Q. One of my students seems to be turning into a bully. What does that relate to?

A. My guess would be that this behavior involves a self-esteem issue. Every bully I have ever met had self-esteem problems. The underlying issues that contributed to the self-esteem problems may differ (e.g., not good enough, afraid of failure, shamed at home, doesn’t feel safe, different from others, ashamed of family).

Following are examples of behaviors that may indicate issues with self-esteem. Some of these behaviors are more likely to be exhibited by females than by males, and vice versa. Notice that bullying is more typically exhibited by males.


  • Criticizing
  • Complaining
  • Sulking, whining
  • Withdrawing (passivity)
  • Overconforming, overcomplying
  • Manipulating
  • Emotional abuse or neglect


  • Bullying
  • Bragging
  • Assuming, judging
  • Coercing others (aggression)
  • Stone-walling, rubber-stamping
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Physical or sexual abuse

You may want to expand your knowledge base related to self-esteem. Evaluate your own level of self-worth, and take appropriate recovery steps if indicated. As a teacher, you are serving as a role model. Might as well be the best role model possible!