Bully

Growing up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Toronto does something to a kid. It made me never give up on my dreams, and it dared me to go beyond what I believed I could do. For Freedom Friday let me tell you about my experience with an epidemic plaguing the schools in today’s enlightened age.

Bullying in our schools.

Bullying in our schools.

If you learn anything from this post, learn one thing—kids don’t change. As we grow older, we think kids are getting worse when in fact we’re the ones noticing their behavior. Once we have kids of our own, our awareness of the evil surrounding us multiplies astronomically.

Kids don’t change. We change.

Someone may ask, why the surge of bullying in the schools? Bullying has existed long before you and I were born. Anyone remember Nazi Germany? But we hear more of it. Well, there are more people on this planet. Also, the internet makes bullying an instant news item with kids recording this stuff on their cell phones and posting it on YouTube.

It’s not the kids.

Bullying in the schoolyard.

Bullying in the schoolyard.

When I went to school in the 1970s, I had my own dilemma of sorts. At eight years old, a group of kids had determined in their little minds that I would suffice as their daily punching bag. Every afternoon I’d attempt to avoid the pack, escaping school by the side exit or waiting until everyone was gone so I could run home. Sometimes I’d make it. But sometimes, I’d get home covered in bruises.

I was afraid to tell my parents because I didn’t want to get in trouble. Most of the times I’d cover my injuries with long sleeves or pants. Once in a while I’d get home and my mother would notice. I’d lie and tell her I fell or something ridiculous like I ran into a baseball during gym class.

They were none the wiser for a long time.

That is, until I came home one day with the biggest shiner this side of the school district. Boy, oh boy, was my dad ever upset. He wanted to know the names of the culprits. He wanted to go down there and beat the crap out of them himself. My mom was calling the school to set up a meeting with the principal. In the meantime, all I wanted was for the whole thing to go away. I’m telling you, folks, my parents were proactive people.

Bullying on the playground.

Bullying on the playground.

I begged them not to get involved. I promised I’d handle it on my own. Well, my dad, being the practical man he was, gave me a piece of advice I’ve remembered to this day.

He said, “Hit back.”

I said, “I can’t.”

“They won’t expect it. If you don’t, they’ll keep hounding you.”

“I can’t.”

“Hit back and they’ll leave you alone. I promise.”

Somehow, those words, “I promise” made all the difference.

The next day after school, they came for me. I ran and they caught me on the sidewalk, surrounding me like the little zombies they were. Pushing and shoving. All I remember is decking the biggest guy square on the jaw. I don’t think I drew blood, but like my dad said, they left me, never to bother me again.

Would I recommend the same solution for today’s bullied? No, I’d recommend for those bullied to go to their parents. If not the parents, the guardians. Should that prove to be difficult, the school guidance counselor or principal. Failing that, the police. Whoever it is, they have to reach out to someone to get help. This is not a struggle for kids to go through alone.

There is no room for bullies in the schools or anywhere else.

Below is a list of helplines for your region:

USA: StopBullying.gov
Canada: Stop a Bully
UK: National Bullying Helpline

Have you had to deal with bullying? What would be your solution in today’s world?

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17 Comments

  1. Amazing post you have written. The comments are very insightful. I guess there has been bullying going on since the dawn of time….only difference is there is instant access to videos or postings of bullying now on the internet and television. You have provided a platform for others by writing this and I thank you for that.
    Leslie

    Reply
  2. that’s a sad story about your own experience Jack but it certainly didn’t seem to diminish your drive or spirit. I’m glad. So many kids who are bullied never really get past it.

    I was not bullied as a child, I had a lot of friends throughout school, but actually as an adult, if it’s still called that later on.

    at one place I worked I was “it”… the person that was ganged up on and ridiculed. it went on for a long time and almost did me in, mentally and emotionally. fortunately, I fell in love during this time (deeply) and with someone who wanted to slay my “dragons” and put it all into perspective for me. I needed to see these people for the low life, ignorant creeps that they were, not to be consumed by their ugliness towards me. it helped so much. but the experience still left scars and for a long time.

    good post and a topic that people need to be aware of, how wide spread it really is.

    Reply
  3. Absolutely! Thank you for doing this post. I was just talking to my 7 & 8 year old about bullies this morning.

    Reply
  4. Catherine Johnson

     /  September 27, 2013

    It’s just awful. I wonder about my oldest he’s so soft and has redish hair. Only this morning I heard of yet another bullying suicide. Something needs to shame these kids especially on Facebook.

    Reply
  5. I don´t think bullying has gotten worst, I think that now that we have cable t.v with 24 hrs. news cycles people are more aware, or maybe we are getting more sensitive.
    I too got bullied, and punched the hell out of the `jock´, I went nuts, couldn´t take it anymore. I got kicked out of the baseball team, but I embarrassed the guy in front of his cool friends and never had a physical problem with them. I actually gained the respect and started talking with some of his group, having a cigarette here and there in between classes.(Not endorsing tabacco). I don´t think hitting the other guy is always the right answer, I guess for each one is different. It did feel good to punch his nose in though. A physical scar will heal, but the mental scar will hunt you for quite some time.

    Reply
  6. Thank you for sharing this, Jack.
    My son went through a phase last year where he was bullied. He’s one of the tallest kids in the class too, but he’s not overly athletic, besides running, and he’s really smart, so I guess that meant he was fair game. He did stand up for himself and was slapped down, not only by the kids, but the teachers and the school administrators – all in an effort to help him deal with his ‘anger management issues.’ It went back and forth for nearly three months until the school overreacted and brought the County into it – to deal with my son. After a short interview, the county promptly told the school to shut up and sit down – my son was not the problem but their handling of the situation was. Now T belts it out with the choir, rocks out on drums in band, wows the school with Shakespeare soliloquies, and is generally happy. A punching bag in the basement also helped! 🙂

    Reply
  7. I think there is a power in standing up for oneself, but I, like many of those leaving comments, don’t know how I would advise others in this situation. I dealt with being bullied–verbally–because of what I looked like and wore, but I still fight with feelings of insecurity and other issues because of it. I’m grateful that your bullying stopped, and I appreciate the list of resources on your blog, along with your perspective. The world certainly looks different through the eyes of parenthood. Thanks for your honesty.

    Reply
  8. Serenity

     /  September 27, 2013

    I was very tall and had an athletic physique all the way through school so I was bullied about that emotionally and psychologically. I really didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t have any friends. Maybe one or two. I don’t know what is worse, physically getting bullied or emotionally/psychologically. Sometimes I think I would have liked to get physically bullied. But either is not desirable anyway you look at it and not right. Both leave scars both physically and psychologically.

    Reply
  9. This post was very interesting, and the comments are just as interesting. Kids can be awful. This hitting back idea to end things so quickly is a new notion for me. I an going to think about this!

    Elephant

    Reply
  10. Actually, depending on the age, I think that hitting back is the most immediate solution … combined with the others already mentioned.

    Hitting back gives the victim some control and sends a signal to the bully to go pick on someone else.

    Never discount the power of a feedback loop.

    Reply
  11. I was bullied psychologically and emotionally throughout grade school until magically it stopped my senior year. It was as if a light bulb came on and someone realized it was a waste of time. I was harassed about my weight, my clothing, my interests…whatever they could dig their claws into. Thankfully, I also had very proactive parents but it doesn’t always help. Thanks for your post, I really connected with it! Bullying is an epidemic.

    Reply
  12. Although not really a victim of bullying myself, apart from the occasional instance of being the only person in close proximity to an older kid at school and thus getting targeted, I would say it is a tough one to advise on. The only time a kid tried to start bullying me I pinned him against a wall and that was that. I made a judgement call though, as I knew there wasn’t much too him. If he had been tougher then I probably wouldn’t have because I know I would have got my ass kicked.

    I remember a kid who got bullied at school, his mums friend (impartial and unidentifiable) didn’t go to the head teacher, or the other parent but directly up to the bully in question and told him in no uncertain terms that if she ever heard of him bullying again she would be after him. It never happened again as she cut it off at the source by giving the kid a scare. I’m not sure if this is morally correct or not, but if it was my son, I would probably do it.

    Reply
  13. I was a victim of bullying. All my childhood was saturated in fear. My dad was one of the culprits. I was the child of two teenagers. My Mom was 17 and my Dad was 19. It was rough, Thanks for posting this. Now I am a 6’6 and weight 250 lbs. People look at me and can’t believe I was a victim of bullying. I wasn’t always this big and that frightened little boy still lives, in that not so distant, parts of my mind. Those experiences never leave you.

    Reply
  14. Ah…yikes, yeah. I was bullied, too, though not physically. Socially. It was a verbal and written harassment that lasted for quite some time. My mom tried to get a school-response, but since no one ever “hit” me, they couldn’t do anything.

    So, like, you, I fought back. I won. With my fists. With an audience. And then, they left me alone.

    Today? My son was bullied at his school. He ignored it. It kept happening. One day, he struck back and the bullying stopped.

    So even though it might be BEST if reporting and talking and all that would help, sometimes, the only way to stay safe is to know how to defend yourself. Bullies prey upon the weak, not those who strike back. In an ideal world, this would never happen, but we live in a messed up world and it does. Every day.

    As you say, kids don’t change. The environment changes, but people are people in all their best and worst aspects.

    Reply
  15. I was the small, scrawny kid of the class, so I was a big target until high school. At one point I got fed up and fought back. Mostly, I mouthed off and found I was better at insults than the bullies. A few physical fights happened before they left me alone due to me being ‘too crazy to mess with’. I wouldn’t try that today. For some reason, it seems kids are more high-strung and easily snap today. I’d tell my son to talk to somebody about it, but fighting back strikes me as dangerous. Maybe I’m paying too much attention to school shootings because that’s where my mind goes.

    Reply

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