NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Understanding the Bully-Victim Dynamic

Understanding the Bully-Victim Dynamic 2/23/18In the wake of yet another school shooting, we are left once again scratching our heads.  Simultaneously, we are witnessing student efforts to organize a march to garner attention from lawmakers and communicate the expectation that they “do something.”

Conscious Discipline founder, Dr. Becky Bailey, has stated, “Our best hope of preventing school violence comes from understanding the bully-victim dynamic.” 

Dr. Bailey is a renowned developmental psychology and early childhood expert, and founder of Conscious Discipline.   Dedicated to creative, brain-smart environments for children, families, schools and businesses, Conscious Discipline focuses on the use of evidence-based and research-backed social and emotional learning.

According to Dr. Bailey, bullying is a relationship issue.

The Conscious Discipline online video, “How to Make a Bully (From Scratch),” explains that it takes years to make a bully.  “All bullies start out as victims.  Becoming a bully is a journey of specific life experiences.”  The experiences can begin as early as at birth, with roots in prenatal stressors.                  

Road-signs that signal an intervention is needed can be spotted during infancy, toddlerhood, the preschool and kindergarten years, and on up through the elementary school years and early teen years.  For example, an infant whose temperament causes him or her to be difficult to soothe, a toddler whose behavior is very out-of-control and defiant, or a three year-old whose behavior is very out-of-control and hard to manage. 

Parents of children with difficult temperaments and behaviors may become very frustrated.  They may feel powerless.  Instead of building connection and relationship with the child, they may resort to chronic or punitive discipline which actually victimizes their child. 

Fast forward to the preschool and kindergarten years when “trouble playing with others” can be a road-sign that signals an intervention is needed to de-rail the bully life-path.  Whether due to an inability to self-regulate his/her own behavior, a lack of social skills, or some other underlying reason, the child is often excluded by peers.  His/her unmet need to belong can trigger an emotional response of aggression or passivity.  The child’s brain can begin to distort his/her perception of self and others.

In first and second grade, a child who is desperate for connections with others, but feels excluded, can experience intense social pain.  Without an intervention, the child’s caring system can shut down.  He or she can become apathetic and immune to consequences.  No punishment, discipline or loss of privileges phases him or her. 

Age-appropriate intervention that builds connection and relationship is essential to stop this train and de-rail the child’s life-path toward becoming a bully.  That will be the focus of next week’s news column.

To learn more about the bully-victim dynamic, view the online video, “How to Make a Bully (From Scratch)” at https://consciousdiscipline.com/videos/how-to-make-a-bully-from-scratch-2/.

Photo Source:  https://pixabay.com/en/shame-blame-bullying-aggression-2087869/ (downloaded 2/27/18)



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