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Be On the Lookout: Bullying in the Classroom

written by: Margie • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/8/2013

We know that bullying is a big problem in schools today. Most of us also know the signs of children who are being bullied and some techniques we can use to prevent it. But what many of us do not know is exactly what makes these bullies act the way they do.

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    Understanding Bullies

    Bullying Look at the Family

    Many times, when we want to understand a bully, we can look to his or her family for an explanation. According to Laura DeHaan of North Dakota State University, “bullies tend to come from families that are characterized as having little warmth or affection." This may mean that these families have a hard time communicating and feeling connected with each other. It may also mean that the children of these families are not supervised closely, leaving them with too much free time to engage in negative activities.

    Aggressive Family Communication

    Sometimes bullies come from families that engage in lots of shouting, where family members are disrespectful toward one another. When these children bully, they could simply be modeling behaviors that have seen at home. These types of bullies can be very hard to deal with because they may truly not understand how hurtful their actions are. When they lack this basic understanding and empathy for others it is very difficult to teach them any other way to behave.


    Bullying is about power. Many kids who bully are searching for a way to exert it over another child. This may come as a result of feeling powerless at home.They may be bullied by a parent or sibling, and then make up for that lack of power and respect by finding a weaker victim at school, on the bus, or in their neighborhood.

    Of course, there are bullies that come from seemingly good homes. Conversely, there are children that come from very dysfunctional homes that would never dream of hurting another person. This is, of course, the problem. There is no “one size fits all" when it comes to bullies. We can only know what causes the behavior some of the time, look for the warning signs, and continue our crusade against it.

    Bullies don’t all look the same.They can be male or female, short or tall, overweight or skinny, and they come from all ethnicities. This is why, as teachers and parents, we have to be vigilant and constantly on guard against bullying behavior. Bullying has been around for many, many years and will probably remain for at least as long, but we can still be aware, observant, and protective of our children.

4 Part Series on Bullying

This four part series on bullying addresses buly prevention, recognizing bullying behavior and looks at why some children turn to bullying.
  1. Be On the Lookout: Bullying in the Classroom
  2. A Teacher's Guide to Spotting a Bully
  3. How to Identify Kids Who Are Bullied
  4. Tips & Strategies to Help Prevent Bullying in Your Classroom