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Confronting a BullyPosted Sunday, November 16, 2008, at 1:22 AM
When I was seven years old, I found myself under the constant attack of a neighborhood bully who was two years older and twice my size. One day he pushed me too far and I punched him in the nose. Nailed him real good. My next course of action was to make a swift retreat back to my house.
Several hours later, the bully's mother showed up at our front door. My mother, who is part bobcat and doesn't take any lip from anyone, answered the door while I lingered nearby, safely out of sight. The bully's mother handed my mother a fresh apple pie, intended for me, and told my mother that anytime I felt compelled to hit her son it was just fine with her.
From that day on, I never had any trouble with the bully again.
I suspect I had gained an ounce of respect from him because I stood up to him. But it was a hollow victory because he just went on to bully others, while I went on to encounter the next bully in line.
According to the US Department of Education, 18 million kids have reported being bullied by other kids. It's estimated that 160,000 children skip school daily because of a bully. Statistically, one out of four bullies will be jailed by age thirty. Some of the lifelong consequences of having been a victim of bullying include anxiety, depression and even suicide.
Sending your children to government-controlled public schools is like sending the chickens to mingle with the chicken hawks.
Most of the teenagers who have gone on shooting sprees in their schools complained that their victims had been picking on them until they couldn't take it anymore.
Kids who join gangs, particularly in big cities, probably do so to protect themselves from the bullying of others. But joining a gang only exacerbates the problem by creating bully gangs instead of bully individuals.
Years ago, I lived near a family in Arizona with two teenage boys who vandalized property, harassed neighbors, stole things, tormented teachers and even beat up their mother once. The parents always had an excuse -- boys will be boys. It never occurred to the parents that they were the problem. They always blamed the victims for picking on their dear lads.
Human behavior is both genetic and environmental. We are born with a certain disposition and are also a product of what we learn along the way. We are products of products. Sometimes, we even become what we swore we would never be.
There's no doubt that human beings have certain traits at birth. Some babies are mellow and sweet, while others can be described as rambunctious or even devilish. These basic personalities tend to remain throughout a lifetime. Anyone who has raised a litter of puppies understands this concept. Almost invariably, the aggressive puppies remain aggressive and the meek remain meek. The same is true with human beings.
I suspect most bullies are the product of either overly-strict parenting or a total lack of parenting. In both cases, the child suffers from a lack of proper control.
With overly-strict parents, the child becomes outraged because of the injustice (psychological abuse) perpetrated against them. They strike out at others because they're helpless at home. And they strike out at others because their parents strike out at them, thereby teaching their children that in order to get your way you must overpower or inflict pain on others.
With parents who don't provide even minimal guidance, the child feels unwanted and unloved. Neglected children become heartless adults. Children who are allowed to do anything with impunity expect to do the same as adults. Spoiled children become spoiled adults. Essentially, without positive role-modeling and appropriate discipline, children are programmed to be rotten kids who later become rotten adults.
In both cases, these children are victims of their upbringing. Some are able to deal with it and overcome it, while others become victimizers, also known as bullies, and seek revenge for the cruelties that had been perpetrated on them by perpetrating cruelties on others, particularly on the innocent and defenseless.
Bullies have always been with us. Dealing with them is no simple matter. If you fight back, you're attempting to solve a wrong with a wrong and, in most cases, will only get injured. Plus, you can turn the other cheek only so many times. Running away is rarely a solution because you're only delaying the inevitable confrontation. And reporting them to higher authorities will almost always backfire. It's a no-win situation.
All bullies are cowards. They're angry at someone or something they cannot overcome so they pick on the weak and delight in upsetting others. They're getting even with the world by hurting someone who can't hurt them back.
Don't allow a bully to control your emotions. Be strong, firm and resolute. Don't lower yourself to your adversary's level. Your dignity under duress will be much more powerful than reacting to a jerk who wants you to react.
Quote for the Day -- "If you can't beat them, arrange to have them beaten." George Carlin
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Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist for The News (2001-2007) and author of four novels. He has lived in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Kansas City, Memphis and the middle of the Arizona desert. After a life of blood, sweat and tears in big cities, he has finally found peace in northern Arkansas where he grows tomatoes, watches sunsets and occasionally shares the Secrets of the Universe (and beyond) with the rest of the world.