It is controversial to suggest that the bully needs care too, I know that. It is not a viewpoint that would be popular with the parents of children who are victim to their behaviour. However, the truth of the matter is that to solve the problems of the bully means there will be no victims to support.
Tip One: Work out why the person is choosing to bully.
It could be that they don’t know that they are bullying people or it could be that they don’t know how to get the attention of the other person any other way. Some bullies bully because that is what they see at home and this is how they think people relate to each other. Some bully to prevent themselves from being the victim – hit first and no one messes with you. It is the law of the pack animal – prove yourself to be alpha and then the others will fall into line.
Tip Two: Isolate the bully from the people they hope to impress and talk to them.
It is probably best to do this outside the consequence system of the school. If you give a bully a detention and a lecture, they will likely be too angry to listen and they have also probably heard it all before. So, visit them during break time duty and ask them to help you with something – offer them a reward for helping – begin to build a relationship and get to know the real student – rather than the bravado mask. Visit them when they are playing football or rugby or hockey – cheer them on and congratulate them for a great match. Give them positive attention, which means they might be more open to conversations about their negative behaviour.
Tip Three: Meet the parents!
To know the parents is to know the context within which the student is living. You can do this in the context of behaviour – but, as with the student – the parents will be more open in they are not playing defence. So, inviting them in to discuss academic achievement and routes for support will garner a more reasonable dialogue.
Tip Four: Role-model respectful and just behaviour.
This is a tip for dealing with all students really. However, if you suspect that the bully lacks reasonable role-models at home, then you should become the person they look to for the right behaviour. Humiliating students in class, shouting at students, generally being aggressive when dealing with behaviour issues – these will all reinforce the message that adults get their own way through force.
Tip Five: Keep the boundaries tight!
It is likely that the bully wants to be stopped and wants to be brought back into the safety of the fold. There are huge risks in being the top dog and it can garner a fair bit of anxiety. This means keeping firm and fair application of the rules and consequences for all students will give the bully and the bullied a sense of security and safety that comes from knowing that the adult in the room is taking the alpha role!