I was in New York all day, and returned to find a plethora of excellent comments on the post, “Bully Ethics: Lessons from Casey the Punisher.” Two of the finest follow, and they go well together: Michael on the dilemma facing the bullied child, and Lianne on her family’s solution.
“Bullies only understand violence. If you are being bullied, how can you stop it?
“• Go to a teacher or the principal: If you do this, you are labelled a snitch and a tattletale. All the bullies pick on you. All the other students despise you for ‘snitching’.
“•Go to your parents: They can’t help. The principal will ignore any complaints because they haven’t been verified. The teachers are blind to bullying, they have to live with these kids too. All that will happen is that word will get back that you were ‘snitching’ and that you were a tattletale.
“•Try to reason with them: This just encourages the bully. They want you to appear weak so they appear strong. You may also try to verbally abuse them, but they will get you back when no one is looking.
“•Fight back: This is what a bully definitely does NOT want to happen. When someone is cowering and afraid, everyone just laughs at them. If the bullied kid stands up to the bully, there are two options. If the bullied kid wins, the bully looks really pathetic. If he loses, he still looks bad for beating up a weaker kid who is fighting back. The bully loses either way.
“Schools have dealt with this recently by using zero-tolerance policies to punish the bullied kids. The bully doesn’t really get punished. By escalating the level of punishment a bullied child faces when fighting back, it just makes the bullied child’s reality bleaker. How is he going to get into college with an arrest record? With a suspension? With an expulsion? The bully really doesn’t care if any of these happen to him. Bullies are generally (a) rich and can avoid any real punishment, or (b) headed for a life of crime or dead-end jobs.
“I once told a story about a dog tied to a tree. Every day after school, children would come by and throw rocks at the dog. The dog had nowhere to hide and he couldn’t reach the children because of the rope. Eventually, the dog started to chew through its rope. One day when the kids came by to throw rocks at the dog, he broke the rope and killed some of the kids. The response by the authorities and the parents were to mandate that all dogs be tied up WITH A CHAIN. That is how our country has approached bullying.”
Now, Lianne Best’s story:
“My son has always been large for his age. He has also always been quiet and passive. As such, for many years he was the focus of bullies — smaller, older kids, who looked at him and knew that they could get away with messing with him. Finally, after one such incident involving attempted strangulation on the school bus, when my older daughter intervened, my husband took my son downstairs, positioned him in front of the punching bag, and made him practice. “Hit him in the nose,” my husband said. “The nose bleeds a lot, and quickly, and that kid will never mess with you again.” “But I’ll get in trouble at school,” my son said. And my husband said, “Of course. And I’ll take you out for ice cream to celebrate.”
“Then my husband went to the school, and told the Assistant Principal exactly how we all were planning to deal with the situation. To the Assistant Principal’s everlasting credit, and thank you for a very small school system, she said, “A lot of people will be helped if your son punches that boy in the nose.” The nose-punching never happened, perhaps because word got around that it was going to happen; perhaps because my daughter threatened to beat the kid up; perhaps because my son carried himself differently, having permission and knowledge to stand up for himself. None of us has forgotten the lesson, and my son defends himself now — with words and gestures, because he knows as a big kid that he will generally be held responsible, even if the smaller child started it. I’m grateful that our bullying experience was brief and had a happy ending, and am quite pleased with Casey the Punisher. Thanks to YouTube, a lot of kids might think twice about deliberately picking on someone else.”
Great job on this topic, Michael, Lianne, eveyrbody.