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Helping a Bully Not Be A Bully

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dear Dr. Meg,

I need to know how to help those who are the bullies. What steps can I take to get the bullies to stop being aggressive. I am a scout leader that has some boys that when given small amounts of free time, find them constantly putting their hands on the boys that are younger and has kept the cycle going for yrs and I see it affecting my own den of boys. I want to break the circle.


Dear Anne-

Thank you for being a scout leader. We need more men and women sacrificing their time to help boys learn the importance of hard work, integrity and service. When dealing with bullies, you basically have two choices: reprimand the bullies or encourage the non-bullies to counteract bullying behavior. That’s what a counselor at local high school did and it worked.

I would recommend that you try a combination of the two. First, make sure to talk to the boys about un-Scout like behavior when they are in a group. Tell them that great Scouts don’t put their hands all over each other, etc. If you find a scout acting like this, single him out and make him leave the troop for a bit.

Then, I would find some service activities that the whole group can do together. There’s nothing like asking a group of boys to find ways to bless others to build cooperation and cohesiveness. Have them brainstorm about things they could do for others. Could they go to an elderly person’s home and clean the garage, snow-blow the driveway or bring a meal? Having boys work as a unit to benefit others is a great way to get the focus off of themselves and encourage empathy and selflessness to counter the selfishness of bullying.

Reprimanding bad behavior combined with training them in compassion and cooperation can be a powerful way to combat bullying.  Look for opportunities to find ways to have the boys serve to others. I believe that you will find that they will really enjoy it.

Dr. Meg

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