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Bullying And Discipline – The Second Kid Sometimes Gets The Penalty Flag

bullying discipline
For those of you who follow sports a bit, you know it’s usually the second person who lashes out in a fight that tends to get the penalty flag.  Doesn’t seem to matter much how it starts, the second person more often gets the short end of the deal.

It can seem this way with bullying, too.  What do you do if you learn that a bully is tormenting your child and nobody else seems to be stopping it?  Many parents would advocate for their child standing up for themselves, even fighting back in some way.

It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes it’s that second kid – the one who stood up for themselves – who finds themselves in trouble.

I know that this must be a difficult thing for teachers as well as parents.  Without a 24-7 “kid cam” to show complete footage of everything, it often comes down to somebody’s word or a single witnessed incident.  This may or may not tell the whole story between two kids.

Teachers and school officials have to give discipline when they see kids take clearly wrong actions.  Parents understand and want this, too.  However, things can get pretty muddy when the one that strikes out more publicly has been getting bullied in the shadows long before.

What can be done about this?  I’m asking because I can see the frustration and difficulty from the perspective of the teacher.  And as a parent, I know that a mixed up situation like this would drive me crazy.

We all want bullying to be better managed and nipped in the bud whenever possible.  It’s a complex issue and has been linked to school shootings and many suicides.  But how is justice served when the consequences get turned around?

How do we handle the kid who fights back without negating the experiences that prompted their actions?  How do we effectively address the bully, even if they weren’t seen doing something negative when the other kid retaliated?

I want to teach my kids to stand up for themselves, even if it means they might end up in trouble.  I understand teachers and authority figures will do what they need to do when they see a student go over the line.  However, I would hope that these two things don’t have to cross each other for things to turn out right.  For some parents, I know this has already happened and they are trying to handle it the best they can.

Please offer your thoughts and opinions.  I don’t have a clear solution here, just my opinion and (like this is a surprise?) a lot of questions!  I would appreciate any experience you’ve had with this, whether from a school/authority figure perspective or a parent perspective.

Thanks, and I look forward to seeing your comments.

Creative Commons License photo credit: M Glasgow

Bullying And Discipline – The Second Kid Sometimes Gets The Penalty Flag

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2012). Bullying And Discipline – The Second Kid Sometimes Gets The Penalty Flag. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Mar 2012
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