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What is a Bully?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A bully is someone who is habitually mean to others, inflicting both physical and psychological abuse on his or her victims. Bullies can appear at schools, in workplaces, and on the Internet. Bullying can also take on an international scale when nations bully each other with their politics and militaries. Bullying can be extremely harmful on every level, and there are a variety of ways to deal with bullies and their actions.

Bullies tend to pick on targets they think are weak. Children, for example, will target children who are younger than they are, along with children who look different because of race, disabilities, or fashion sense. People who appear emotionally weak may also be targeted for bullying. Bullies themselves are often former or current victims of bullying. Children who have unstable home lives, for example, may take out their frustration and aggression on other children.

A bully may inflict physical and mental pain on others.
A bully may inflict physical and mental pain on others.

Many bullies use physical intimidation and threats to frighten their victims into staying silent. A victim of bullying may become emotionally withdrawn, shy, anxious, or easily upset, and he or she may evidence marked behavioral changes. For example, a child being bullied at the pool may start avoiding the pool, even if he or she formerly liked going, or an employee who is being bullied might change his or her work habits to avoid the bully. Someone being bullied online might start using the Internet yes, or demonstrate a decline in self-esteem.

Incidents of cyber bullying should be reported to the appropriate authority.
Incidents of cyber bullying should be reported to the appropriate authority.

Bullying behavior often marks the start of larger antisocial behavior, which is one reason why it's important to catch bullies early. In addition to sparing victims considerable pain and suffering, early intervention can also prevent the development of additional antisocial behaviors, getting the bully the help he or she needs to address problems at home, emotional stress, and other issues.

Bullying can occur among school children.
Bullying can occur among school children.

There are two aspects to dealing with a bully: avoiding interaction with the bully to reduce incidents, and standing up to the bully in the event that avoidance doesn't work. While totally changing one's lifestyle and habits to avoid a bully is not advised, common-sense precautions like taking a different route through the office, walking to school with a buddy, or using websites which are not friendly to bullying behavior are a good step to take. In the event that one does encounter a bully, not engaging is the best strategy. Bullies feed on fear and expressions of emotion, so standing up to the bully, saying “no” to requests, and walking away can often be highly effective.

An office bully may communicate with words that are designed to cause fear and anxiety in others.
An office bully may communicate with words that are designed to cause fear and anxiety in others.

It is also important to report bullying behavior. Since children are sometimes afraid or ashamed about being victims, encouraging children to report bullies is a good idea. Parents and siblings who have experienced bullying should also talk to kids about their past, to illustrate that many people are victimized by bullies, and that speaking up is the right thing to do. Communicating with teachers and school staff about bullying issues is also important. In the case of workplace bullies, talking to a boss or coworker about the issue helps, and cyberbullies can often be dealt with through reports to the owners of websites where they congregate: it may be possible to ban a bully from a site if his or her bullying causes demonstrable harm.

If you spot bullying behavior, you can also take action. Sometimes it only takes one person to speak up and end bullying.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

Discussion Comments


If a pre-teen is caught several times by classmates cheating at various games and they accuse this student of it openly, does that constitute "being picked on"/"bullying"?

The accused student ran to their teacher/mother complaining they were picking on by these others. (I was the study hall teacher at the time of the incident, and I was witness to the cheating as well as four students.)


When I was 12, a girl in my class who was 11 but bigger than me bullied me. But there was a boy as well. I loved football at that age and would sit and watch the world cup for hours when it was on.

I really wanted this football which looked like the world cup football. But she said that it was rubbish and that I was a baby.

The school football team was chose by the boy who bullied me and he said that I was the worst footballer ever and that I knew nothing about the sport. Once he kicked a football at me so hard that I was in a support cast for a week or two.

I was so upset. I thought that I would never make into a team because I was a girl and no one liked me, and the girl who bullied me was on the team, but she only liked football so she could make sure I was not on the team. So now I have really bad anxiety issues and I lack social skills.


Bullies can even be adults in the workplace. They are just big kids who never grew up! What a shame!


I fancy my high school bully, and always have, right from the day I laid eyes on his short stature and heard his heart-throb inspiring voice. I even gave him a fiver in his Christmas card in year eight. He was a jerk, but so cute! What's wrong with me? I still like him, even after he threatened to petrolbomb me. I voted for him in his modelling competition, and I'll always back him. He's been in jail, smokes cannabis and sleeps with tons of girls. What is going on?


The woman who wrote post 4 brought back painful childhood memories.

I remember it started when I was 5. I would sit outside on the bench for playtime and my snack was snatched from me. I was punched and kicked to the floor every day. I came home feeling sad. I tried to defend myself, but there was a bunch of them. When my dad dropped me off to the school gates in the morning, I would get this sick feeling in my stomach. It took a lot of courage, but the biggest mistake I made was telling my dad I was getting battered. My dad was fuming and he told the school and the bullies were told off but later I got battered by the bullies.

After I finished primary school, I started secondary school and I thought now that I've finished primary, there would be no more bullying, but I was wrong. The bullying was verbal.

There was an incident when I was in the first year. I was 11 at the time. This kid chucked chewing gum on my hair and we got into a fight and he stabbed a pen in my head. Around then, my dad died and I became depressed. After secondary school finished, I set myself a strict mentality that I would not tolerate any sort of abuse.

Now I'm 22 and for the past few years when someone made a bad comment to me or insulted me, I lashed out. Once I was standing in a queue and this guy jumped in front of everyone, so I walked up to him and told him politely to join the back of the queue. He looked at me and said, "What are you going to do about it" and giggled and then slapped me. Straight away, I punched him in the face. He was knocked out and suddenly from nowhere, I was attacked from the back by a bunch of guys, who were his mates. We got into a big fight. I got angry and ran home. I picked up a kitchen knife and ran back and saw a few of them outside the shop laughing, and I ran towards them screaming violently and they ran for their lives.

But there have also been times when someone has put me down and I walked away silently and felt sad for months. And I get angry with the world and avoid others and start hating myself and have thoughts of killing myself for the way I get treated. I feel so alone in this world. I have little self esteem. I also suffer from anxiety and have an explosive temper. All because of this cruel world.


A bully is someone who has low self esteem and makes fun of other people for it. A bully could be on the internet, in the grocery store, or at school. There are different types of bullies: emotional, physical and cyber. An emotional bully calls you names and says things to bring you down. A cyber bully says mean things to you over the internet, and a physical bully actually touches you in a way that hurts you.


I believe the best approach is to attempt to weed out the kind of weed seeds of hatred that germinate into bullying and violent behavior later. I have developed a unique program called “Weed Out Hate; Sow the Seeds of Peace” that utilizes existing school gardening plots. Kids relate symbolic weeding with the desire to root out one’s inner bullying instincts. This way, the lesson gets re-enforced with every gardening excise. The kids are then rewarded with packets of sunflower seeds to be planted in the spring.


@anon43831: This is obviously a school you 'pay' for with your hard-earned money. As soon as I got opposition from the school, I would have yanked my daughter out of there and put her in the public school. Most times just threatening this gets them to get up off their bums and do something. That was what I did and my child's bully was suspended from school and told that if this happened again, she would be expelled.

Fight fire with fire. You pay money and you can use that money as a bargaining chip to get what you want.


I honestly recommend martial arts training for children who are bullied. This is not so they learn to fight. Let me explain.

In martial arts, children do learn to defend themselves. However, they also learn when to do it, which is only when another child puts his or her hands on them.

If a child knows he/she can defend him or herself, it automatically brings confidence. This, in itself, tends to deflect bullies. They gravitate toward children who seem to have low self-confidence. The last thing a bully wants is a target who is confident and can stand up in his/her own defense.

Martial arts training for youngsters also focuses on teaching the kids how to handle issues like name-calling and cyber-bullying. They even learn other important lessons like fire safety, as well as respect for themselves and each other.

Look for a school where constant positive reinforcement is offered and children are happy in their classes. The Kid Tigers and Lil' Dragons programs are age-appropriate programs offered at many martial arts schools.

I see the benefits of these classes on children at the dojo where I take classes. The parents are so pleased with the lessons their children are learning. Also, many martial arts schools actively teach anti-bullying programs; mine does.

If you can afford it, try martial arts for your children. It offers much more than learning to kick and punch.


Most of you are not going to like my comments. Here goes anyway. Do not teach your kids to run away from bullies. Teach them first to report and then if that fails, to stand up, not passively, but a bit actively.

What do I mean? After reporting a bully and nothing happens, do not wait for the bully to do their thing again! Attack them when they least expect it! Come from behind and approach them or even attack!

They will tell you that two wrongs don't make a right. Really? When you commit a crime against the state, the state punishes you. That's your cue. If you are not strong enough to attack the bully alone, get help from your peers. Gang up against the bully or bullies and see them run.

Get your parents or loved ones involved if you cannot put together a group of your own and attack the bullies. Do not use more force than is necessary.

Do not stand there and get hit. You are not a punching bag! If you need further advice after doing all these things, request more tips from a guy who was bullied, fought back and is now your hero!


to anon57817: I am so sorry for what your boy is going through, but I am pretty sure that with a little bit of support he will eventually overcome it.

First, does your son have identity or self esteem issues? If so, then you need to start boosting his self esteem. Try to make him join some kind of sport that he might like and start doing new friends.

If the directors of the school do not do anything in you favor, go above them - I mean to the board of directors, and if this does not work, call your TV station and air your concern. I bet you that your local district will do something when they see that the problem escalated.

Bullies are just low self esteem children who have a lot of problems at home and that is their way of dealing with them. Also, do not forget to report the sub for her professionalism. Unfortunately, bullying is very dangerous and can lead to suicide. If none of the above work, try to talk to the parents of the bullies or put them a bond. Please act as soon as possible. My prayers are with you!


My five year old son has encountered a bully, another little boy who lives across the street. I have had to step in several times to stop this child from verbally abusing and even kicking my son. Even in front of both his own parents no less!

The boy tells my son "I hate you, go away, I told you don't ever talk to me" The mothers response? "Don't say those things" but does not punish him, never mind actually standing up and saying "hey! We don't talk like that to friends".

Due to his young age, my son ends up in full on tears and sadness. I am astonished. I would never allow any of my children to speak that way to anyone. If they did it would be time-out, a stern talking to about cruelty and feelings, and a meaningful apology to the offended child.

As much as I love my little ones, I just don't think it's right to hurt others! So why won't this mother step up? Sadly, it didn't register for me that he was a "bully" until my own mother brought it up. My plan is to avoid play time with this family for a while. They also have a wonderful daughter who plays well with my kids:( But what else can I do? Allow my son to be tortured just for the sake of socialization?

I would like to let the mother know that I think her sons behavior is bullying but I don't know how to do so in a tactful way that does not have me come off as witchy. I do defend my children quite often and know that I don't usually put things delicately.

Reading these stories is sad and I too don't want my children growing up with this as a regular thing they should just accept.


wow i really feel sorry for both of your guys writing this. i truly think that if i were you anon57817 i would move to a different place.

if you have a good job, and it's a big company like something that is throughout the country, ask if they can transfer you.

but of course it's your decision and your life, but like i said if i were you i would do that!


My son has been dealing with bullies since kindergarten. He is now in seventh grade and it has progressed to lots of classmates jumping on the bandwagon and calling him gay after a substitute teacher allowed three girls and a boy to write that he was gay, "tutti fruity in the booty" and a "rotten grape" on the white board at school, verbally threaten to "pop him in the mouth" and actually push him down into a seat when he tried to repeatedly erase it.

Eventually, he went to his desk and laid his head down to hide his crying, which caused the class to make fun of him for crying. He got up and walked out, and the sub called the school police officer on him for walking out.

"Don't worry," they tell me, "we gave the other students detention." Six weeks later, my son is still humiliated and depressed, and kids have all started taking it a step farther. One seventh grade boy threw peanut butter on my son's shoe and told him to shove it up his a** because that is what gay people do. Another boy grabbed my son's head and shoved it between his legs, locking them around it, telling him he knew he liked it because he was gay.

There are no other middle schools in our area and we can't afford private school. We both work. What are we to do? We are at the school constantly, demanding something be done, yet it never happens in any significant way. I hate the way our schools have become.


My daughter is only four years old and just entered kindergarten in a private Catholic school where she had her so called friend act rude and throw bark in her face. I made the mistake of not believing her when she told me her friend did that. The next day I was at the school and saw her friend throw bark in her face again when my daughter skipped up to her with another friend to say hi. I reprimanded the girl and the yard duty teacher removed her from the playground. I told her mom and the girl lied but then apologized. Thought that was the end of that, but then it happened *again*! It took all of my self control not to go ballistic! My daughter was upset and this time I had to pick bark out of her hair and eyelids. The parents were told again and the girl apologized but by that time I knew she wasn't being sincere. I told my daughter to just stay away from her and play with other friends. I also told the girl to stay away from my daughter too. Watched the girls at recess and my daughter stayed away and played with a group of her friends but that girl kept coming up to her and my daughter kept running away and would not say anything to her. This continued throughout the morning and lunch recess. She just kept coming up to her bothering her. I told her mom that I watched the girls at recess and what had happened, by the way, they didn't know that I was watching. The girl lied right to my face saying she stayed away when I revealed that you are lying because I was watching from far away and that she bothered my daughter the whole time. I can't believe that this is occurring in kindergarten and that the school won't do anything. They told me that "if it happens one more time then she will be benched." Are you kidding me? That would be four times my daughter is subjected to this girl throwing bark at her! I know my comments are lengthy but I hope everyone reads this story as I wished I had stood up to the school the first time and demanded that the student be punished. Yes she is only five years old but after the second time of throwing bark in someone's face which could cause blindness by the way, she knew what she is doing. It didn't help that the girl's parents did *nothing* to punish her! My feeling is that the girl has more problems going on and I don't want my daughter to be the source of her confusion and aggression. My daughter is a very sweet person always smiling, very beautiful curly blonde hair and big blue eyes. She gets a lot of attention, and everyone loves her. I don't know if it's jealousy or her own insecurity but parents please, as hard as it is, stand up to those teachers before something escalates like in this situation! Unfortunately her mom and I are no longer friends. She didn't like the way I reprimanded her daughter and that I referred to her as a bully. I guess some can't handle the truth. Please, please always be on guard whether your child is in pre-school or high school and look for the signs of your child in distress. It could be a bully. Keep the lines of communication open with your child and listen to them if they tell you someone is bothering them. Be a spy if you have to which is what I had to do, eating lunch in my car while watching my daughter play in the playground from afar. I could really see what is going on and don't take an "if it happens one more time we will do something." Tell them if they don't take care of it then you will notify the principal. Next time, I will be taking my own advice!

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    • A bully may inflict physical and mental pain on others.
      By: auremar
      A bully may inflict physical and mental pain on others.
    • Incidents of cyber bullying should be reported to the appropriate authority.
      By: creative soul
      Incidents of cyber bullying should be reported to the appropriate authority.
    • Bullying can occur among school children.
      By: bramgino
      Bullying can occur among school children.
    • An office bully may communicate with words that are designed to cause fear and anxiety in others.
      By: Pix by Marti
      An office bully may communicate with words that are designed to cause fear and anxiety in others.
    • Bullying may include sending or receiving harmful text messages.
      By: Maksim Kostenko
      Bullying may include sending or receiving harmful text messages.
    • Avoiding interaction with the bully may help a child reduce incidents.
      By: stefanolunardi
      Avoiding interaction with the bully may help a child reduce incidents.
    • Bullying can include not making someone feel included in social groups.
      By: godfer
      Bullying can include not making someone feel included in social groups.
    • Many incidents of online bullying start out as incidents of real life bullying.
      By: Monkey Business
      Many incidents of online bullying start out as incidents of real life bullying.
    • Bullying can occur anywhere at any age.
      By: Monkey Business
      Bullying can occur anywhere at any age.
    • Children who are bullying often develop emotional issues.
      By: fasphotographic
      Children who are bullying often develop emotional issues.