If you really want to stop bullies show empathy


I just read another Globe & Mail article about dealing with your “child-bully.” It makes me so mad. In all my work with bullies I have only met one true bully. This bully was a socio-path and could feel no empathy and never would. The rest of the so-called bullies I have encountered are simply human beings seeking attention, love or simply trying to get their most basic needs met. In other words, there are few bullies, but lots of bullying behavior. Because the author of is article – a respected child educator – sees bullying as something that needs to be controlled he suggests being very firm with your bully-child, increase surveillance and bring down the full weight of your moral authority. Although he urges parents to not behave in a cruel manner (because it will attract resentment) he does not recommend the most powerful solution of all: empathy.  Those who are well versed in restorative practices know that most (not all) children will adjust their behavior and become more accountable, not through controlling but by understanding how their actions impacted the other person. The “consequences” your child needs to learn about are no different than in other situations- these are the direct and indirect results of his or her behaviour.

 Those children who feel and demonstrate empathy have all the skills they need. So when you feel like punishing bully behaviour just remember that the best solution to any bullying is to dig deep and find out what the child’s deepest needs are and keep digging. Only then can you try and help them get their particular needs met – hopefully without harming others. If you want to learn more, I suggest you read Marshall Rosenberg’s books on non-violent communication.

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