This question on r/AskReddit about bullying might have some of the most complicated answers I’ve ever read because everyone has a different perspective on the topic (as former bullies or the formerly bullied), and different theories on what causes the issues in the first place. It was asked by u/Swallowingwallowing, who wrote, “Parents of bullies, when did you realize your child was a bully and how did you react?”
There weren’t that many comments from actual parents as compared to teachers, relatives, and other adults who witnessed bullying. Why is that? Well, Redditor CrossP answered, “You should know that one of the major forming factors for bullies can be parents paying no attention at all, so the replies you get may be limited by that.”
It did seem like in many of the replies, the reason kids ended up being bullies were neglectful parents, but the parents could be neglectful in myriad ways. They might be bullies themselves, abusing their kids, and passing on those lessons. Or they might just feel like their kid is entitled to behave however they want and give them no consistent discipline or attention. That causes damage, too.
But a few Redditors didn’t appreciate the tone of the comments, feeling like they were painting bullies in too sympathetic a light. Berics_Privateer wrote:
A lot of responses here are relying on the trope that bullies are that way because they have low self esteem, have been bullied themselves, etc. And while I’m in no way discounting people’s lived experiences, research debunks this pretty thoroughly. Most bullies aren’t sad, they don’t have low self esteem, and they aren’t victims. They have very high self esteem, feel powerful, and use that power against others. Bullies bully because it’s easy, they like it, and it works.
That is probably true, and some of the stories below show bullies who fall into the category of “it feels good so they do it.” But they also show a lot of stories of people learning to be better with patience, attention, and therapy. And consequences. That’s probably the missing ingredient for the “it feels good” bullies, don’t you think?
All I know is that my wife is a teacher, and when she tells parents about their kid being mean, or a bully, or anything ‘bad’, they just say sh—t like “he doesn’t do that at home, he’s a good boy, you must be lying, or the other kids are lying” the parents at her school are affluent and can ‘do no wrong’.
Parents, please listen to your children’s teachers. —Xenrutcon
I taught for 18 years, and here’s something else I learned: Usually whenever a child has a problem, you meet the parents and discover the source of the problem. No one likes to hear this though and I usually get downvoted whenever I post it (This is the 3rd time.) —TheDevilsAdvokaat
Several answers here are along the lines of “one of the things that makes a bully is lack of attention”. My parents love me more than life itself, and yet I was still a bully in my elementary years. I couldn’t tell you why exactly, other than just saying ‘autism’, which is no excuse. My parents did not allow the teachers to use that as an excuse, and made sure I was appropriately punished. And I am so grateful for that.
Anyway, most autistic children have the one thing they obsess over. For me, it was Garfield the cat. Every phone call from the principal, one Garfield thing was taken away, and it broke my parents’ hearts, but it worked. —Cylasbreakdown
Someone else has noted that bullies sometimes bully without realizing it, as their bullying is really just a very misguided attempt at socializing —ZeroNineOhNine
A bunch of friends and myself were sitting around one day talking about school and we got to the subject of being bullied. As I sat there listening, I realized that I didn’t have a story to tell. This is when I also realized I was the bully. —DarthFader0_0
I used to (verbally) bully a neighborhood-kid. I think we were around 7 or 8 years old or so. She was deaf and therefore talked a bit weird. At one point we were being mean towards her and it got so bad she jumped on her bike to get away from us and she lost her balance and fell, chafing her chin and palms. She starts crying, and at the same time laughing but also panic and remorse on our side ensued. Not long after I got home, her mother called mine and my mum was very upset and angry with me. She said she was taking me to the toy store and told me to bring my pocket money and buy this girl a gift as an apology. Also I had personally go to her house, ring the bell, come in, gift her the present and say I’m sorry, that it was hurtful what i did and would never do it again.
I remember feeling so bad, I cried harder than she did when she fell of her bike earlier that afternoon. I was so ashamed of myself and horrified that my mum was so mad at me. The girl asked me why I did this to her and I just could not answer the question. I just wept like a baby on my own mothers lap, mumbling “I’m sorry” between sobs.
For sure my parents taught me a lesson. —emptyjetpack
My cousin was the bully, and I was the one she would pick on. My mom told my aunt that she needed to do something about it, my aunt told her “they’re just being kids.” My mom told me to stick up for myself after that. My cousin was picking on me after that, and hit me or something, I straight up just whooped her ass a good one. My aunt went to my mom distraught, my mom told her “they’re just being kids.” —Aksweetie4u
Not a bully but I know I got one of my old bullies hard when, on suggestion from one of my cousins to invite said bullies to my birthday party (7 total, only one showed) and proceeded to introduce the kid as “the sh*thead who beats me up every day” even called him that in front of his mom. I know at some point the kids mom had a discussion with my mom (I’ll ask if she remembers how it went) and after about 20 minutes they up and left.
Never had a issue with him afterwards.
Update Talked to mom, she doesn’t remember the exact words that were used but the conversation was basically bullies mom saying I was being rude to my guest and was using foul language I shouldn’t use. To which my mom proceeded to tell her all the crap this kid and his little circle of goons did to me, my mom was actually going to pull me aside and show the lady the bruises I had on me from him and the other bullies when she decided to leave. —whatnameisnttaken098
Not until he started 5th grade. He was super close to his grandpa (wifes dad) and when he died it destroyed him and his behavior changed. Few weeks after the funeral this kids mom called my wife saying things my kid wassaying and doing. Not the school mind you. We had a parent teacher conference days BEFORE she called. Teacher didnt say a word. We talked to him. Your first reaction is to protect your kid and not accept it, but we can tell by the way he was recting to the discussion. We arranged a playdate of sorts. We monitor it now. He talks to a therapist to. Hes a good kid just makes terrible decisions. As a father of 4 weve been on the other end of it as well and usually if the kids an a**hole so is one or both of the parents. The apple doesnt fall far from the tree at times. —Peace1969
During this pandemic I have been tasked with raising my nephews in the absence of my bil and sister as they are both doctors and we are following strict guidelines to remain separate.
My eldest nephew had been bullying his younger brother and some kids over the internet. He was generally being a dick. I immediately realised that he was a bully but also hurting but I didn’t give him any excuses for his bad behaviour. I made sure to be vocal and reprimand him every time he was crossing the line or being even vaguely inappropriate towards his brother. We started to have regular conversations on where his sour attitude was coming from and at first it just seemed like he was born to be an asshole but I persisted.
After awhile he opened up to me and he started to feel like he was being heard and was then able to explain to me that he felt like he was a disappointment to our family as we are all fairly academic and successful in our professional lives and he was worried since he isn’t so academically inclined. He was also insecure about his sexuality (because his voice was still child like and not like his friends/little brother, so he thought that made him gay(we obviously tapped into/worked on that homophobic thought) and was therefore being overly aggressive and macho. He felt like he was the ugly, dumb older brother who could never do right compared to his younger brother, he also felt insecure about his lack of hair growth both facially and down below. I can honestly say that in the past few months he has been with me he has drastically changed because I took the time to listen and give him all the love I had for him. I apologised for not making him feel more loved/not showing him how much I loved him and how important he was to me and his parents.
We had a family zoom chat with his parents and discussed all his frustrations and upsets with his parents,siblings and even me. We all agreed to praise him more and to view his achievements with enthusiasm and pride it deserved. We assured him that he will never ever be compared to anyone else again.
Honestly in a few months he went from being this annoying always bad ass kid to the kid I always knew he was deep down. He now is helpful, kind and very fun to be around. He has stopped bullying his brother, they not only get along but have started to be like friends and we issued letters of apologies to the kids he was bullying(initially he wanted to text them but I persuaded him to reconsider),all the kids were gracious enough to accept his written apologies.
Sometimes kids need to be reminded loudly and often how loved and wanted they are. —dat_woman_over_there
Bully? Try legitimate psycopath. (Step daughter) it’s an ongoing battle to keep all other children and animals safe. I hardly sleep and I don’t sit down. —meatbagofbones