Bullies Need as Much Help as Their Victims

bullies

Everyone agrees that bullying is awful. It's a plague that is ruining the lives of so many children. The problem is, no one has a surefire solution for how to eradicate it. Though, a recent report on Today reveals that we have been ignoring a critical part of the entire issue.

Of course our hearts ache for the child being bullied. But that is only half the story. What about the bully? What drives him or her to violence, anger, and aggression? What about his parents? How are they impacted by their child's horrific behavior? And what can they do to stop it? One reformed bully's story can be a lesson to us all.

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This story centers around Elizabeth Chenowith, an Ohio teen that was maliciously bullied by kids. Elizabeth had begun hanging out with Scott Hannah, a boy from the neighboring high school. It had all the hallmarks of a sweet, teen romance until his pals lashed out at her. Scott's best friend Tyler Gregory was among the most vicious, tormenting her via texts and phone calls. 

"They started telling me I was very ugly and I looked like a troll," Elizabeth told Today. "I felt like all my self confidence was ripped out." Another friend of Scott's -- a girl -- even told her to kill herself.

When Tyler's mom noticed some of his Facebook postings about Elizabeth, she told him to stop what he was doing. "I was devastated," she said. "I thought, what am I doing wrong? Why is he doing this?" But it wasn't until Tyler heard about the suicide of another child that was bullied that he realized the magnitude of his cruelty. He and Scott then joined an anti-bullying campaign and produced a video to bring attention to the effects of bullying.

He kept the way he treated Elizabeth a secret for awhile. "I was ashamed of my past but then I realized this could be a positive experience for others who may be bullying somebody," he told Today. "If something were to happen, you have to live with that the rest of your life ... It's wrong to put other people down to lift yourself up. We found lifting other people up lifts us up even more than putting people down."

If only all bullies came to the same revelation. Unfortunately, most won’t reach that sane, rational, and humane conclusion on their own. That's why we need to step in. I can imagine how shocked and hurt Tyler's mom was by what her child had done. Just like no one wants their kid to be brutalized, no parent wants to think their child is capable of that kind of brutality either. But it's not just the job of the victim's parents to get involved and try to correct this wrong. Parents of bullies have to speak up too.

We are very mindful of who our kids hang out with. Well, we have to be just as critical of how they are treating others. Monitoring cellphone activity and what they do online doesn't just mean checking for predators. If we notice our kid is bullying, we have to intervene then too. That means telling them what they are doing is wrong, sharing tragic stories about bullying, and letting them know that the behavior is unacceptable. And if your child is witnessing a friend bully someone, they need to be encouraged to tell an adult. Approaching the problem from all sides may be our only hope of ending this horrible epidemic.

Do you think it's possible to reform a bully?

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