Top 8 Ways to Spot a Bully in Your Classroom

Learn how to identify bullies in school


Knowing how to spot a bully is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, bullies come in all shapes, sizes and personality types. Some bullies are popular and well liked while others are loners with only a few friends. Other times, kids resort to bullying as a way to avoid becoming a target themselves. These bullies are usually referred to as bully-victims because they have been victimized in the past. As a result, they are either looking for revenge or are using the components of bullying as a self-preservation tool.

Yet regardless of what type of person is doing the bullying, there are some signs that can help you determine if a child is a bully or not. Knowing this information not only helps parents determine if their child’s friend is a bully, but it also is helpful for teachers looking to identify bullies in their classrooms. Here are the top eight ways to spot a bully.

Know the common types of bullies. Bullying is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon. In fact, there are six different types of bullies including relational bullies, serial bullies, indifferent bullies, bully-victims, group bullies and aggressive bullies. If you embrace some of the myths about bullying, including that all bullies are loners with no friends and a low self-esteem, you are going to miss a lot of other types of bullies. You will especially miss the serial bullies, which are often the most difficult types of bullies to spot because their behavior is often very covert.

Understand how boys and girls bully differently. No one will argue that physical bullying is much easier to spot than any other type of bullying. For this reason, parents and educators often miss the fact that girls are bullying too. They just may not use physical aggression to do it. Instead, they resort to relational aggression, verbal bullying and name-calling.

Therefore, it’s important to broaden your perspective and be sure you familiarize yourself with the six most common types of bullying.

Look for signs of entitlement. Many times, bullies believe that the rules do not apply to them. Or, they may feel that because they are good in school, good at sports or come from a prominent family that they can do whatever they want. They also believe that others are below them. You will see a strong sense of contempt in this type of bully, especially when they interact with others that they feel are beneath them. Watch how these kids treat lunchroom employees, janitors, wait staff, store clerks and other people in service-oriented positions.

Pay attention to outbursts of anger or aggression. Sometimes bullies have difficulty managing emotions, especially anger. So they are controlling and aggressive in order to get what they want. They also pressure other kids to do what they want them to do. There is very little cooperation and often a great deal of manipulation.

When you see these types of behaviors on a consistent basis, bullying may be a tool these kids use to get their way.

Look closer if a child appears too good to be true. This bullying trait is often likened to Eddie Haskell. Eddie Haskell was a fictional character on Leave it to Beaver who would greet his friends’ parents with overdone good manners and compliments. But, when the parents were not around, Eddie was not a nice kid. He was often conniving and pressuring his friends. Or, he was bullying Wally’s younger brother Beaver. Typically, parents and educators are shocked to learn that this type of child is a bully because he or she has always been so nice and polite.

Dig deeper if a child has issues with authority. While some bullies are subtler with their aggression, other bullies clearly have issues with following rules and listening to authority figures. For instance, some bullies will get into arguments with teachers, coaches, guidance counselors and parents. They also may talk back, make sarcastic remarks and have an overall disrespectful attitude toward anyone who has authority. If a child is willing to act aggressively toward an adult or person in authority, they are also likely to be aggressive with their peers.

Don’t overlook followers or members of cliques. Many times, bullying is about attaining or even maintaining a position on the social ladder at school. As a result, many otherwise good kids will bully others because of peer pressure. They also may bully to get attention or to feel like they are part of a group or clique. In other instances, bullies will get these followers to do their dirty work. And these kids comply because they are afraid of becoming targets themselves. Or, they comply because they feel it’s the only way to remain in the group.

Watch out for kids who exclude others. One of the biggest forms of relational aggression, is ostracizing, excluding or icing out other kids. If a child regularly refuses to be friends with other people, doesn’t want to be inclusive of everyone or picks and chooses people to associate with, this is a good indication that bullying may be an issue. Another indication of bullying is a child who is not accepting of another person’s differences.

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