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Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I think it's admirable that we are making attempts at curtailing bullying and moving towards a zero tolerance policy in our schools.  Unfortunately in looking at much of the literature the concept is written by adults trying to reach kids but thinking like adults.  It goes like this:

1. If you get bullied, go and find an adult and tell them.
2. If that adult doesn't respond, find another adult.
3. If you see another kid getting bullied see items 1 and 2.

In the utopian world of the feel good this would work like a charm.   The bully, once confronted by an adult would have an epiphany and change his bullying ways.  Opting to sit in the gang's clubhouse and read Spider-Man comic books rather than torment the littler weaker kids.

The reality is after Item #1 you are now considered a squealer by said bully, who either delivers the threatened beating or increases the threat.  Telling you that if you tell again you will certainly suffer an even worse fate.

Kudos to the kid that follows the instructions and gets results.  From my own personal experience in the 4th grade I fall into the 'reality' group where I tried to tell someone but ended up making my own situation worse and causing an increase in the bullying group.

Yes I said 'bullying group' because in the sometimes dark world of kid-dom bullies seldom act alone.  I'm not just talking their little toadies who cling to them like the little fish next to a great white shark, but many of the other kids who are often afraid that if they don't laugh along they will be the subject of the bully's attention.

The only way for the feel good process to work is if you get those other kids educated into the idea that they should protect the weaker kid.  They should not tolerate bullies and they should do the right thing and report them, but again, I live in the real world.

Couple this with the world of Facebook (I don't participate) where you no longer have relief from bullying because when you get home it can continue in a virtual environment of seemingly endless torment.

Remember in the world of the kid things can sometimes seem bigger than they are.  And being bullied plays into this.  A kid bullied believes he's the first kid that this has ever happened to.  He or she believes this is a unique situation.  They don't understand what they did to get bullied and will even go to great lengths to try and placate the bully in the hopes that they will stop.

So how do you defeat a bully?

Follow Ralphie's example in A CHRISTMAS STORY.

Tormented daily, he and his friends put up with the bullying Todd Fargus with his yellow eyes and green teeth.  They take turns getting beatings and arm twistings and giving up their lunch money in the endless cycle of trying to just get by.

It's not until Ralphie has had enough one day, and he delivers a pretty sound trouncing to Fargus that the bullying stops.  And it's interesting to note that Fargus' little Toadie buddy shows his true colors when the fight starts and runs off crying for his dad.

In the fall of the 5th grade I had enough of my particular bully.  Instead of our normal routine of being pushed around at recess or giving him a quarter from our lunch money I said no.

I was scared out of my wits, but I said no.

He was shocked and intensified the threats.  Got into my face tight and really turned it up.  But this time, instead of getting scared and giving in, I thought about how much misery he had brought into my life over the course of a school year.  I thought about why he chose me (I was the smallest in my class, the youngest too, didn't hit a growth spurt until the 7th grade), thought about the fear I felt walking home, walking to school or at recess and I got mad.

I got REALLY mad.

By the time the math teacher pulled me off the bully's bloodied face and dragged me to the principal's office I realized that my own cheek was swelling up and my shirt was torn.  I had taken that threatened beating but more than gave it back to him.

The Principal was shocked.  I was a kid who never got in trouble, perfect in my classroom behavior, NEVER, as he reminded me, the kind of student he'd ever imagine getting into a fight.

The problem was this was pre-Christmas Story.  Pre anti-bullying legislation and I had never reported the bully.  So to the school administration it looked like I had just had a fight.  They threatened to call my Mom-- and asked me how I thought she would react and basically tried to scare me straight.

But I knew I had done the right thing.  And if I had any doubt that all changed when I saw the bully the next day.  He was like the Bumble from Rudolph with all his pointy teeth pulled out-- and I was Yukon Cornelius.

No more bullying from him at all.   I had made him see the light.
Do I advocate fighting?  Yes I do.

Sometimes you have to fight.  Sometimes you have to.
I realize that there is a whole percentage of the population that will be alarmed and outraged by that sentence.  To them there is NEVER a time to fight.  Fighting is something immoral and we should just simply turn the other cheek.

You need to stand up for yourself, that's first and foremost.  Then you should stand up for your family and your friends.

It's the ONLY way to beat a bully.