Bullying Prevention Blog

The Perpetual Bully Cycle

Solving the issue of school bullying is no doubt a difficult task. With so many factors contributing to the problem, finding a solution that rids every school of bullying seems impossible. But with the hope and change being brought to schools everyday, all across America, it’s a vision that still feels attainable, making it worth a try.

From our experience, we can see that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this problem. It is one that must be taken on with small, incremental solutions. Every school’s bullying problem is different and motivated by ranging circumstances. But the issue that we would like to discuss in this post is one that we feel is a major contributing factor. We call it “The Perpetual Bully Cycle.”

What We Mean by “The Perpetual Bully Cycle”

The Perpetual Bully Cycle borrows from the idea of “recidivism” found in criminology. Recidivism is the act of repeating an undesirable behavior even after a person has experienced the negative consequences of that behavior. (This concept is synonymous with other ideas like “relapse” and “repeat offender”).

To be clear, the idea here is not to draw a direct resemblance between those who commit crimes and those who bully, but there are some parallels that are worth examining more closely.

The idea of detention and imprisonment, though differing greatly in the degree of severity, both funnel back to the idea of receiving punishment for a wrongdoing. However, these methods of punishment are only successful if they alter the behavior of the person being punished so that they do not perform the same act again. But what if their behavior does not change?

As Einstein told us, performing the same experiment over and over again and expecting a different result is grounds for insanity. So when a student continues to exhibit behavior that is hurtful or harmful to others, even after the same punishment is given time and time again, why should we expect that student’s behavior to suddenly change? This brings us to our main concern.

When a student’s behavioral patterns are exhibited in this cycle of “offensive behavior—punishment—repeat offensive behavior,” it proves that the root of the problem is not being addressed. As the cycle continues, punishments do nothing to change the student’s bad behavior and will more than likely harden his or her disposition towards authority, making it more difficult to show them the error of how they treat others. This is what we mean by “The Perpetual Bullying Cycle.”

How Do We Stop It?

So if punishments like detention or exclusion from school-affiliated teams and clubs do not work to resolve the larger issue at hand, then what purpose do they serve? The consequences of bullying cannot just be a form of punishment. There has to be a behavioral modification strategy put in place that involves the student’s family, school staffers, peers, and counseling.

The reason behind why students bully often stems from deep psychological trauma or a lack of emotional understanding. What those who bully need most is a safe place in which they can express themselves and know that they are being heard. Counselors, together with parents, can provide this channel of expression and eventually come to grips with what personal issues need to be resolved.

Placing students in a protected environment that facilitates open and honest discussion is extremely important in creating a more safe and caring school. Many students lack this outlet and, in turn, behavioral issues arise and aggression is misplaced. Implementing behavioral modification strategies, along with awareness programs and offering support to victims of bullying, are all necessary to help stop bullying.

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