Bullying – The activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally. [It] is characterized by an individual behaving a certain way to gain power over another person. (15) via Wikipedia/definitions.
Echo Marie Grotz.
If you have a name like mine, then you know that I have had a very intimate relationship from day one with bullying. Not only in school, but in my life in general. As a child, prior to school, I was always told by adults that I had such a pretty name, and I was stupid enough to believe them. Then I started school and spent most of my recesses in the corner, crying because I hurt from what felt like a betrayal of my beliefs. As I got older, adults would still tell me that I had a pretty name, but I didn’t believe them anymore, thanks to bullying. I lost a lot of self-esteem which set me up for even more bullying. More years passed, and the bullying continued to grow more petty. My family was too poor, my clothes were cheap, my hair was to thin & flat, I had acne, my teeth were crooked, I wore braces, I wore a bra earlier than others, I had hips too early, I started my period too early, my nose was crooked, blah, blah, blah.
Finally, graduation put an end to all of the snarky little comments I had been hearing most of my life. Or so I thought. No longer did adults tell me how pretty my name was. Now the adults were the same age as me and still teasing me about it. Not only that, but people 5 or more years older than me teased me about my name. No matter where I moved to, or what job I had, teens and adults of all ages bullied me about my name. Even in the military, on my very first day, my drill sergeants bullied me over my name. It didn’t help that the 5th letter in the military phonetic alphabet is the same as my name. Many a time I thought about suicide. Many a time I thought about running away and disappearing into the wilderness, living away from “civilization”.
But you know what, I chose to stand my ground and make people accept that my name, family, etc. were facts of my life that I could not change or control. I let them know in no uncertain terms that all of their petty B.S. would no longer hurt my feelings just because they didn’t like something about me. I learned that by trying to change something about myself that others’ didn’t like just made things worse. For example, from 7th grade up to the beginning of my senior year in high school, I went by my middle name and my stepfather’s last name. Do you think that changed anything? No. It just made things worse. Even the teachers and other faculty made unsolicited comments, sometimes causing the bullies to expand their taunts as though they had permission via example.
I sit here, now in my 40’s, and watch as more and more kids, teens and college students, all across the world, either commit suicide or become local domestic terrorists because someone or a group of peers teased them or bullied them and I wonder what is happening in our society. Is this some kind of societal implosion? Or, is it just the result of multiple factors showing that humans in general are not ready for the type of society that we have been trying to build over all of these years.
Here is how I see things.
1. There are just too damned many humans on the face of the world.
Now, having said that, I do not believe in killing a bunch of us off or implementing excessive birth control laws that only allow a small number of children to be born per couple. I do think that the day of overly large families is no longer necessary, and there should be some kind of common sense about how many children a couple should bring into this overcrowded world. And, I don’t think that religion has anything to do with it. Depending on what your religion is, your “maker” gave you the intelligence to know when too much is just too much. Be fruitful and multiply was ok thousands of years ago, but having more than 3 or 4 children is just flat out asinine in this day and age.
2. Lack of resources, jobs, & “adventure” for those already born.
Basically, this means that my 1st point has reduced the amount of food, housing, land, etc. available for each person. It has also reduced the amount of work available due to a reduction of funds available for education & training programs. As for the “adventure”, what I am talking about is the lack of an outlet for those of us that don’t want to or aren’t able to follow “normal” societal mores. These are the people who left the tribes and traveled hundreds and thousands of miles to set up their own societies. They are the people who enjoyed being the “1st” to set foot in a new place. They are the oddballs that usually are the ones that suffered from being bullied back in their old society. Humans are now spread out all across the globe. The few places that aren’t full of people can be seen and studied by modern technology. There are no more “new” places to see, unless you have mondo amounts of money and can fund undersea research or go into space. Not your typical option to the average person.
3. There are too many laws & restrictions on self-expression.
- “That dress is too short.”
- “Your pants hang too far down your butt.”
- “Don’t dye your hair such weird colors.”
- “Tattoos are for criminals.”
- “You’re not old enough for facial hair.”
- “Piercings are dangerous.”
- “Too much black clothing/makeup is a sign of depression (rebellion, devil worship, anarchy, etc.)”
- “Don’t show so much cleavage.”
- “Don’t wear too much make up.”
I am sure that there are many more where these came from, but you get my drift. These statements are made by parents, teachers, religious leaders, peers, fashion gurus and even governmental officials. All they are is another attempt at forcing people to conform to their idea of how we should live our lives. Which leads to our future generations learning that to be “different” is wrong. I personally feel that this is actually the foundation of bullying.
4. There are too many laws & restriction on behavior.
I don’t mean that we should let every jerk out there with a gun or knife go around killing or harming others. That is not conducive to a harmonious society. But, telling the parents of children that sometimes have difficulties sitting still in class that their child needs Ritalin, or some other mind killing or personality dulling drug, is just pure laziness. Doctors, teachers and modern parents just need to accept that children are children. None of us liked sitting still day in and day out in a dreary classroom being told what to do and how to do it for 13 years of our lives. We did not volunteer for that kind of treatment and were resentful of the loss of our childhood freedom. Think about it.
There were very few rules in your life before school. You were either with mom, dad or the babysitter each day and could go outside and play (in the summer) or run around the house (in winter), got to go for a ride when they did errands, went visiting family and friends on occasion, could change your mind about what you wanted to do and actually go do something else right then & there. All of that changed when you started school.
Granted, there are a lot of children that are capable of reigning in their impulses, mostly because they were trained at an early age the difference between yes/no and right/wrong. From what I am seeing nowadays, being able to train your under 6-year-old is no longer permitted, which is causing a lot of the behavioral problems right from the get go. (Discipline vs. Punishment Blog to come later.) Having a teacher that spends most of the time telling a few children to stop, pay attention, etc., takes away time from the other children. This can lead to more resentment and the belief that they can treat those particular children the same as the teacher. This also goes for families with multiple children and how the parents treat each child on an individual and group basis.
Other behaviors that we have a tendency to restrict are such things as the type of books our kids read, what kind of music they should listen to, what religion they should follow, what politics they should be into, what sports they play, what subjects they should study and above all else, how they fit in at school.
Being shy or quiet in group situations is not what I would consider abnormal behavior. What is abnormal is the treatment that kids like this get from those around them. Either they are completely ignored (peers and faculty) and made to feel that they are not wanted or they are told to suck it up and join the activities (parents, peers & faculty). It is not acceptable that some just want to observe those around them. As adults, we call this people watching and think that it is just fine. In teens and children we call it aberrant behavior. It is also not acceptable that these are most likely the kids that have been teased and embarrassed too much already and don’t feel welcome in group situations. Without some severe intervention on both sides of this equation, these children will have very difficult lives ahead of them. Still, very few will end up on a tower somewhere with a hunting rifle or will walk into a building full of people with a machine gun or bomb.
So (parents, teachers and so-called experts) get over it already. Learn what the child is like, accept them for who they are and let them live their lives with minimum harping.
The above 4 points that I have made are mostly about what I feel are some of the causes of bullying. The next group of points are what I feel might help to remedy bullying already in progress.
1. Accept that bullying happens. This does not make it right. I do NOT advocate it. I just accept that some people are bullies and some are victims of bullying. Once we accept that it happens, and that our precious baby is a bully or victim, then we can begin to do something about it.
2. Grow a thick skin – metaphorically. Everyone is different. Everyone has things about themselves that they cannot change. Everyone is unique and needs to learn to accept that uniqueness for what it is. We need to accept the differences that we see in others. We also need to accept that it is ok for others to look, smell, sound, walk and think differently than we do. Most likely, the human race would die out if we were all the same out of sheer boredom and stagnation. No one would have traveled farther from the tribe than it took to get food. No one would have explored new territories. No one would have learned how to treat injuries or illnesses. No one would have done anything different from the previous generations.
3. As scary as it is when you are the victim, stand up for yourself. Make a scene. Let everyone know that you are being harassed. Talk loudly about how sad it is that the only attention the person bullying you can get is fear. Fear does not equate respect. The bully needs to learn this. They should also learn that fear pushed too far can get them killed, along with those around them.
4. When you see bullying in progress, grow a spine and stand up with the victim. If everyone in the area did this, then it wouldn’t just be you as a focus for the anger that prevention would cause in a bully. It would also let the bully know that their behavior is considered wrong by their peer group. We have all seen how peer pressure can lead to someone becoming a bully, usually against their better judgment, but very few kids and teens realize that peer pressure can make a bully change their own behavior. If you show that you don’t accept their behavior when they bully someone, but that you do accept their behavior when they are nice, the bully has a tendency to realize what will get him/her the real attention they were wanting. Sadly, this doesn’t always work due to other factors that may be involved.
5. Stop trying to make multitudes of NEW laws to stop bullying. As with our gun laws, we have enough as it is. We just need to start enforcing them. We also need to increase the discipline end of our laws. As with the previous point, peer pressure and embarrassment works if done promptly, without malice and without leniency. Too many of our bullies grow up to be criminals that don’t worry about our justice system because they already know that it doesn’t work. Use such things as: so many swats on the butt in public, unpleasant public chores like cleaning up the sides of the roads, scrubbing dirty garbage dumpsters, shoveling snow, mowing public lawns, etc. on a long-term basis that takes up all of their spare time (but leaves them time for their schoolwork), wearing specific clothes marked appropriately during their entire term of discipline, have their crime and form of discipline announced on the radio, in the newspaper, posted in the school public areas, posted in public areas in town, posted on the internet and on television. No more of this crap that minors should be kept anonymous when they screw up. Since they are old enough to know right from wrong when they started school at the age of 5 or 6, then they are old enough to know better as they get older. Actions beget consequences. It is best to learn this at the earliest age possible.
6. In the event of Cyber Bullying, have the authorities begin a reverse campaign about the bully’s activities on the internet and send it out to everyone that joined in. This is not necessarily a case of 2 wrongs making a right, but more along the lines of turning the tables. Let them know that the authorities know who they are. Advise them that doing this on the internet does not allow them to hide who they are. It is actually just the opposite. It makes it easier to document who they are, what they said and when they said it. It also does not make it ok just because it is not face to face.
7. Don’t ignore a child that is claiming they were bullied or teased. Even worse, don’t mouth platitudes that do nothing but make the victim feel as though they are a weakling or incapable of determining their own feelings. The worst thing ever said to me when I complained about being teased about my name was “You think you have it bad, you should have put up with what I went through when I was growing up.” All this did was make me feel that I was whining over nothing and that my problems weren’t worthy of complaint. Even if you had a hard life prior to the child’s situation, keep in mind that everyone is different and react differently to each situation. What might not be a big thing to you could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back to them. Platitudes also have a tendency to show a form of hypocrisy that can cause the victim to lose their trust in the person or group they confided in. Investigate every incident brought to your attention. Determine who the bully is, who else knew about it (peers, friends, teachers, faculty, neighbors, siblings and others in the town), and what the parents of the victim & bully know about the situation. Make this information public along with the announcement of crime and discipline, and make those people work alongside the bully, as well. By forcing those around the bully to share in his/her embarrassment, you are telling them that allowing it to happen is not acceptable. In cases where parents truly did not have a clue (because they worked too many hours, the child behaved differently at home, or those in the know failed to bring it to their attention) of what was going on, the knowledge that this behavior was publicized should be discipline enough. Those parents that knew about or suspected, and chose to turn a blind eye to, their child’s behavior should also have to share in the child’s discipline.
8. EDUCATE children & adults about what bullying is, how it causes problems in both short-term & long-term scenarios, how it affects not just the victim but also the bully and those in the community that they live in. Educate early and often. Show them that hurting someone else’s feelings are just as bad as hurting them physically. Teach the adults that bullying can be a sign of an abusive personality that can escalate as the bully gets older. Teach everyone in the community what the signs of a bully and a victim are. There are very distinct differences between a bully and just an alpha personality. The bully usually isn’t very good at leadership qualities, being in charge of their group only because they refuse to allow anyone else to think for themselves, they tend to demand what they want instead of asking for it, they are bossy at home, pushy in public places and can get aggressive when driving. They also have a tendency to lose their cool if they are denied anything that they deem should be theirs. Victims lose interest in going to public places such as school, work, the store, the park or local hangouts. They have a tendency to retreat from everyone around them in such a manner that it is noticeably different from those who are just shy. They no longer enjoy talking about their day or what their weekend plans may be. They tend to get upset easily when asked to do something that is mildly unpleasant, such as taking out the garbage or doing the dishes, especially if you have to tell them multiple times and get frustrated with their lack of response and enthusiasm. They are very sensitive to changes in tone of voice. Even when it is only a perceived change.
Some of the above possibilities have a very good chance of being implemented. But I don’t think that they will be enforced in such a way as to actually do anything about bullying except to salve the minds of those in charge. They will do just enough to let them feel that they are actually making a difference even though nothing ever truly gets done. It will also let them justify to their constituents “that they are on the job and took a stand”. Whoopty doo da day! Goody for them.
In the meantime, please keep in mind that bullying happens every day. It is not just a school problem. It can happen in neighborhoods, at the store, on the roadways, at daycare centers, in the military, on the job and sadly enough in the local church. Yes, even religious persons can descend into bullying those around them. Taken far enough, bullying can become classified as extremist or even terrorist behavior.
Thank you for allowing me to rant. I will step down off my soapbox now. Until the next time…heehee.