Bullies have been around ever since schools were first built. This is unfortunate, but at the same time a sad fact of life. Essentially, these types of kids are terrorists whose goal is to make the lives of others miserable. The methods of torment chosen to inflict upon peers can vary. It can come in the form of verbal harassment, physical violence, or extortion. Regardless of a bully’s preferred technique, it is prudent that we as parents teach our children to stand up for themselves.
The consequences of not heeding such advice can scar a kid both physically and emotionally for the remainder of his or her life. Although it is not nearly as prevalent, there are adult bullies among us, too. Ignoring the actions of bullies and thus allowing such people to strip one of dignity will simply exacerbate the problem. In short, the bully or bullies in question will continue to do as they please and at any time the notion arises. Once such a person knows you are afraid or intimidated, he or she will become quite confident with figuratively walking all over you.
There are many theories as to why a person makes the choice to inflict misery upon others. Perhaps they themselves feel inferior and use bullying as a means to compensate for either real or imagined shortcomings. They could also be the targets of one form or another of child abuse, and vent their frustration out on others. Whatever the underlying cause may be, picking the mind of such an individual is best left to the specially-trained such as psychologists, social workers, or psychiatrists.
It must be noted that when advising parents to teach their children to stand up for themselves, this in no way suggesting that they should be encouraged to instigate a fistfight. If this were the case, then our children would be just as guilty of bullying as the original perpetrator. However, in the case of physical battery, one cannot expect their child to simply stand there and take it, either. If a bully instigates a fight, then anyone should feel justified in defending themselves in any way they can, even if the bully is twice their size.
In regard to verbal abuse, which can be especially cruel in the case of adolescents, our children should not be encouraged to hurl insults back to the bully, but rather to ask why they would say something so vicious and to point out that they know nothing about you. Such a response will likely land a punch to the nose, but the fact that the underdog at least stood up for himself gives something to the bully to think about and further lets the bully know that this person is no pushover.
And finally, in the old lunch money or food extortion trick, the person being harassed should always refuse to hand anything over. Yes, this may again result in a beating, but this would be the time to report the offender to the proper authority, such as the school principal. Punishment will be issued accordingly. In the beginning, retaliation can be expected, but eventually, repeated episodes would probably get the person expelled from school. Could you imagine how vulnerable our nation would be to the rest of the world if we simply granted terrorist groups whatever they demanded?
Our children need to be taught that at one time or another; particularly while we are still in school, we are virtually all bound to cross paths with a bully. If our desire is to hold self-esteem, dignity, and to receive respect from others, then we must make an effort to stand up for ourselves, even when the odds are stacked against us. If we continuously fail to at least make some kind of effort to defend ourselves or others dear to us, then we will indeed be regarded as weak and unassertive.
There are bumper stickers out there on cars you can see once in a while that say it all: MEAN PEOPLE SUCK. Perhaps if they are reminded of that often enough, they will one day no longer be mean. It’s a noble thought, is it not?