Strategic bullies

Bullies “choose their victims wisely, targeting kids who are unpopular and less likely to be defended by their peers,” concludes a study of Dutch elementary students reported in LiveScience. The University of Groningen study is published in the March/April 2010 issue of the journal Child Development.

Bullies gain status by dominating their victims. Usually, elementary-school boys care only about what other boys think, while girls care about other girls.

In a popular anti-bullying program in the U.S., children are encouraged to stick up for victims rather than standing by passively or backing the bully, reports NPR.  They’re also told not to fight back. Violence is not OK, even in self-defense.

About Joanne


  1. Two days ago I published a long blog post on bullying. Although I didn’t tell the story it is based on my homeschooled son being the target of a 9 yr old public school kid on a community sports team whose been at it for at least 5 years.

    One thing I mention in the post is the schools often the victim gets in trouble if they fight back while the bully gets a pass. Other times if the victim does nothing in school the schools don’t go after the bully. This is in CT where we have clear anti-bullying laws that say schools have to report every case of bullying. I hear horror stories from friends and relatives. Sick of adults letting bad behavior go on and on!

  2. Homeschooling Granny says:

    There is an old saying in medicine that, “The dose is the poison,” meaning that something destructive in too large a quantity can be beneficial in a small amount.

    Adults understood this when I attended school in the 40s and 50s. Children were encouraged to hit back when physically bullied. We were told that bullies were mostly cowards and would leave us alone if they knew we would fight back.

    To be unwilling to discriminate between aggression and defense is cowardice.

  3. There was a study I read about a couple of years ago that sparked a heated discussion on a homeschool discussion group.

    The study labeled two kinds of personalities. The psychologists had called certain kids as having ‘reactive aggression’ those kids, if picked on, had an impulse reaction in their brain (kicked in automatically as an instinct) that told them to fight back. The case was made that in those kids with those types of brain wiring had a VERY hard time stopping the instinct to quickly react in order to say to themselves “the rules say I can’t hit back so I should not react”.

    The study also showed how the other type of brain wiring can walk away easily (follow current rules to not react). They told about kids who were being punished by school staff as being a bully when they were actually the VICTIM and had gotten caught fighting back.

    I am sure we all know kids in both camps.

    This is not to mention also that some bullies like to pick on kids who they know they can get a reaction from. The group of bullies likes to laugh at the rise they know they can get out of some kids.

    The study, if my memory serves me correctly, was done in France on kids in grade 4 or maybe grades 4-6 and I recall discussions of boys only.

    The study also called the bullies who seek out targets systematically to pick on as having “proactive aggression”.

    Since I first read your post a couple of hours ago I can’t stop wondering why at present we discourage victims from standing up for themselves with their fists. I swear some bullies won’t stop unless they themselves are injured as they do to their victims.

  4. I am curious as to why you would keep your son on a sports team in which he was bullied and the various coaches did nothing about it for five years. Since the boy is now nine, I assume that this started when he was four years old. Have you or your husband considered volunteering as coaches or assistants?

    Try to understand why schools cannot encourage students to “fight back”. In the first place, it’s the law. Also, most bullies have convinced themselves that their victim “got what was coming to them”. An accidental stumble or bump can lead to a fight that is justified in the bully’s mind because “the other guy did something first”. In middle or high school, allowing students to hit back could lead to gang fights as students jump in to help their friends.

  5. Violence is an inevitable result of age-segregation of unsocialized (i.e., young) humans. Government employees cannot consistently condemn violence in general, since their employer is violent, by definition.

    “Government is not reason. Government is not eloquence. It is force. And, like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” – George Washington
    “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” (Mao).
    “…(A) compulsory political organization with continuous operations will be called a ‘state’ insofar as its administrative staff successfully defends the claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order.” (Max Weber, 1921).
    “…(T)hose with the (natural) monopoly of violence in society” (Edwardo Zambrano, “Formal Models of Authority”, Rationality and Society).

    “Monopoly” is too strong; The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality.

    Since organized violence (i.e., the State) makes no positive contribution to the education industry, the institution of government schooling depends on fraud. Schools cannot suspend bullies, since to do so would exempt from compulsory attenfdance anyone who throws the first punch. Kids would soon enough realize that this is a get-out-of-jail-free card. So schools impose their rules on the law-abiding and not on the unruly.

    This legal environment is toxic.

  6. Mike Curtis says:

    “To be unwilling to discriminate between aggression and defense is cowardice.” Homeschoolgranny


    The one defining difference between wolves and sheepdogs is loyalty. Both have equal propensity for violence. It’s the sheep that don’t get it…all they ever see are teeth and jaws.

  7. Walter_E_Wallis says:

    I drifted away from this forum a while ago when my suggestion, that the only rational response to a classroom shooter was to attack the shooter was universally rejected. The responses above suggest that the success of variations on that policy several times recently, and perhaps a maturing of JJs audience, has made my point. The man too proud to fight is the slave of the man who is not.
    As for Black History Month, If a foreign power had imposed upon Blacks the 40 years of busing, cozening and alibiing that the liberal establishment interposed between them and the sure consequences of their immature choices, it would be a sure justification for war. The race card is a joker. Discrimination? Join the club as an equal member, buddy.

  8. Mrs. Lopez says:

    (No relation to any posters/commenters that I’m aware of 😉

    Mr. Wallis, many of us quietly lurk around here, rarely replying to threads. You can safely assume many agreed with your suggestion about the classroom shooter. I, for one, always appreciate your comments, and this one, above, is no exception.

  9. Ray, I’m pretty sure ChristineMM was saying that the bully had been bullying for five years, not that her son had been bullied for five years. …

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    C. S. Lewis
    …men without chests….”
    A desired product of our public schools.

  11. They’re also told not to fight back. Violence is not OK, even in self-defense.

    Not because it’s inneffective or counterproductive but because of the inevitable red tape and lawsuits.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Punish bullying, support self-defense. There is no other way. (To school people– who have trouble thinking and dislike doing it– sorry, but you’ll have to decide who’s right and wrong and then encourage/discourage appropriately. The hippie fantasy has to stop and you have to grow up now– you’re the “adult supervision” and kids rarely behave themselves without it.)


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kriley19, alexanderrusso, JoanneLeeJacobs, ChristineMM , topsy_top20k_en and others. topsy_top20k_en said: New blog post: Strategic bullies […]