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Bullying | Dr. William Winter is a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
Will Winter, MD, FAAP

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Why are kids so mean to each other?

I have 3 answers for you.

Children tend to project their frustrations and anger onto other kids. Adults, on the other hand, more often internalize these unpleasant feelings, which may lead to sadness and depression.

Being mean, or bullying works. When a child threatens or bullies another, the victim will give the bully what he wants. This reinforces that behavior.

Bullying can be a learned behavior. Often young children learn it from older siblings who have bullied them. And, in some families, the older siblings might have learned it from observing their parents behavior with one another.

How do you define bullying?
I define it as forcing someone to do what you want. Bullying is about control. When I consider the relationship of a bully to a victim I picture a puppeteer tugging on strings, controlling the puppet.

Fear is the #1 motivator and that is the favorite method used by bullies. Remember, bullies don't have to beat up the victim all the time. The victim just has to be afraid that he might. It is about the threat- about fear. As children get older, the bullying may not be a threat to physical safety but rather something more sophisticated like a threat to his or her reputation.

What is "cyberbullying"?
It can be anything from insults to hateful messages to threats. It can include tricking the victim into disclosing private information (which is then used against them). It can be tormenting because if the bully has your email address or cell phone number, awful texts and emails can be sent incessantly. And via emails or, more efficiently, on social networking sites like facebook, rumors, compromising photos or videos can be easily posted for all to see.

How do we stop bullying?
A would be victim often has low self-esteem. It is important to realize that nobody on the planet can tear you down unless you have done it to yourself first. If the victim is able to improve his self-esteem, the bullying will cease. This requires therapy.

So the victim would benefit from therapy. What do we do about the bully?
For his or her own sake, the bully must be stopped. Besides causing a lot of grief to the recipient, children who are bullies may become adult bullies. And that brings with it its own bag or problems.