I’m often asked if bullies are simply born bad.  Or do they learn to bully and what’s the best way to re-educate them.

With the exception of a very small percent of bullies who are born sociopaths or psychopaths, bullies, generally, are born just like the rest of us.  That is, most of us are born bullies.

Stage 1 – Bullying us into submission.
Babies have to bully parents to get out of bed at two in the morning and, with relatively good grace, feed them and change them.  And during the day, babies have to demand they get what they need immediately.  That kind of narcissism is survival.  And they do it by communicating the only way they can; by harassing and bullying us.  That’s normal human development and behavior.

Our job as good parents is to teach them, as they grow up, to use other methods.  Their criterion for what tactics to use is simply what works best to get them what they want.

Stage 2 – They learn to suck up to us.
We are all born to try many different approaches and to practice and master what works.  Babies need to learn that smiles and touches and coo-ing increase their chances of getting what they want.  We must give them more when they use this approach and give them less when they try beating us into submission.

On the other hand, beating them into submission is simply abuse.

Stage 3 – They learn to manipulate us by our values, reasons and logic.
A wise man, my brother Lee Leichtling, observed that kids learn to push our buttons in many different ways even then they’re infants.  They learn our values and our styles of reasoning, and the battles rage on.

I’ve presented this as if the stages are discrete and separate, and learned in a specific sequence.  But that’s not true.  Each individual kid will try all behaviors and simply keep repeating the ones that work.  Over time, we train them to use the styles that work better on us.

Kids live in a strange world populated by giants they need to train to serve them or they die of neglect.  They don’t know the language, but they do learn rapidly by trial and course-correction.

They learn how to train us.  Our job is to help them train us by giving them more of what they want when they manipulate us in the way we want.  For example, by using the magic words, “please, thank you, you’re welcome.”  And by negotiating and compromising so everyone can have a better time.

If you look at the world this way, things become clear and straightforward, even if they’re not easy.

How to tell if your kid is continuing down a bad path?
Are they still trying to beat you and the rest of the world into submission?  When they’re needy, upset, tired, sick or desperate, what do they do to get what they want?  These scientific observations of each unique kid also tell you what you need to teach – not by lecturing but by behavioral reinforcement with a smile.

What’s the best way to start re-educating bullies?
The first step is always to stop the behavior, whether the bullying is by kids or adults.  Remove the bully, not the target.  Make the bully adjust, not the victim.  Don’t allow the bullying to continue while you attempt to re-educate the perpetrator.

Only when bullying no longer gets rewarded and, in fact, gets consequences or punishments, will bullies be willing to consider learning strategies that don’t include negativity, harassment, bullying and abuse.

The best way to learn how to raise kids who don’t bully is to hire Dr. Ben for personalized coaching and counseling so you can:

  1. Develop the strength, courage, will and determination to be and to act your best resolutely, diligently and effectively.
  2. Develop a plan and master the skills necessary to deal with the specific situation you’re in.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, call me at 1-877-8Bullies for expert coaching by phone or Skype.

AuthorBen Leichtling