feeling angry or vulnerable. 

When Judith helped her daughter Bryony confront her bully, she also uncovered the reason behind the behaviour. "The child told my daughter she had done it because Bryony had two parents and a nice home," says Judith. This doesn’t make it OK for her to bully, but, as Judith recognised, it was "clearly an act of jealousy".

While it's never OK to bully, understanding why people do it can help put the bully’s remarks into perspective. By teaching about bullying, you'll help your child approach bullies with a different mentality, and possibly prevent them from lasting damage.

To protect privacy we’ve changed the names of the people whose stories we tell on these pages, but their stories are genuine.

Follow psychotherapist and body-image expert Dr Susie Orbach's suggestions to give your child a better insight into a bully’s world:

  • 1

    Start the conversation

    If a TV programme or film your child watches includes bullying, use it as a starting point to discuss why the bully might be behaving in that way. For younger children, use stories about bullying, such as Cinderella. Ask: "Why do you think the stepsisters pick on Cinderella?" 

  • 2

    Get inside the mind of a bully

    Some bullies come from homes with issues or problems. Help your child understand how their own happy family life contributes to their confidence, and that others may not be so fortunate. If it's a friend making the nasty comments, thinking about what might be triggering the behaviour could give your child the confidence to confront the friend and give them the help and support they need to stop taking their feelings out on others

next steps

  • Help your child understand that the things a bully picks on are usually things that they are jealous of or lacking themselves
  • Encourage your son or daughter to discuss their feelings with friends so they don't feel so isolated