There are a number of reasons why students engage in bullying behavior: everything from the need for attention, to having problems at home. Maybe they’re being physically or verbally abused by someone else, their parents are going through a separation or divorce, or there’s another, unknown situation at home that could cause a child to lash out.
Oftentimes, bullying behavior takes place in an attempt to feel or gain some kind of power. It’s not uncommon to discover that people who engage in bullying behavior have their own deep-seated fears or issues, and that bullying is their way to compensate. They also may live in environments where bullying behavior is common and accepted, making it difficult to understand why their behavior with peers is not appropriate.
It’s important when these behaviors occur to not only provide support for the targets, but to support the perpetrators as well, helping them to understand why they behave the way they do and how to replace poor choices with different behavior. If they’re simply punished and labeled, that’s not going to deter them from repeating the bullying behavior. In fact, it could make the problem much worse.
Schools should look at how to support the perpetrators to gain a deeper insight into why this behavior is happening; because once you can identify the reasons for bullying behavior, you can help the student cope and make changes. The problem won’t go away until those behaviors stop. By hitting it from both sides, you can really work towards eradicating bullying rather than creating a short-term fix.
Just because students graduate from high school doesn’t mean that their bullying behaviors will change. Bullying kids frequently become bullying adults. We’ve all been in situations where we meet adults who have similar kinds of behavior. By the time they’re adults, it’s so ingrained in these individuals that it’s much harder to support them or to offer them help. So the value of providing support to today’s students will pay off in huge future dividends to society.