I apologise for the length of this post in advance. But it is a subject that riles me so much that I find it difficult to be too precise.
I cannot agree that there is an instinctive sadistic urge in us all.
I do agree that there are many people who have a distorted perception of the world. Their inability to empathise or, at the very least, sympathise with differing human conditions still manages to shock me to the core.
I see bullying in my workplace. Children on children, adults on adults, adults on children.
Thankfully, among the adults it is more rare. You expect ‘grown-ups’ to know better. Although that is not always the case.
I always, without exception, act on bullying that I am made aware of. And try to put preventative measures in place even where no bullying,apparently,exists.
Teaching young people to ‘walk in another’s shoes’ is one of the most valuable lessons I can give the children in my care.
I have questioned the need that some people seem to have for bullying another and, over the years, I have come to one or two conclusions.
Firstly, let me say, it is never acceptable. Never.
However, understanding motives behind actions does help to go some way in being able to effectively redress those actions.
In many cases, those bullied have been victims themselves, not necessarily in the same environment in which they perpetrate their crime.
Disclosure of facts by children and other bodies leads me to believe that many children are bullied at home. Sometimes by other siblings, sometimes by parents. Strict authoritarian rule, without the ability to negotiate anything and absolute adherence to the rules regardless of how ill-conceived they may be, can lead to rebellion. If unable to express it at home, it can become manifest in other areas of life.
The desire to exert control or power over someone else, when you have none yourself, is strong.
Seeing one parent bullying another is also too often the scenario children bear witness to on a day to day basis.
I have first-hand dealings with children whose inability to control temper is beyond description here. In most cases, it has eventually been revealed that their own home life experiences are a replica. They know no better example.
There are then children who ‘rule the roost’ at home. In these cases it is too little parental authority that is the root of the problem. They are given license to be as obnoxious as they wish. It is not what they need. It is not even what they want. They need boundaries. These children want boundaries to show that someone cares enough to exert them. There is, sometimes, on the part of a parent, the desire to instil so much confidence in their children, that they forget a couple of other life lessons. Like how to treat other people.
It’s a tough job but parents have got to do it.
I have heard, more times than I care to think about, vitriolic comments that do not come from the school environment. These children are being taught, systematically or accidentally, to hate and ridicule in the same ignorant fashion as their parents. Football teams, religion and colour are usually high on the agenda.
Yes, and maybe- just maybe- there are some who are plain bad. I, personally, do not accept this as a generality. Dig deep enough and you will find the reasons.
Unfortunately, this all seems like little help to anyone being bullied. What does understanding motive have to do with dealing with the problem? How can knowing the possible or probable whys help with the very pressing hows? How to stop it? How to prevent it?
I am no expert on this subject. And there are behavioural psychologists out there who will have better advice to give on the subject of the whys and the hows.
I deal with children every day. I have taught for over thirty years. I have seven children of my own. One or two of them have been bullied at some point. I have been bullied in my life.
My advice to stop someone bullying you?
First, accept that this is not your fault. That’s right.
You do not deserve this.
You have not done anything to warrant being bullied.
Not your ears, not your eyes, not your nose, not your glasses, not your skin colour, not your religion, not your sexuality, not your geekiness, not your introversion, not your weight, not your intelligence, not your clothes, not because you play chess.
You do not deserve to be bullied.
So get that in your head, first of all. Bullying is not on.
Secondly, recognise, and I mean really recognise, that the bully is the one with the true problem here. True, as in psychologically disturbed.
Perceiving the world as they do is not considered normal by many, many people.
Now, how do you get them to stop?
Well, once you’ve acknowledged the first two and accepted them as fact, do this.
Lift your head up. Square your shoulders. Look straight ahead. Practise this first in front of a mirror, by all means. Now say,
‘I am God’s creation. Creation is beautiful. God does not make rubbish. I am His beautiful creation.’
And do you know what? You are. Whether you believe this or not. You absolutely are. Say it enough times. And stop criticising your own nose/spots/glasses/hair/weight/height/colour/whatever.
I really mean that. Stop it! And stop it now.
Walking about dejectedly, feeling ugly, not loving yourself can make you a target. You’re vulnerable.
What do bullies do? They pick on the most vulnerable. Or, at least, who they perceive to be vulnerable. Don’t make yourself a bullseye.
Now this is not a criticism of people who are bullied. It is merely an acknowledgement that those most likely to be bullied are those who appear to be the most vulnerable. Easy pickings, they think. A lot of bullies are cowards. They don’t want the challenge.
Paedophiles, questioned on how they picked their victims, responded that they could spot a target in a crowded room. Body language speaks volumes.
Get your head back up. You are not that person.
You are God’s beautiful creation. What are you?
‘I am God’s beautiful creation.’
Now shout it out loudly, somewhere, anywhere.
‘I AM GOD’S BEAUTIFUL CREATION!’
Belt it out!
Now some practical tips.
If someone says something to you, turn it back on them as a question.
It doesn’t have to be smart or witty or even sensible. It helps. But it doesn’t have to be.
Bully: Does your mother let you walk about looking like that?
You: Do you want to ask her yourself?
Bully: Are you trying to be funny?
You: Is it working?
Bully: I’ll waste you.
You: Would you like me to give you something else to waste?
Now, as I said, it doesn’t have to be smart or witty or even sensible. Just answer back with a question.
A question turns the tables and often leaves the bully too perturbed to know what exactly to do next.
And sometimes, the bully may come at you, fists flying.
My advice? Go mental back at them. You might not win this time but they will think again before tackling you if you have given as good as you got.
As a rule, I do not, absolutely do not, advocate violence. But. And, it’s a big but, sometimes it is your only tool.
All of the above can work for adults as well as for children.
Think about it.
You are in your workplace and someone – boss/colleague/bully is about to give you a hard time. Ask a question.
Boss: Have you finished that report yet?
You: Was it urgent?
Boss: Duhh, I needed it yesterday.
You: Would you like me to get on to it straight away or stay at this meeting?
Boss: Well, I need you here. So it will have to wait.
You: So, it’s not that urgent?
Have a retort ready. Anything.
When one of my children was being bullied I did not know. After I found out, I was devastated to think I had so badly misjudged his poor behaviour at home. I accused him of having no patience/control of his temper/consideration for others.
When I found out, through my daughter, that he was being bullied, my reaction was typical of most mothers.
I wanted to go up to that school and rip the neck off of the child/ren that was the source of my son’s unhappiness.
How dare they? How absolutely-fucking-dare they?
I’ll eat them alive.
You know? A measured approach.
I would have lost my job/been arrested/restrained in a white jacket.
After all, I was the adult.
So, what did I do?
I asked questions.
I got the whole story.
I read up on bullying.
I studied it.
Obviously, this is the responsible human equivalent of ripping someone’s neck out.
I put my son through a course on bullying.
We practised retorts and comebacks.
Sometimes, I was the bully and he had to give the retorts. Sometimes, he was the bully and I got to think up all the fabulous things I would say.
My daughter joined in.
She said she actually like when people came onto her because she never knew what she was going to say until she opened her mouth and was invariably delighted at her sarcastic wit. (She always has had a smart mouth on her.)
I am not trying to be flippant on a subject that is capable of making me imagine violence.
I have read posts on this site, too many posts, where young adults and older adults alike, suffer at the hands of people who amuse themselves with exerting power over others.
This subject gets to me in a way that a few others do. I imagine violence. Then I try to think smart.
Bullying is never, ever, ever acceptable.
Bullying is a way some people try to control their environment or people within it.
It affects children and adults.
We can choose how we react to their behaviour.
I choose never to accept it. I choose to always fight it with whatever means are at my disposal. I choose to bleed sometimes. I choose not to be a victim.
What do you choose?
And what are you going to do about it?