Why Do Children Bully?

Upset Boy near brick wall

Bullies aren’t what they used to be. When I was growing up in the seventies and eighties, I earned names like “freckle-face” and “meatball.” Those labels broke my seven-year old heart but they are nothing compared to the words kids hear regularly today.

According to a recent article by Focus on the Family, the old ideal of standing up to a bully for character-building can put your child in harm’s way. Vicious, violent scenes of children beating other children have become commonplace on Internet sites like YouTube.

So why do children bully? What can the Christian parent and teacher do about bullies?

Reasons Children Bully

Let’s examine some reasons why children act out this way. Knowing the possible reasons can keep your heart soft while you seek to help a bully in your church.

  • Parents set a poor example. The old adage, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” proves true. Children learn their behaviors from role models.
  • A need for control may cause some kids to bully. Kids who frequently experience abuse or neglect in their home are more likely to bully.
  • Substance abuse can be a factor. Children who are bullies may drink alcohol, use tobacco0,  and take drugs. Being under the influence of these items can become a factor in child bullying. Even high caffeine energy drinks can alter a child’s personality and increase aggressiveness.
  • An absence of spiritual leadership will lead a child to bullying. Jesus taught, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” 1 John 3:15

There are endless reasons, really, why a child can become a bully. How should you deal with a bully in your class?

Ways to Cope With Bullying

At our church, and yours I am surem all children are welcome. However, there are certain expected parameters that children must remain in. Bullies won’t know, at first, how to behave. The child’s behavior will have to change. Here are some ways you can cope with bullying children while feeding them the things of God.

  • Establish “No Bully” Zones: Really, the entire church is a no-bully zone but naming special areas “No-Bully” areas shows kids you are focused on their safety. Post signs and frequently refer to Kids Church as a “No-Bully” zone.
  • Teach the Golden Rule: Do this frequently and have the Golden Rule in your class rules list. Talk to kids about what this means and how it applies to them. Practice role-playing the Golden Rule.
  • Zero-Tolerance Policies: There must be a zero-tolerance for this kind of behavior, no matter who the child belongs to. Challenge the behavior by talking to parents about what you see. Be kind, patient and willing to explain.
  • Confront the behavior in a non-bullying way. Get down to eye level with the child. Don’t stand over him or her while talking to him. Speak in low tones but be firm. Say, “David, taking that ball from Mike and hitting him is not acceptable. You are not following the Golden Rule? Do you remember what the Golden Rule is?”
  • Follow up on punishments and don’t waffle. First strike, is a private warning. Second strike is a time-out away from the group. A third strike will mean the child must leave the class. Anytime physical violence is occurs, the child must leave the class.

As teachers and parents, we must embrace the bully but not at the cost of harming other children. Meet the child where he’s at, prepare to work to earn his trust but stick to the rules. Loving rules and a good role model, (that’s you) will help him become the person that God wants him to be.

Read more from Mimi by visiting her blog, Encouragement for Christians.


  1. Ms Pam says

    In the 2 years since I’ve began running an in home day care again, the bullying and reasons for it have increased so very much. When my children were young (1986-1991) I stayed home and watched children in my home. After that I went into the work place for 11yrs. I’ve seen how much more parents are expected to put work and devotion to the company/career, even ahead of every other relationship in their lives. This includes marriage, children and elderly parents/grandparents. These same companies screen for dedicated people by asking personal questions, they want people with what they call “family values” then they want that person to consider the company as their family. That is just one of the many reasons for the increased bullying, lack of family time. Another thing that has changed is the need for parents to “justify” what their child has done, “little Billy kicked his kindergarten teacher three times.” Mom’s response,” I’m withholding any correction until someone can tell me all the facts.” Having already been told that Billy had been increasingly combative toward other children and teachers, she choose to avoid confrontation. It was later learned that she herself was often kicked and bitten. She choose to blame this on Billy’s absentee father and said others should feel sorry for him too. Billy was finally suspended from Kindergarten after punching and kicking several other children. His reason, they cut in line in front of him, they were playing with a toy he wanted and wouldn’t give it over, and a little girl who was at the drinking fountain when he wanted a drink. Exhausted parents, break down in parental communication, Grandparents raising their grandchildren while still having to work all this has given rise to bullying from a very early age and leading to violent teens and adults. PS Little Billy was in my after school day care and after being introduced to time out each and every time he even began to raise his hand to anyone or throw toys, etc.. as is the rule for everyone, he became more at peace and settled. We were able to teach him some of what he was missing at school. When asked about his “favorites” (color, games, etc..)he told us, “I like shooting zombies… “my dad gave me a gun that looks real and I go out in the yard by myself and pretend the trees are zombies and I shoot them.” For a child with his nearly uncontrollable temper fits this doesn’t seem like the best way for him to entertain himself.

  2. says

    This is such an important topic. Thanks for writing on it. I think a huge factor is the absence of parents. With nearly half of kids being born to unmarried moms, and about 80% of those fathers out of the picture by age 5, it is no wonder kids are becoming so aggressive. In addition to everything you have said, I think we need to be spiritual fathers and mothers to kids from parent-less situations and to give them an alternative vision for their lives besides repeating the mistakes of the parents.

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