Big Bad Bullies: Keith

Turning the Tables
Dr. Phil talks to Joyce and Keith about overcoming being a bully.
Joyce says that her 14-year-old son Keith was once viciously bullied, but now he bullies his classmates.


"The boys that picked on him would call him 'fat bitch,'" she recalls.


Now Keith has taken on aggressive behavior. "After I was bullied, I just wanted to roll over and die," Keith remembers. "I feel more popular now that I'm a bully. Bullying makes me feel good because I'm getting revenge and unleashing anger that was once on me."

Keith admits to picking on kids that he considers "fat" and "stupid" because that's how he views himself. He pushes them, knocks their books down, calls them names and takes their pens.


Joyce fears that her son's aggressive behavior is not just limited to taunting defenseless students. "Around a month ago, Keith insinuated that he hoped that I would die, and he said that maybe he could see to it that that could happen," says Joyce. "I'm scared if Keith continues down the path that he's on, he may harm somebody," she cries. "I don't want him to think he has to be a big, bad terrible person to feel powerful."

Dr. Phil asks Keith if Joyce's portrayal of him as a bully is fair and accurately depicts how he thinks and feels.


"Pretty much, yeah," Keith agrees.


"What's your reaction to that?" Dr. Phil asks.


"I'm pretty sad because I'm destroying others' lives by picking on them," Keith admits.


"But you said it makes you feel good when you do it. Tell me about that," Dr. Phil says.


"It makes me feel good because it's getting the stress off my shoulders," Keith replies. "It makes me get more attention and it makes me more popular ... People now think I'm funny and tough because I can dish it out now."


"So you feel safer?" Dr. Phil wonders. "But is this kind of an 'I'm going to get them before they get me'?"


"That's what I believe," Keith says.

"What if you decided to make some really good friends by being a kind person and taking up for kids ... instead of being the bully?" Dr. Phil asks Keith.


"I think it's too late already because I'm in eighth grade, so I've been like this for 8 years now," he replies.


"So you think, as an old man, you just can't learn new tricks," Dr. Phil jokes, as the audience laughs. "It's never too late."


To Joyce, Dr. Phil says, "Tell me what your son's really like."


"He's funny. He's loving," answers Joyce. "He's got a lot of leadership qualities."


"What do you think will eventually happen if you continue to do what you're doing?" Dr. Phil asks Keith.


"I'll be lonely and violent," Keith admits.

"If you could just redesign your life, if you could just write a script, what would it be like?" Dr. Phil asks Keith.


"I would hope for good friends. I'd be a police officer and settle down in a nice place and just be friendly to everyone," Keith says.


"I think what most people want more than anything in this life is to be accepted and to feel like you belong," Dr. Phil explains. "In fact, research tells us that that's everybody's number one need."


He explains that Keith doesn't have the confidence to be accepted as he is, so he has to frighten children into liking him.


Dr. Phil continues, "You just watched when Dwana was here, correct? What'd you think about that?"


"It was scary," Keith responds.


"You realize you're on the same continuum," Dr. Phil points out. "Do you want people to see you the way you saw her?"


"No," Keith says.

Dr. Phil explains to Keith that bullies can sometimes wind up in trouble with the authorities if other parents bring charges against them.


Mr. Werksman confirms this. "The same things that we sometimes think of as just typical bullying can very easily be characterized as violent, criminal offenses," he says.


"I wonder what would happen if you just decide ... I'm just going to try to be a nice guy for a while,'" Dr. Phil says.

Joyce jumps in, "He'll say, 'But I've got a reputation to uphold.'"


"Let me tell you, bullies are cowards," Dr. Phil tells Keith. "If you want a reputation, have a reputation for being a nice guy ... Will you consider it?"


When Keith nods, Dr. Phil says, "You have to know I'm going to watch you like a hawk!" 

Dr. Phil addresses Sashemia, Debra and Joyce as they sit in the audience.


"One of the things I want parents to understand fully and completely is that you can't leave this to the bureaucracy of the school sometimes," he says. You guys were in a situation where it

got caught on tape, and so you have compelling evidence and it can hopefully remove that element from the school and bring about some change and awareness."


Dr. Phil continues, "Parents, you've got to be involved ... so watch for the warning signs. Are they beginning to come up with excuses to miss school more than normal? Do they seem to really be withdrawing and not wanting to participate in things? Find out if there is an intimidation in their social world ... It's not about

pointing fingers at the school, it's about becoming part of the solution and the only way you can do that is to plug in."


Dr. Phil offers to Si'Mone, Lauren and Keith self-defense classes at Self Defense America (www.ichf.com/Sda/SDA.htm) They have privately owned schools to work with the kids on self control.