Are you a bully? How can you stop being a bully?


If you are a bully, you probably won't be reading this unless you are already feeling a bit ashamed -whether or not you would admit it to anyone else.

If you're not sure it's about time you stopped, here's some stuff which should convince you.

Almost half of all children and young people (46%) say that they've been bullied at some point during their time at school. (Tellus4 National Report, carried out in 2009).

What is bullying?

Maybe you are telling yourself that what you are doing is not actually bullying, or maybe you've deliberately not seen it that way. Get real and face the truth. The NSPCC explain that bullying can be

  • verbal abuse, such as name calling and gossiping
  • non-verbal abuse, such as hand signs or text messages
  • emotional abuse, such as threatening or intimidating someone
  • exclusion, such as ignoring or isolating someone
  • undermining, by constantly criticising or spreading rumours
  • racial or sexual bullying
  • physical assaults, such as hitting and pushing.

It is also now recognised that the internet and mobile phones have made a whole lot of new ways to bully someone by threatening, harrassing or embarrassing them including publicly and anonymously mainly by using email, phone calls, texts and social media sites.

If it isn't funny for the person on the receiving end of it, it's NOT a joke.

The effects of bullying              

Bullying makes the lives of its victims miserable. It undermines their confidence and destroys their sense of security. Bullying can cause sadness, loneliness, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety and poor concentration, and lead to self-harm, depression, suicidal thoughts and, in some cases, suicide. Bullying can also affect children and young people's attendance and progress at school. Are you being a bully without thinking about the consequences? Would you want other people to treat you the same way?

Here's something to think about:

A thought-provoking short film from the USA about anti-gay bullying :

Is this what you want to be responsible for? Would you feel the same if it was happening to you?

So what makes a person be a bully?

There are many reasons why people bully others. It may be that they're unhappy and taking it out on someone else. Many people who bully have low self-esteem, and bullying can be a way of coping with it. In some cases, people who bully are also being bullied themselves. Others are encouraged by their friends to bully, and they do it because they don't want to be left out. Some people pick on others because they're looking for attention or because they’re feeling jealous.

Wikihow has some down to earth stuff on what you should ask yourself and three major steps to stop. If you can ignore the ads and the clutter on the page and just read the advice it should help you be honest with yourself  - including understanding whether you have learned this behaviour from someone close to you who has perhaps bullied you.

It takes courage to stop being a bully

If you're only doing it because everyone else is, take a hard look at the effects of negative peer pressure. If you've had to face the unpleasant truth that you have done some pretty horrible things, you need courage to admit that and change.

You can get more information on how to stop from NHS Choices website. They point out that people who bully others often find it hard to ask for help. They may be worried that they'll get into trouble with their teachers or that they'll be bullied themselves. Just because you’ve been involved in it doesn’t mean you have to continue. Help with bullying is not only available to those who've been bullied. Many anti-bullying support groups also help people who are involved in bullying.

Kidscape have advice in their leaflet Beat Bullying. Rvoice help you work out why you are being a bully and suggest ways to stop. Follow a conversation online from America where members of an online group offer help to a girl who wants to change. Girlshealth helps you through the stages of recognising what you are doing through how to change, particularly from a female point of view.

Seven steps to stop being a bully

Try to identify why you bully

  • Do you feel insecure about yourself?
  • Does the power make you feel good?
  • Do you enjoy hurting others?
  • Do you enjoy making others cry or visibly feel emotional pain?
  • Are you bullying because you are being bullied by someone else?
  • Do you need or want money or goods from people you bully?
  • Are you afraid that if you don't bully others, you may appear weak and become susceptible to others bullying you?

Explain how this is affecting your life

  • Why does this make you feel good?
  • What event in your life could have resulted in your bullying?

Seek help

Some things on your list may be too big for you to deal with. If your being a bully results from being abused (at home or anywhere else), you must get help. Getting help doesn't make you a spineless creature, it shows you want to fight for yourself! Talk to a teacher or a school counsellor about your problem.

Identify the type of bully you are

  • Physical bullying is when you hit, kick, push, shove, pinch, or physically hurt someone in any other way.
  • Verbal bullying is when you tease, mimic, name call, and insult someone.
  • Mental bullying is gossiping, backstabbing, isolating, or leaving others out. Which one sounds like you? This may help you to solve the problem.

Put yourself in your victims' shoes

How would you like it if you were a bully victim?

Approach your bully victims

Now that you have discovered why and how you bully, it's time to act. In your usual "bully" time, calmly talk to those people privately. Explain that you have decided to change your ways, and that you hope you'll be forgiven. Apologise for being mean, and tell the person that you now realise how wrong you were. This may be quite a shock for the victim and they may not believe you right away. Give them some time to take it in.

Stay true to your word

Be friendly toward your past targets, and learn to accept other people for who they are. Don't return to bullying others, as it will not only hurt yourself, but the others around you who you formerly bullied. .

What are the long-term effects of being a bully?

In a research study boys were asked about whether they were bullies at age 14, then 18, and then again at age 32 (18 year span).

  • The findings showed that about one in every five boys (18%) grew into being an "adult bully." They were the boys that saw themselves as being "a bit of a bully" at age 14 and continued to report being a bully at age 32.
  • Over half of these adult bullies (61%) at 32 years of age were still aggressive and had been convicted of violence (20%).

Another good reason to stop NOW.

You can call Childline about any of this. 

How bullying escalates

There's a small difference between bullying and discrimination. Discrimination is mostly against the law. Bullying is not just cruel but a short step away from criminal behaviour like assault. They are all based on treating someone else badly and unfairly because of who or what they are, because you can exert power, control or just inflict pain. Before you get into trouble with the law, have a good look at where you are heading.

"It was just a joke." This short film from the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows the consequences of racism and how low level bullying can escalate, from the point of view of bullies and the victim.

The alternative

If being a bully was you "just being one of the crowd", think about the way positive peer pressure could work if you set a different example. If the only people who liked you when you were a bully were the other bullies, find out how being a friend can do you and everyone else some good. It's not just your victim's self esteem which will improve either. You might be surprised to feel better about yourself too.

A short but to the point message from the USA about being a friend instead of a bully :

The page was last updated on 02 July 2014 by andrea.bateman.

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