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October 1st, 2010 by Dr. Phil

Are You Raising a Bully?

blog1What would you do if you found out that your child was a menace on the schoolyard?

Since the bullying crisis began to garner national attention a few months ago — with headlines focusing on a series of tragic teenage deaths by suicide — school districts have been frantically putting together anti-bullying policies, while politicians have been proposing one law after another to protect victims. There are new curriculums and self-help programs that teach bullied kids how to deal with their attackers. And I’m so grateful for that. We have gone too long ignoring those kids who have been singled out for torment.

What I want to know is where are the parents of the bullies? It’s their job to know what their child is doing — who they’re talking to online, who their friends are, if they’re ridiculing somebody.

On Tuesday’s show, we’re going to talk about just that. We’re shining a spotlight on one of the most shocking cases of bullying I’ve come across. Zach, a 14-year-old boy, was allegedly held against his will while four older boys from school tattooed a lewd phrase on his buttocks. Blake, the accused ringleader, was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child and was recently released from jail. He and his mother, Patti, claim there’s another version of the story that the media aren’t telling. They go so far as to suggest that Blake’s actions have been mischaracterized. I want you to watch on Tuesday and make up your own mind.

I’ve talked to so many adults who were bullied when they were children, and it changes the way they raise their own children.  It changes the way they are in this world. So parents, don’t just pay attention to see if your child is being bullied; pay attention to see if your child is the bully.

I want to hear from you. Do you know what your children are doing? Do you think your child could turn into a bully? If so, you need to sit down with them and have a serious conversation.

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31 Responses to “Are You Raising a Bully?”

  1. Penny Hester says:

    I would love to watch but my converter box has quit and I don’t have cable. Is there anywhere online I can watch the show after it airs Tuesday on television? Thanks for your time.


  2. Barbara says:

    I know that I have not raised any bullies, I know that my son was so badly bullied in 6th grade that at some point the bus driver suggested that if assigning a seat didn’t work I should just consider choosing a different bus for my son to ride to school or take him to school myself. Now my son is in 11th grade and his being picked on and bullied because he is gay. My 10 year old daughter has been having such a hard time in school in 5th grade, she says other kids say mean things about her, to my surprise i believe that the way she is dealing with these issues have been the thoughts of hurting herself so she gets removed from classroom. which has happened couple times in school. she has begun therapy to help her deal with these issues. I believe bullying has changed how my children interact with others, and how they behave in some situations. in some cases sometimes the amount of fear they have is easily seen.

  3. Dawn Alt says:

    Dr Phil,
    My son is being bullied in his school. He has been at this school for 4 years and has been bullied the whole time. The school does know about it they have seen it but choose to do nothing. My oldest son got it the worse. My daughter was also bullied some but she was the only one that stuck up for herself and told them off. I do what I can to make my son feel better but when you get downgraded day after day it takes a toll on a child’s self esteem. I really think more responsibility needs to be taken at schools.

  4. I was bullied in school. I hated every minute of it. But, I was shy and quiet and didn’t say anything. I ended up dropping out of school in my junior year. By then, I was accepted. But, the damage had already been done. Had I spoken to my parents I know my Dad would have been there in a heartbeat. But, it’s embarrassing, it’s as though you begin to believe you really do have a major problem and to tell is only confirming it. Which is the wrong way to look at it, but, when your a child, you can’t see that far ahead. As a mother, I raised two sons, never did they bully anyone. I would not stand for it. I always knew where my boys were, who they were with. My home was the home of choice for the after school hangouts, and I was a stay at home Mom, so I didn’t mind. Parents, get involved with your kids. Talk, ask questions, look at their behavior. This has to stop. I think that you would all be surprised to hear that now I can add bullying in the workplace to the list. My son, age 27, worked, was bullied by his boss off an on for months. My son finally could not take it anymore. Being an adult he lodged a formal complaint, but, think about it, kids can’t lodge formal complaints. Talk, listen.. and talk some more.

  5. Renee Franklin says:

    I have three children. One is a bully, one is being bullied and my daughter is now home schooled due to the bullying she has suffered. I am not proud that my child bullies other children. I have him in counseling, he goes to a behavioral school now and he still bullies others there. He was just suspended last week for beating up another child at school. I know who his friends are, I know what he watches online, I know what games he plays. There isn’t much else to know. I have removed games from him due to the violence in them. Nothing seems to help. He is going to be 13 in a few months and he is a large child and very strong. I fear that one day he is going to seriously hurt someone at school or here at home.
    My other son is bullied because he is small and has a caring heart. He is not gay, but others call him that all the time. We had to leave a choir concert before he was able to sing because of the bullying. He has a great support group at school for which I am thankful.
    My daughter was called horrible names, pushed down the stairs, hit and made to feel like she was dirt. We went to the principal numerous times. All he had to say was if she kept coming in and “tattling” she and everyone else would end up with detention every single time.
    I try to take things one day at a time. If not I would not be able to handle all of this. I am ticked because nothing was done and I had to remove my daughter from school to protect her. This is not the way the educational system should be ran.

  6. Krissy Van Nest says:

    that was my sister Patti on that stage today..my heart went out to her but she held her own and I am proud of her. she knows what her son did was wrong, it was just some of the facts that were dragged out in the media that were incorrect. I also know my nephew and his apology was indeed sincere.

  7. Susanne Murphy says:

    Hello Dr Phil
    Bullying in school can be cut down to the bare minimum, I believe if some things were changed.
    1. Every school must have a general assembly and have a video and speakers to talk about bullying, the detrimental consequences, and the introduction of their schools no bully policy that will be enforced.
    2. Have every child from K to 12th grade and then the colleges sign a “No Bully” agreement. Have the parents also sign this agreement. Make it known that the policies will be strictly enforced and no tolerance will be given. Use the 3 strikes your out rule!
    3. On every corridor put a sign with an x across it that says no bullies allowed.
    4. Make it extremely easier for any child being bullied in school or by way of the internet or text to anonymously turn in their bullys. Call it “Turn in Your Bullies” Make it clear, that it is anonymous and can be done by a note slipped in the boxes placed in various locations monitored by the school, or an anonymous note slipped to their teacher when handing in homework.
    5. Every school in the US should have a strict “No Bully” policy that includes 1st offense 2nd offense and 3rd offense which is 3 strikes your out program, no matter if it is spread across all the 12 years in school or not. If the students know and the parents know that within 12 years if their child has 3 strikes because of bullying that they will face expulsion and have to pay for their childs education possibly in private schools.
    % For 1st offenders and 2nd offenders make it a policy that counseling must be done in order to require continuance in the classroom. Counseling on the first offense could be an in school counsel between Principal, teacher and parents and the offending child. The 2nd offense should be stricter with detention, and in school counseling as well as another Parent Principal, Teacher meeting as last chance resort to allow the problem child to continue school. 3rd offense is the worst case scenerio. Expulsion and denial to all schools activities. Possibly re-entry after psycological profile and counseling have been completed .
    Parents have to be held accountable for their minor childs actions. It is the parent who is the ultimate enforcer of school policy concerning their childs enrollment and continuing education.

  8. Anita says:

    My 7 year old grand daughter has a teacher who is a bully. When school first started in August she would pretend to be sick so she didn’t have to go to school. Then she started crying on the way to school, begging her mother not to make her go. My daughter in law has spoken to the teacher, and when that didn’t work she went to the principal. She ask for a transfer to another class but was told that the class was already full. She then went to the superintendent to see if something could be done but was basically told the same thing. We were told that if an opening come available in the other class my grand daughter will be moved. My grand daughter has stopped crying and pretending to be sick but she is under so much stress. She recently wet her pants rather than ask the teacher if she could go to the bathroom because she would have lost a good behavior color for the day.What is your advice on handling this?

  9. Lizette says:

    Well I was on the show with Annmarie and Shaina. Dr. Phil did a good job in talking to her but still left me with no alternatives in how to stop her from bullying others. What can I do as far as home life? School etc…

  10. Sandrayhwh says:

    WHAT causes a child to begin bullying others? If you have ever been victimized by a bully, you may be tempted to say, “I don’t care! There’s no excuse for that kind of behavior.” And you are probably right. But there is a big difference between a reason and an excuse. The reasons why a child becomes a bully do not excuse the wrong behavior, but they might help us understand it. And such insight can have real value
    In many cases the bully’s formative years are marred by poor parental example or by outright neglect. Many bullies come from homes where the parents are cold or uninvolved or have, in effect, taught their children to use rage and violence to handle problems. Children raised in such an environment may not see their own verbal attacks and physical aggression as bullying; they may even think that their behavior is normal and acceptable.
    One 16-year-old girl who had been bullied at home by her stepfather and at school by fellow students says that she became a bully herself when in the seventh grade. She admits: “Basically it was a lot of anger building up inside of me; I just picked on anybody and everybody. Feeling pain is a big thing. Once you feel the pain, you want to dish it out.” While such physical aggression may not be typical of girl bullies, the anger behind it is.

    Many schools bring together large numbers of students from different backgrounds, who have been reared in widely varying ways. Sadly, some children are aggressive because they have been taught at home that intimidating others and verbally abusing them are the best means of getting their own way.
    Unfortunately, such methods often seem to work. Shelley Hymel, associate education dean at the University of British Columbia, Canada, has been studying child behavior for two decades. She says: “We’ve got kids who are figuring out how to play the game and unfortunately, bullying works. They get what they want—they get power, status and attention
    Persistent bullying may erode a victim’s self-confidence, induce serious health problems, and even ruin a career. Bullied individuals may experience headaches, sleeplessness, anxiety, and depression. Some develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Whereas physical attacks may bring on an outpouring of sympathetic support for the victim, emotional attacks may not elicit the same response. The damage is far less apparent. So instead of sympathizing, friends and family may tire of hearing the victim’s complaints.
    Bullying also has bad effects on the bullies themselves. If not stopped in childhood, they will likely grow up to bully others in the workplace. In fact, some studies reveal that those who had been bullies as children developed behavior patterns that endured into adult life. They were also more likely to have a criminal record than those who were not bullies.

  11. FosterBoys says:

    Bullying is an outward expression of internal turmoil. It can’t be stopped later in life. It’s too late then. The damage has been done that created those feelings. The only way to end bullying is to ensure that kids are raised in a loving home where rage, violence, and intimidation are not acceptable. This isn’t happening in a vacuum — bullies are raised by bullies who were raised by bullies who were……

  12. Ellen says:

    Finally, we are addressing the problem of the bully and how they are raised or environments they are exposed to. Solve or did deeper into that problem and your bullying will be diminished. However, if the child is still in school and being a bully, the parents have to acknowledge the problem too. You can’t fight in front of your children, bully each other, and let siblings bully each other and then send them out into the world thinking this is just the way people treat each other. Often times the younger bullies really do think their behavior is normal and don’t understand why every one is getting so upset. Another trend that is not helping is saying hurtful things to each other within the family and then saying “I didn’t mean it. I was just mad” the damage is done. Don’t say or do anything that will hurt someone else…ever. Even if you want to hurt them because you are so mad. Don’t!

  13. The Dry Creek TV Series did a story called The Bully because of what is happening in the school system. This is a critical time in the lives of all Americans. We need to teach our children that once the Bully is Exposed he has no more power. I am the still photographer on set and it was a very emotional show.

  14. Sandrayhwh says:

    Parents—Protect Your Children
    Parents can start early in preparing their children to deal wisely with bullies. They can, for example, use role-playing games with their children to demonstrate how to project a sense of confidence.
    Even physical posture—standing up straight—can send a subtle message that dissuades some bullies. Making eye contact, keeping hands and arms relaxed, and speaking in a firm, steady voice may help too. Parents are urged to teach their child to walk away, to avoid bullies, and to ask a trustworthy adult for help, such as a schoolteacher.
    Eliminating bullying behavior starts with educating the family. Parents who make themselves available to their children, listening patiently and empathetically to their concerns, instill in them a feeling that they are wanted, supported, and loved. Many professionals in the field of parenting and peer problems urge parents to provide their children with a positive view of themselves. Such a healthy outlook reduces their appeal as targets in the eyes of bullies.
    But more is involved than simply talking. Each member of the family needs to learn to treat others with respect and dignity and to cultivate empathy. So do not tolerate any bullying behavior in your household. Make your home a safe haven, where respect and love prevail

  15. Kevin says:

    I really think that people should be able to send text messages to 9-1-1.

    When you have an angry mob of people doing something bad many people would be scared to be seen using their phone to call 911 for fear of becoming a victim themself.

    Texting 9-1-1 would give those that want to report something a much more covert way to do it.

  16. Jason Shoots says:

    I know people messed with me in school, and did I fight back or whatever? No, what did I do, I still tried to be their friend and I forgave them. Of course yet I was not a Christian and didn’t know what forgivness was until I experienced forgivness and found out the same thing people have did to me or do to me, I done to the Lord God (Jesus). So here’s the cure for bullies, Love them when they treat you bad. Do things for them, without asking or wanting anything return. It will confuse the enemy and put fiery coals on their own heads.

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
    Matt 5:43-46 (ESV)

  17. Jason Shoots says:

    And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
    Matt 5:40-42 (ESV)

  18. Lizette says:

    Well in my case my daughter Annmarie is not being raised by bully parents or siblings. Maybe something happened to her while she lived in south dakota with her father for a year. After she came back home, her father committed suicide.
    Maybe his suicide made her angry or maybe something happened out there and she hasn’t told me anything.. I really wish Dr. Phil would of gotten answers from her.

  19. Marlene Carey says:

    My grandson who is 15 is bulling his brother who is 11. I found him harassing the 11 year old consistently, calling him names, threatening him, making him cry and recording this to his friends.,breaking his toys in front of him, calling his brothers friends names and intimidates them. The 11 year old is afraid of his 15 year old brother when he comes into his room,says he wants to live with another family. He is being raised by his father, they see their mother on occasion. I have confronted the 15 year old on his behavior, he stops for awhile, but it doesn’t stop. I fear for the 11 year old, I can see his behavior changing, I don’t know what to do to stop this from happening.His father thinks this is just natural for brothers, part of growing up. I do not agree. This has to stop.

  20. Debby says:

    I have two children one has been loved by everyone who comes in contact with him. The other has been Bullied since grade 6 (as far as I know). Now She is in grade 10 and it still continues daily. The bullying is getting worse for her; it has become physically violent. I find that it is more girls these days than boys, is that true? The more I hear it seems so. I’m scared for my daughter somedays, she walks to school, I got her a cell just so she can call me if she needs help. Although she does have good days with no bullying and we take a deep breath and wait for when it starts up again. School knows but they are no help in stopping the bullying; sometimes I feel so alone in dealing with this issue.

  21. T says:

    My son who is 11, has become a bully, he keeps picking on one kid(he does pick on his brothers). My son has ADHD,aspergers,OCD,tourettes,sensory intergration. I have bagged for help but in my area mental health is not well funded and wait lists are over a year long. My other kids are not bullies. I have no idea what to do, I have no `training`for this kind of thing and with his issues unless he gets real help he will continue.

  22. Cate from Oz says:

    My son was bullied mercilessly at school. He was the “runt” of the litter and other kids saw him as an easy target. His father died when he was 3 and I was doing my best to raise him on my own. I tried school after school after school without any improvement and the department of education was really no help in solving the problems. When my son turned 15, he had a huge growth spurt and was suddenly taller and wider than all the other kids his age. This led to kids who thought they were tough, constantly picking fights with him to prove their manhood. With my son’s increased size came increased aggression and he began to fight back. One day, three kids jumped him from behind and one beat him about the head with his arm, which was in a plaster cast. My son completely lost it and put two of them in hospital. The boys that attacked him were suspended from school for 3 days. My son was suspended for 3 weeks. He dropped out of school shortly after and suffered from extreme depression for many years. Thankfully, I was able to get him help. The moral of the story is that people who are hurt tend to hurt other people. If a child is a bully, you have to find out what is happening in their life to make them that way and fix it. I feel that we live in an era where kids grow up thinking it’s cool to be mean. There seems to be very little courtesy, consideration or empathy in society now. I feel that a lot of this comes from film and television and a lot comes from within our own homes. Human relationships seem to be a constant battle of egos and a quest for power. As adults, we need to realise that children learn from our behaviour and we need to be good role models for them. In the past, I was always a bit of a doormat for other people. I am, by nature, a pacifist (which I expressed as submissiveness in earlier times). I feel that I was a bad example for my son in his younger years as I never taught him assertiveness. I feel that that left him open to abuse by the kids at school and resulted in him being terribly damaged. That damage, in turn, resulted in him being aggressive. These days, I know how not be “nice” without being “weak” and I know the difference between assertiveness and aggression. And every day, I do my best to help my son recover from his past and to set a good example for the person I want him to be in the future.

  23. Cate from Oz says:

    In the last paragraph of my comments, These days, I know how not be “nice” without being “weak” is meant to be These days, I know how TO be “nice”. If you could edit that, I’d appreciate it :-)

  24. sarah says:

    i have a bully for a child. it pains me to think that he is making fun of other kids in school. As i was made fun of all through school.I dont know how to make him stop. he bullies his little sister who is 7. Makes her cry tries to scare her all the time. Its like he can’t control his own mouth. It gets him in trouble in school, at home, at his dads, just about every where. I went to pick him up from school today and the principal called to tell me he has 2 days in school suspention for bullying a girl. It wasn’t the girl who told but her friends due to being sick and tired of his mouth and the very nasty things that come out of it. I have taken his snowboard his xbox the computer and going anywhere with any one or doing anything fun away. Now what?

  25. Cassie Helton says:

    Sorry, hate to say it but I disagree with almost EVERYTHING that the author of the book had to say…especially in regards to respect.

  26. Patricia says:

    Dr. Phil, I just saw an ad for the Video Barbie doll. What a wonderful tool they have created for young people to post videos of others for the purpose of being to use the term loosely – Funny….. Forget about predators – this is really great (sarcasm intended here) for teens and younger kids to really stick it too the ones they want to embarrass, humiliate and just plain be mean too. Please address this dangerous toy.

  27. Shari says:

    Things weren’t nearly this bad a generation ago… Where did all this bullying come from?? From the top, down. From presidents lying to start needless wars, the most recent in Iraq. From politicians running the dirtiest campaigns they can and coming out ”winners”. Religious ”leaders” who rake in $$$ while their sheeple go hungry. Business leaders doing *anything* for a buck no matter how many people are hurt, how many marriages destroyed, how many little kids scared and confused because mommy and daddy were financially assaulted by loser CEOs.

    The bullying at the top has got to stop!!

  28. Selina in Australia says:

    I find it astonishing that bullying policies are only now been written and implemented into schools in the US. In Australia every state school and private school has a bullying policy and promotes being an “anti-bullying” school. These have been no raving success as their ability to adhere to these policies is somewhat limited by having to view the bully as a victim too. They are often the kids who struggle academically, from broken families and emotionally or financially deprived, or they are the rich, spoilt variety and have parents with connections and money who can bully teachers and principals. Bullying policies are too generic and are either not used at all or are up to interpretation. In Australia we need to have a multi-faceted bullying policy that is developed for the whole country so that every man, woman and child knows the exact outcomes for bullies and victims, so there is no “grey area” that can be used for or against a child.

  29. imbunky2 says:

    My 6 & 7 yr old grandchildren are “bullies”. Through my many calls continually requesting help for them, I recently learned directly from the Mental Health Association (in our County) that they have been and still are conducting in-school demonstrations as well as in-class demonstrations, teaching students of all ages, ‘What consitutes bullying’ and ‘How to handle bullying situations’, using the students themselves. I immediately contacted my grandchildren’s School Principal to suggest this Program be given at their school. I have not been able to follow up as yet. This Principal is fantastic! If I cannot change my grandchildren’s behavior, perhaps I can protect others from their harm.

    Please, no advice or lectures. I am a loving, devoted grandmother. These beautiful children are receiving all the help I (and other’s) can possibly ensure they receive – physicians, counselling, medications, wonderful teachers and especially an unbelievable school principal. The 6 yr. old is on SSI ALREADY and the government “agencies” are well aware of the situations with the children.

  30. leila carmon says:

    Dr phil you make the world a better place

  31. why would an adult suggest to another adult to fold to a child mistreating their child and find another means of transportation to school for the target child’s safety and parents peace of mind. Why hasn’t the bus driver put the bully in a assigned seat or off the bus if they can’t act with some respect for others. I am by far not mother of the year and my family has it’s own problems but I would not tolerate one of my kids treating another kid like these parents allow. Bottom line is, I am the boss here and if they can’t act like they have good sense they will hate me but they wont be permitted to mistreat anyone ever not on my watch. Some of the parents to these bullies should show these kids what humiliation is arent u bigger than the child or are u afraid of them too. It’s obsurd even to someone outside the cookie cutter family.

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