What is Bullying?

Bullying is the exploitation of a power difference through coercion which may involve verbal  intimidation, threats of violence, actual violence, exclusion, or other attempts to demean, degrade or control another person through the exploitation of a real or perceived power difference.

What bullying is not is a conflict between two people. Bully is more of a one sided conflict with the victim, by definition, not defending themselves adequately.

Why do Bullies Bully?

There are a variety of reasons why Bullies Bully, but it almost always comes down to this. Bullies bully because it works. They either get a response from the victim they think is funny, or they are able to control the victim and that gives them a sense of power.

The way to get a bully to stop is to stop providing them with the reward they are getting for their bad behavior.

What can be done to stop bullying?

By learning why bullies bully and what they get out of being a bully, you can learn to adjust your response so that you don’t provide the reward the bully is hoping for.  When you understand the dynamic at play you can control it to, literally, teach a bully to not bully.

To do this effectively there are 3 key behavioral responses you need to understand control

1) How to eliminate the bullies reward

2) How to be consistent in your response

3) How to handle what is known as a blow out or extinction burst.

What is Operant Conditioning?

My material is based on operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a way to actively use reward and reinforcements to change the behavior of a subject in a desired way. In this case, we are going to use this knowledge to get a bully to stop.

We are all responding to positive and negative stimulus all the time. When something good happens, we want to do it more. When something bad happens, we want to do it less. The dynamic of how subjects respond to different reinforcement schedules and different types of reinforcements is well studied and well known.

This project puts that knowledge to use by applying it to the problem of bullying by paying specific attention to how to extinguish unwanted behaviors.

What is an extinction burst or blow out?

An extinction burst describes what happens when a subject that has been conditioning to expect a reward for a certain behavior stops receiving that reward. What happens is that they try harder to get their reward.

Bullies have learned to expect their victims to respond a certain way. When they stop responding as expected the bully will usually escalate their obnoxious behavior in an attempt to get their victim to respond. This escalation is what is known as an extinction burst or a blow out.

Getting a bully to stop bullying is a process that takes time. The extinction burst is an unfortunate but necessary process for the bully to go through. The victim needs to be prepared to ride out the blow out because eventually they will learn that their bad behavior doesn’t work anymore.

How long does it take to get a bully to stop?

It depends on how long the bullying has been going on and how addicted the bully is to bullying. If it has just started, you can usually get it stopped within a day. If it has been going on for a while, it may take a few weeks to cycle through the blowout. Depending on the bully, it can take longer than that.

I realize it is depressing to think about it but victims don’t have a choice in this matter. They can pretend that the blow out isn’t happening, or they can accept blowouts as a well known and well studied response to the removal of a reward and use that knowledge to help them to get the bullying to stop.

Who are you to teach this material?

I studied cognitive psychology in college while apprenticing in these techniques while working as a dolphin trainer for a dolphin language cognition laboratory located in Hawaii. I know both the science and the practical application of these techniques. My understanding of applied behavioral psychology isn’t abstract. It’s functional and pragmatic and I’m told I teach it quite well.


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