Bullying the Bully In The Classroom Does Not Work – So What Does?

Our team has been researching to see what “remedies” are being offered for “bullies in the classroom,” and what we are finding is, “not much.”

There are some good guidelines to try and safeguard it from happening, placing the brunt of responsibility on already over-burdened teachers with numbers beyond their capacity in the classroom to keep the bullies at bay … but what about when there are no grown-ups around? What then? It's inevitable, bullies will bully as long as it works for them to do so.

It must stop working for them, before real transition can happen.

I've found that bullying the bully for bullying only perpetuates the unwanted behavior in the long-run. Winning their cooperation is the only way to get lasting results.

We teach the “victim” of bullying to take better care of themselves, & we refuse to expect the worse from the bully by including them in the healing dynamic, rather than ostracizing them – and something begins to capture their attention, and eventually, their respect.

How do I know? I've witnessed it many times.


And since I can already hear you who work with children asking, “How do we do what is suggested above in our classrooms and in our home?” let me share some suggestions about how to go about winning a “bully's” cooperation (suggestions for teachers):

  • We educate the whole class about the 3 roles on the Unhappy Kid Triangle. We show the kids how the roles rotate and that allows the bully to see that when they bully they end up in the victim, or “Helpless Baby” role.
  • We teach the kids that it is the consequences of their choices which determines the behavior that drives them around the triangle … this helps those who bully begin to connect with the recognition that every time they bully they only end up furthering attack on themselves.
  • We help the children see what it would be like to make choices that DON'T drive us around the Unhappy Kid Triangle. Such awareness gradually helps kid's who bully make more informed choices about whether they want to bully next time around. Especially once they understand where it takes them.

It is a simple process – not easy, AND yes, it is a process that requires consistency, and clear boundaries.

It also requires:

  • Adult supervision that calls each child to self-accountability (yes, including the “Victim/Helpless Baby” whose job it is to take care of themselves by getting out of the way, refusing to collapse into helplessness, speaking up loudly at the time of violation so that awareness is brought to the situation at hand.
  • Our own willingness to model the process of self-responsibility for the children. We show them how to do this work through our own willingness to own our part in various situations. We confess it when we find ourselves on the triangle, without undue self-abasement.
  • We teach ourselves, and the kids we work with to look at the pay-offs for staying in Helpless Baby/Victim or Bully/Persecutor roles!
  • A commitment to believe in the Reality Formula for Kids© and to apply it consistently in our homes, our classrooms, and in our own relationship with ourselves.
  • The willingness to allow natural consequences, even harsh ones on occasion, to be what they are  – not as punishment, but as a teaching opportunity for all involved.

In essence, we shift our perception from that of seeing the situation, or the “bully” as a “bad problem” that needs to be punished or gotten rid of, to seeing the challenging situation as an opportunity for growth for everyone involved.



*The Reality Formula for Kids© is a toolkit we have developed in response to a demand for a process for dealing with strife and conflict at home and in the classroom.


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