Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bullies, Meanies and Natural Consequences

Did you ever have a bully in your life that made you miserable? I know I did--I had several. First, there was Will Garland, a twelve-year-old boy who pelted me with rocks every time I tried to leave my house and walk up the street when I was nine. Then there was David Mosier, the terror that lived at the top of the hill, who hurled insults as well as threw rocks. Then there was the worst bully of them all--David Cruz who tortured me with insults about my family at school and hit all the kids in the head during dodgeball on purpose.

Natural consequences saved me from the meanness of each of these kids at some point. Will Garland eventually was beaten up by another boy for throwing rocks and left my end of the neighborhood in shame. David Mosier once tried to attack my sister physically and my dog, Lad, a beautiful protective collie, bit him. And finally, David Cruz was done in by Mrs. Lightner, my fifth grade teacher. In what today would have gotten the teacher fired, if not arrested, Ms. Lightner picked up a long ruler and hit David Cruz on the back.

David had been acting up in class yet again and had been driving the class crazy all year--he was mentally and physically abusive to us. He finally mouthed off to Ms. Lightner and she picked up the ruler and hit him--so hard that the ruler broke in two. She was shocked and so was David--tears fell from his eyes and Ms. Lightner even apologized. So, perhaps she should not have let anger get the better of her, but I and the entire class were grateful. I don't remember one more insult or knock in the head with a dodgeball from him after that.

Fast forward to today. Almost none of these natural consequences would ever happen in today's climate. No one is allowed to fight so Will Garland would most likely have gone on torturing kids with his rock throwing. Some parents would probably tell us we were squelching his self-esteem if he was ostracized from the neighborhood. When my family dog bit David Mosier, even his parents forgave us when they heard that David tried to attack my sister. Nowadays, no one would have been that reasonable. We would probably have been sued and lost--showing meanie David Mosier that it was okay to attack other kids. And as far as David Cruz--I can not even imagine the uproar that a teacher hitting a student would cause.

Today, there are fake consequences for acts of meanness and violence. These boys might be sent to therapy or maybe even medicated if their behavior was bothering the school. If they just bothered other kids, no one would notice and the normal kids are no longer allowed to defend themselves in the school setting. My 15-year-old nephew recently told me that he did not dare do anything to a kid at school who was threatening him as they would both be expelled. There are "bullying programs" that teach kids how to walk away from these bullies but one wonders how well that works. And finally, there is no discipline allowed other than time out and suspension--none of which are natural consequences to bullying.

If all of these methods really work, why do so many more kids now say they are being bullied or victimized at school? Normal well-adjusted kids may just ignore the bullying or find another way to cope but as a psychologist, I worry about those kids who have mental problems, poor coping skills and a low tolerance for being abused. They turn to overreacting to the bullying because so many of the adults in their milieu have been underreacting for years or overreacting with a fake method of consequence--like zero tolerance. Shouldn't we try for some moderation?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was bullied (two decades ago) endlessly. The bullying stopped the moment I started to fight back. Slam someone's head into a locker, and suddenly nobody's interested in bullying you any more.

Bullying has nothing to do with a low self-esteem child expressing his frustration by beating up other people. It has everything to do with a poorly raised sot who thinks that it is his right to be in control over everyone in his sphere.

The only way a bully learns is if someone takes him down a notch.

8:53 AM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


Research even shows that bullies have high, not low self-esteem. I don't know why people think these kids have low self-esteem. If they did, they would feel bad about themselves and quit their crappy behavior. Glad you fixed your bullying problem.

9:03 AM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the fourth grade there was a kid in my class from a broken home who was constantly in trouble. Started bullying me over time. After he graduated to physically assaulting me, I cold-cocked him in the jaw and sent him sprawling on the floor. We both got kicked out for a couple of days (this was the 1970s). While we were waiting to see the principal, he cried like a baby and begged me not to tell anybody he was crying. I agreed. I never had any more trouble from him, and in fact I earned his respect and somewhat-friendship which followed me all the way through high school. He later went on to serve a couple jail and prison sentences for things like armed robbery.

There were two other instances of bullying through the end of junior high school. Every time I fought back, I was kicked out for three days, but I never had any more trouble from those kids. My parents were always unhappy because the school officials would always say, "Fighting isn't acceptable under any circumstances!" My parents were torn between following authority and (meekly) defending their child. Even to this day I am wary of engaging my parents in any way due to their lack of backbone some 25 to 30 years ago. Back then I had absolutely no respect for the weenies running schools solely because of this issue. I was merely defending myself! I wasn't causing problems!

Today I have to be on guard because I have children in elementary school. When my kids come home and talk about the troublemakers in class it's always the child who cannot read, comes from a broken home, or who always shows up smelling like cat urine. We talk to them about the importance of defending one's self and will be enrolling them in activities like Tae-Kwon-Do soon. We won't allow our children to become victims or alienated by a system intent on mollifying the masses by accepting the bad apples.

9:15 AM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My experiences are similar. I was a victim of at least two bullies, until I learned to fight back properly.

That is to say, fight dirty when necessary, do what it takes to get these people to think twice about hurting you or others...

One bully in particular had a protective -- and older, larger -- sister in the same school elementary and jr. high school, so I never had an opportunity to fight back. If I tried, she'd hold me down while he pounded on me. A few years later I ran into him again, he was still a bully, more verbal than physical. I later caught him alone in a quiet hallway and hurt him quite badly. By then I was a straight-A's honor student with a great alibi and good friends to cover for me. He wasn't believed and transferred schools in shame.

Do I feel bad? Not in the least.

They have "bullying" programs at school, but they're not effective. In fact, you're right, the only "punishment" is to annoy the bullies with mandatory counseling services.

So what do I teach my son? Well, first, walk away if you can but know that it may continue if you do. If it's tolerable, then it may be just an annoyance. A couple of his friends have developed from former bullies that just lashed out occasionally.

If that fails and you have to fight, that you have to do it right then and right there while being terrorized. You'll have the necessary adrenaline and will to beat this other child.

And if you're going to fight the kid fight any way you want. There is no such thing as "dirty" fighting. Punch, gouge, kick, bite, scratch, anywhere at any opportunity. Don't square off, just knock him down. Go for the face. Go for any other tender places. If he's down, make sure he's not getting up again. Never let him stand up under his own power.

It's remarkably effective. It worked for me in school and I wasn't victimized much at all -- not bad for a geeky type, though I am big. It's worked for him at least once.

The only caveat to this whole this is this: if you think the kid has a weapon, all bets are off. Squeal. Squeal loud and long.

10:02 AM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger David Foster said...

School administrators are increasingly unwilling to deal effectively with malign behavior patterns such as bullying, resulting in the spread of these behaviors to the point where learning becomes virtually impossible for everybody. See my post Penny in the Fusebox on this topic.

10:19 AM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You, bullied? But then you got them all back by being the Homecoming queen, huh?

BTW, if you hit people in the head in dodgeball, you were automatically "out" in my school.

Seriously, this is one reason our kids are homeschooled. There's just too much wackiness in today's schools to put up with garbage like this.

10:32 AM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The odd thing is that growing up the bullies tend to fade out and I find myself dealing, more and more, with almost pathalogical liars.

Everyone has moments of weakness, and most people cling to a fantasy, but there are a few people with whom the more you talk with them the more you discover that they can rationalize anything. It's hard to describe it (I deleted a couple of examples) because their lies aren't even slightly convincing, yet you can't win an argument or confront them because they either play dumb or feign indignance.

Much of the problems people have with bullies apply to liars as well. You can't just ignore them because they see no shame in pestering you and they'll instantly take advantage of any new friends you might have who don't know them.

Is it really any different? A bully says might makes right, a liar figures he's right if he can bluff his way out of it.

10:33 AM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sense a trend here. I can relay a very similar story...bullied by a number of other girls in the class for most of a school year(yes, girls do bully - mostly verbal abuse but unbelievably hurtful and vile all the same) until I lost it one day and beat the crap out of one of them in the middle of the class room. Funny, not one of the teachers said a thing and there were no consequences - they just stepped in and broke up the fight.

Looking back, I think they were very much aware of what was going on but powerless to stop the verbal abuse (it was never displayed in front of them). Needless to say, the bullying stopped.

11:02 AM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Julian Morrison said...

This isn't new, I was fed the same guff two decades ago when I was a kid. I'd get impolite and/or tearful if I expressed how much I disagree with it nowadays.

Surely it should be obvious? Bullying is a "pack dominance" thing, and the absolute worst thing you can do is submit.

12:03 PM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is moral relativism. If there's no objective right and wrong, then there's nothing worth fighting to protect - if someone fights back, the bully enjoys moral equivalence with the retaliating victim.

12:15 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger DRJ said...

In my experience as a parent of boys, bullying behavior manifests as early as 2-3 years old and there is little that can be done to curb it unless the bully's parents are committed to setting appropriate limits and discipline. However, parents generally won't admit there is a problem much less take reasonable steps to deal with it, or they don't want to be bothered with the rigors of raising and disciplining a child.

In our home, the best solution was:

1. At an early age, children who played in our home or yard were told simple rules of how to act at our house (we get to make the rules at our house, and we may have different rules than the rules in other people's homes) and the consequences of not acting properly (go home). We enforced the rules at all times and they applied equally to our children as well as visitors. (Our children followed the same behavior rules so that they would learn appropriate limits and so that visiting children knew they would be treated fairly.) At least one parent was always home with and checking on the children. Most children handled these rules well, but some did not. Over time, children who did not follow our rules were not allowed to play at our home and we told their parents why - bad behavior, bad language, etc. We encouraged them to return when they could behave appropriately and, while some did, some did not.

Admittedly, doing these things wasn't easy - it got old, it was awkward to deal with other parents sometimes, and our children didn't always like us - but all I can say is that parenting isn't supposed to be easy.

2. The real benefit of the first point is that it taught our children how to handle bullies: Set reasonable rules of behavior, enforce the limits with specific consequences, and avoid people who won't comply. It still works years later.

3. We did permit our children to physically protect themselves from bullies. I strongly encourage parents to enroll their children in a martial arts program. Ours took tae kwon do. A good children's program will help a child gain appropriate confidence, body control, strength, agility, and judgment regarding when to use force and when to walk away. Bullies like to pick on the weak and afraid. A child who knows he can protect himself displays an inherent confidence that bullies avoid. (As an added benefit, it also dramatically helped our asthmatic child's symptoms.)

4. Most important, show your children you will take care of them by enrolling them in schools and extracurricular activities where bullying is dealt with in a logical way. And when an instance of bullying occurs, report it and work with the school or activity director to find fair and appropriate ways to deal with it.

12:38 PM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I ever have kids, my advice about bullying will be simple: Somebody is being physically abusive, hurt them. Somebody being verbally abusive? Hurt them with words. Get good at it. Then, when you're taken to the office, refuse to say anything until dad shows up, because dad will show the school administrators the true meaning of fury.

I dealt with too much garbage in high school and junior high to tolerate anyone getting away with that crap with any here-to-fore hypothetical child of mine.

12:44 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


Unfortunately, parents can have a hard time in these schools getting someone to listen. I treated a poor depressed girl in one high school who was being abused by a group of girls to the point where they were coming to the girl's house at night--it was scary for her and her single mom. I talked to the administrators and told them that they (or I) would need to track this girl gang down and speak with them--they dealt with the problem by transferring the depressed girl to a school for the emotionally disturbed and left the girl gang to get off scot-free.

The lesson is, schools often will not listen to parents, especially if they are angry. I have dealt with angry dads in the past whose kids are being bullied at school and they have been given the brush-off. They do often calm down once you talk with them and try to get the details but angry dads seem to set off a lot of these schools. They can get really defensive.The best way to deal with these problems is to be direct but calm.

1:25 PM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Dickensian notion of a protected time of childhood is carried a bit far. School administrators must feel like they are participating in a musical called 'How to act like Pontius Pilate without Looking Like it.'
In another example, I know many readers have strongly held opinions against the diagnosis of ADHD in which case you will be happy to know that the law that says that the public school system must provide 'an education for every child' means that if the words 'Your child might benefit from treatment for ADHD' are mentioned then the school system can be held responsible for all expenses of treatment, otherwise that legally mandated 'education' is not possible. Informed school personnel thus find such phrases not in their vocabulary.

2:07 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger DRJ said...

Regarding schools, I agree with Dr. Helen that "direct but calm" is the way to go. My experience is that this approach works best in pre-school and grade school. While I would advise any school of problems and give them a reasonable opportunity to deal with it, I would also consider moving the child to a private school if they suffered from persistent bullying that the school would not handle. I would also report physical bullying to non-school law enforcement agencies.

2:14 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger DRJ said...

Michael -

Under the ADA, it is my understanding that school systems have to provide appropriate education for disabled students but they do not have to pay for all expenses of treatment, particularly medical treatment. It sounds like you have experience (a child?) with this. I don't wish to put words in your mouth, but perhaps you intended to say that school systems avoid labels like ADHD so they don't have to provide specialized educational programs. I would certainly agree with that in some cases, although other schools actually want to label problem students with ADHD so they can require that these children be medicated before attending school. For those of us with sons, it is especially troublesome because boys are more likely to be the over-medicated victims of education bureaucrats.

2:23 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


I agree that some schools overmedicate boys so they will be calm etc. but I think the flip side of overmedication is that no discipline can be used with kids anymore so meds and food is all they have. Boys are active and should be allowed to be boys but they do need to learn when enough is enough--schools cannot teach that anymore because they have no tools to discipline. There are few commesurate consequences for their acts--time out and suspensions seem foolish in response to hurting others etc.

2:36 PM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, bullies. The worst was David W, a big not-very-bright kid. I was taking judo lessons and he showed up, mouthing off that the instructor (a little guy) couldn't touch him. One second later David was flat on his back.

It was pretty easy, actually. The instructor spit in David's eye to distract him, then swept his legs. That was the end of the bullying.

3:57 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger DRJ said...

Good point, Dr. H.

3:57 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Kathy said...

Interestingly, C. S. Lewis deals with this very subject in one of the Chronicles of Narnia, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. At a "modern" and "progressive" boarding school bullying is tolerated and bullies run wild. In several of his books, both fiction and non, Lewis talks about this problem in the "progressive" schools, so at least in Britain this has been a problem for a long time, since Lewis wrote over 40 years ago.

And yes, this is another reason we'll be homeschooling.

4:00 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Mike Rentner said...

It's important to remind people here that standing up to a bully doesn't always work. Usually it does, if the kid has a reasonable level of sociability.

But let's not forget that some kids are sick and twisted and standing up to them and hurting them only provokes extreme violence. If your kid is substantially smaller than the bully, telling him to hurt the other kid probably won't work. In high school, kids come in many, many sizes and a 6'2" 270 pound senior is not going to be intimidated by a 100 pound sophomore. The smaller kid can try all he wants, but he will not be able to hurt the other kid unless he has a weapon or gets a lucky shot from behind.

So it's not that simple to simply stand up to bullies, unless you're big enough to be one yourself.

And let's not forget that bullying doesn't go away when we become adults. Bullies learn to be brave in their bullying and become ruthless. These are the pathological ones in organized crime and gangs. In extreme examples they become tyrants. Saddam Hussein was a bully, but does anyone think that an individual standing up to him would have slowed him down in his younger days? I doubt it.

4:28 PM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Girls or women can be the worst kind of bullies - all they have to do is lie and make false claims. We can see this with older women making false abuse or rape claims. And this can get very serious when an innocent male has to face down the lynch mob liars like this can sometimes assemble. Especially when said mob often gathers man-haters, fathers and relatives with macho revenge fantasies, fathers and relatives with reverse Electra complexes, slip and fall artists, and various other kooks with agendas.

Take just one incident from childhood - 4th or 5th grade. On the school bus, a girl who was larger than me at the time started kicking me in the shins because my foot was on her side of the aisle. (The bus was so crowded with bundled up kids and oversized backpacks I had to brace myself to stay in the seat.) She kicked me directly in the shin 2-3 times so hard my eyes were watering. I told her to stop - she laughed. I told the bus driver, who didn't do anything and seemed amused. I warned her that if she didn't stop I would kick her back. She kicked again and I kicked her in the shin - once in answer to her 4-5.

She sulked though the rest of the bus ride. She then sulked, cried, and playacted for half the school day, telling several teachers that we had in common, which got me yelled at by each of them. She then told her mother, who also yelled at me, told my parents, and was trying to demand some kind of action. (My parents, showing an isolated instance of backbone and actually bothering to get the friggin' facts, backed me for once.)

I have no doubt that most people looking at the situation and too lazy, stupid, or self-interested to get the facts thought I was a bully in that case, which was the polar opposite of reality. I did everything in my power to stop her from kicking me before defending myself.

So the moral is make sure you get the facts before you classify someone as a bully, especially when we live in this day and age that seems to be tailor-made for weasels, swindlers, manipulators, and liars. Often it's the party that appears sympathetic, vulnerable, non-threatening, etc. who is the bully. Often they are just vicious, greedy, dishonest, cowardly pieces of trash. In some cases it's even an organized con-job.

4:46 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Motor 1560 said...

As we learned w/ a dyslexic son the law says one thing but the school district can evade, impede and fight any action until you quit, and get private tutors skilled with the disability, or until your child graduates.

And, bullies... For six months running our youngest son had to confront an older wanna be bully almost every day on his way home from school. And, every time our 10 year old son, a skilled wrestler and martial artist, would counter every move including ambush. Complaining to the school did nothing. Finally when our son had to take on the boy and an older brother, and still countered them, the police were brought in. It seems that our son was selected by the father as a target when our older son, a soccer umpire, red carded the father getting him banned from all local soccer games. The final solution only came about when the father went to jail for assaulting a teacher. The "hostile" sons wound up having our older son appointed as their Senior class mentor on the junior wrestling team they were assigned to. Mentors served as deportment models and tutors for the kids assigned to them and could hand out "dance cards" for wrestling practice which led to "consequences". They would have to wrestle everyone in the practice room regardless of weight, with their mentors coaching them in each match. Long story made short. Both "hostile" brothers eventually bonded with both my sons, graduated and became fine young men who still refer to my son's mother as "Mom".

Maybe this could only happen in a smaller, face to face town, but the system still works and has been expanded to having mentoring recognized as a "community service" necessary for graduation.

Letter athletes, Academic "Stars", Mock Court, Debate Team, Seniors and exceptional Juniors, male and female, get credit for mentoring classes and have "their kids". They are expected to mentor, monitor and advocate for their mentorees. Cliques are not a thing of the past but if you were on campus during lunch, the mentor circles are where the action is.

Mentoring experience figures really high in the letters that go out to colleges and universities as well. In this high school, Mentors are the NCO's.

5:00 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger ronin1516 said...

Mike rentner - I hope I understand you right. You seem to be saying that one should ever stand up to bullies, since they may be larger, more powerful etc.Am I reading you right? Because, if that is your position, I cannot agree with you at all. You seem to be advocating the maintenance of status-quo, and allowing the bullies to continue with their misbehavior.

6:05 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Mike Rentner said...

No, I didn't say that one should never stand up to bullies. I said the opposite, that you should always stand up to bullies.

What I was trying to say is that that doesn't always work. A bigger guy can just laugh off a significantly smaller guy's efforts to defend himself. In this case, someone has to intervene or the little guy is going to get his clock cleaned if he tries to take him on alone. This help, as has been noted several times here, is not always forthcoming.

What I'm saying is that all these heroic stories being related here are all well and good. Hooray for the guys and gals who stood up to bullies. But not many people tell the much more frequent story of the bully that always got away with it because he can. It's just not as simple as just standing up to a bully. You have to stand up to him AND win. If you stand up to him and lose, you're in for a very miserable time.

On a macro level, look at Saddam again. Anyone standing up to him got killed, even on large scales like the Shiites that revolted after Desert Storm.

Might doesn't make right, but it does make you succeed.

6:22 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...

mike rentner,

Perhaps if someone had been brave enough to stand up to Sadaam Hussein as a kid, we would not be having this mess now. The truth is, people let others get away with one act of violence after the next--it starts with bullying and escalates. I have seen kids who get away with all kinds of misdeeds in their neighborhood because no one will do anything(including law enforcement) and their misdeeds end up in violence and sometimes in murder.

Also, in my bullying examples, I did not act alone--boys in the neighborhood took care of one kid and a teacher in another incidence. Other people helped me--either directly or indirectly. We no longer know each other in our communities and even if we do, people are reluctant to get involved. If we would nip the violent acts of others before escalate, we have the best chance to reduce violence. Waiting until a bully or violent person decides to act out is not the answer.

Maybe the problem is that other people will no longer help you--teachers turn away at school, neighbors look the other way. We have forgotten how to stick up for each other. Law enforcement won't do anything until someone is in the act of violence and then they take a report in the aftermath.

6:34 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Grim said...

Ooh-rah for your dog, Helen! Every youngster should have a dog like that.

7:16 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


Tell me about it, I loved that dog. I could go anywhere and he was always there to protect me. Bad news though--he did not discriminate in his biting--he bit a jogger once and the whole neighborhood was up in arms and made us get rid of Lad. I cried myself to sleep every night after he left. He found his way back to us but we had to take him back to the farm where his new owners lived and I never saw him again...

7:23 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

kathy stole my CS Lewis reference. I second the motion to read it.

Motor 1560, that is a very encouraging story. Having an opportunity to base one's self-esteem on something real rather than having it inflated as a natural right intuitively seems the way to go.

Incidentally, despite its specific meaning and history in psychology, I prefer the concept of self-respect to self-esteem.

7:41 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Jeff with one 'f' said...

All well and good for dealing with boy bullies, but how do you deal with girl bullies?

8:16 PM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my worst childhood bullies was Earl, in kindergarten. Standing in line one morning, waiting to enter the classrom, Earl was right in front of me. He turned around, looked me in the eye and said, "I'm going to kill you." With that, he put his hands around my throat and started to shake me.

I was not an assertive child, at all, and knew only one way to get help: I started crying. Other kids around me started yelling at Earl, and at the teacher to get her attention, and she pulled him off. I don't know that any other consequences prevailed.

Fast-forward several decades: As a student teacher, in 1994, I had two female students in a sophomore class. Beyond the normal students' creed of harassing the substitute or the student teacher, they began subtle threats, which escalated. One had already accused me of racism for accusing her of talking out of turn--the two girls did that incessantly. Then, in an ungraded assignment, I got her account of a physical fight she claimed to have had with another student in the school, and which she claimed to have won handily. I did not sleep that night, for one minute. The next night, I talked to my supervisor, and quit the next day, mid-semester. I had already heard about other students who routinely bullied their teachers for trying to maintain order and standards in the classroom.

I completed my student teaching in a parochial school. I discovered that some of the students, though probably not as many, were also willing to bully the student teacher--and my "cooperating teacher" was no help.

And yes, I did learn, over the years, to be assertive; but as has already been said, teachers' hands are too often tied, these days.

If I were younger and had a school-aged child, I would be home-schooling.

8:54 PM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it amusing (yes I'm being sarcastic) that bullies can inflict just about any amount of physical damage to their victim without incurring an ounce of wrath from the powers that be - because the people who could stop the behavior are also afraid of them... yet the person who tries to stand up to them and stop it is punished. Gee sounds like Great Britain where people can end up in jail for defending themselves from thieves and attackers.

That's where this is all leading you know. Eventually, the "pacifists" of the world want to make it illegal to defend yourself at all. They've started in the schools and keep working at the gun laws. There are already places where it's illegal to carry mace as a defense weapon.

Much of the problem stems from people being afraid of possible consequences. We have let the news media and it's ability to play up a story erode any sort of discipline from schools and even homes in some cases. Things are still at a point where they could be turned around. I don't know how much longer that will last though. It's nice to see it's getting internet attention. That tends to trickle down to the MSM... eventually.

8:55 PM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on, Teresa. There are far too many people out there who believe that any direct form of self-defense is wrong and a punishable "offense." After all, the bully/thief/rapist/murderer is just a poor victim of an evil society. This view is an insidious disease, and I also hope it's not too late to begin effecting a cure.

9:46 PM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Conscience or foresight of consequences doth make cowards of us all' per Hamlet. It is a revolutionary idea that school shall be responsible to 'educate every child.' This creates, as in the Soviet union, a situation where you as a school administrator are guilty, the question is merely if the state will charge you. But you have a budget. It used to be they just had to provide school; the child succeeded or failed. Now if you call someone a bully, the school may be requried to pay for expensive psychiatric residential treatment. The knowlege of consequences would lead you to say, 'violence is never the way' and wash your hands of the matter. You need to change the law.

drj. Yes, the school is responsible to pay for medical treatment if a school representative says 'the child may have ADHD which interferes with his or her education.' 'Advocates who know the law and can make this happen' are available says a friend, who is happy to see the entire cost of a schizoaffective illness picked up by a school district. Utopia is a leftist ideal. A child can not be forced to take psychiatric medication by the school, however. That would be a more fundamental violation of civil rights.

10:07 PM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen emphasized that fellow citizens need to help each other. A very extreme example (famous too - it was the subject of a pretty good TV movie several years ago) of a community dealing with a bully is the story of Ken McElroy. The community was forced to band together against this town bully since the criminal justice system and local law enforcement didn't do their job. Long story short, McElroy was shot to death by a citizen with a deer rifle on main street on a Saturday afternoon with the town's acquiescence. So far as I know, no one was ever charged in his murder although many in the town know who fired the shot. I doubt that this is an outcome that many would approve of but this is where circumstances led. In a way, McElroy was in control right up to the moment of his death. One has to be very careful with bullies.

10:55 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger Motor 1560 said...

The school mentor program works pretty well because it is built around things having consequences. Good stuff has good consequences. And, the reverse.

They system also has caught quite a few kids in early crisis, most of those being kids not in the program. The whole school program is called, "The Circle of Caring" and it helps break the cycle of kids keeping "kid solidarity" and never telling responsible adults until it's too late. Two cases of suicidal ideation were caught this way. The immediate response of their peers was, "We have to get you some help". Both cases happened off campus when school was not in session and resulted in calls to the Care Line. Call takers handle everything from complexion problems on up. In one case when the county crisis team showed up they were met by five friends and one subject. "But, why can't we come with Kathy? We're her friends."

Not everybody, students and adults, buy into the program and there are still some scoffers. Fewer every year. It's pretty common to hear some kid say, "Everybody needs someone who cares about them. Even Goths."

Getting a small pin that says, "I Cared. And, It Made a Difference" is a pretty big deal. Five sophomore girls got their pins in a quiet ceremony in the principle's office that year. You get "pinned" for making a real difference somewhere at school or in the community.

The Mentoring and Circle of Care program belongs to the kids and is supported by contributions and snack bar overides. (Reduced over rides on "healthy snacks" by decree of the Student Council)

10:58 PM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Helen,

In the late 1980s, when my son was in junior high, he was constantly tormented by one of his classmates. For years.

It kept escalating until one day little "Joey" came home on my son's bus and beat him up in front of our house.

I called the school. "Let us handle it." I said that this had been going on for years and the school obviously could not "handle it". I told them to pass the word to little "Joey" that the next time anything happened, I would call the police and do all I could to see that he went to jail. In the real world, it is called assault and battery.

I told the vice-principal that then I would get a lawyer and sue him, personally, and the school for not providing a safe place for my son to go to school.

Never happened again. Maybe because the consequences were too high and very explicit. You think?


11:21 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger ronin1516 said...

LIke in dave's case - if school officials or the LE agencies refuse to co-operate, throwing a irrational hissy fit is notthe answer. One has to let the officials in question what the consequences will be for them personally, if the bully in question was allowed to continue in his/her merry way.

12:52 AM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger jw said...

My wife is tiny (you're not thinking small enough). In grade eight she was 2'9" ... At any rate a boy bully was making life hard for her. She calmly waited until he was bent down enough and smashed his jaw. It was the end of that bully. Her father quite calmly told the principal and the cops that he was going to sue the school for refusing to protect her. Furthermore he went before a JP to charge the principal & teacher for accessory to assault and sexual assault. THAT ended the story.

It was the second time my wife had to use force, the first being in grade two when she could still wear infant's clothes. Size is not everything, not by a LONG shot. More than a few adult bullies have broken against the rock of my dearest.

The thing is, my wife's father, who was also tiny, taught her how to stand up for herself. He told her that people would bully her because she is so small. He taught her how to deliver a punch and how to take one. People did bully her. People learned quickly that it was a bad idea. Not only would she stand up for herself, but old Clarence would come after them and that was always a REAL REAL bad thing to have happen.

I was bullied in grades 6 through 8. Quite severely so. The difference was I did not have a parent willing to stand up for me. I did not know how to stand up against the bullies.

The worst bullying though was my grade four teacher. I cannot write clearly, no one in my family can. This is a straight up matter of an essential tremor on both sides of the family. Mrs. Attwood did not go along with the idea of poor handwriting and enforced it by regular punishment with straps, rulers and pointers.

Parents must learn to stand up against the people in charge of the schools. When the school people KNOW, really deeply know, that life will be made hell for them if they do not act to protect a given child, not surprisingly, they do indeed act to protect that child. Anger will not work here. Phsycial force does nothing useful. Don't get mad, destroy them.

Think Winston Churchill. "Hit them once, use the biggest hammer you have and hit them again. Now hit them a third time so they really know they have been hit." Churchill did not at all mean to use physical force! Not at all. He meant to use the massive power of the voice, the press, connections and the law: Use it with intent to destroy and show no mercy.

These are your children: Protect them.

5:49 AM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


Girl bullies are different and deal more with relational aggression--spreading horrible rumors, freezing other girls out, etc. "Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls" by Rachel Simmons is a good book to get a feel for these girl bullies. They are a different breed but can be just as bad as boys--and girls today are fighting and more physically aggressive than they used to be.

7:42 AM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger DRJ said...

The only girl bullies I knew in high school were girls who were experts at relational aggression. (Thanks for teaching me a new term, Dr. H.) But the worst bullies - male or female - at my spouse's inner-city school were a gang of girls who beat up anyone, anytime, for any reason. The school took no action against them because they were girls, but this was 30 years ago so hopefully things have changed.

1:12 PM, December 29, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. H,

In my experience dealing calmly didn't work very well. I have some very calm parents and after a couple of incidents they tried to calmly deal with the administrators, no results. However, at least where I grew up, threats tended to work.

Case-and-point: a kid, a trouble maker and a jackass, on the track team was suspended after he mooned the coach. His parents threatened to sue the school over it, suspension lifted.

It seems to me that public school administrators are basically smug, overbearing jerks who've failed at life and are upset about that sad fact. They thusly abuse their "station" to punish kids who they don't like for whatever reason.

3:31 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Jeff with one 'f' said...


Re: Girl Bullies: Exactly. THe bullying they practice is often invisible and hard for adults to take seriously.

Physical violence is visible and leaves visible marks, while emotional violence remains hidden. I haven't dealt with any male bullies since college, while I see female bullying at work and in social situations with depressing frequency.

A friend of mine was engaged to a woman who was one of the worst bullies I have ever seen, male or female. She used everything from emotional manipulation and abuse to outright physical violence to get what she wanted, all the while proclaiming herself a victim. He grew up in an abusive household (both parents) and had a huge blindspot towards her behavior. (Thank god he got out!)

Others (like social workers or family court judges) might label her behavior differently, but I know bullying when I see it.

4:45 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Justina said...

Coming from the midn of a teenger here.

Times..yes ...are changing and now instead of "rock throwing" and "teasing " you have a guy/ and or girl breathing down the back of your neck...calling you every curese word in the book. No...the 70's "wus" is not one of them. And beleive me..the icey stares girls give you are just as bad as being yelled at.

9:45 PM, December 29, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was bullied all through school too. At first, I listened to my parents and the school administrators (at a "Christian" school). After being jumped on ever single day for a couple of months, my father finally called the school and told them he'd had enough. He didn't tell me he called, of course. The next day, a couple of the same group of kids jumped on me. I managed to put three of them on the ground, one with an eye swollen shut. The third one I knocked down was the ringleader of the group. By that point, I was hell-bent on permanently disfiguring his face (like I said, the beatings I got were an everyday thing). Fortunately for him, a teacher pulled me off.

I was taken to the principal's office where I was threatened with expulsion (all three of the kids had rich families, and it was a private school). My father ended up having a conference call involving his lawyer and several members of the board of directors for the school (since he knew them all) to tell them he would be suing them and the school for $20 million dollars if I was expelled. This action would have shut the school down permanently and bankrupted the individuals involved had it happened. They backed off.

After the whole mess, the bullies tried more of the same on a couple other friends of mine. Again, they got pounded into the ground quite thoroughly and their victims got away with it.

If the schools really want to prevent another Columbine, they might want to try actually punishing bullies (or not punishing people who are defending themselves). I can totally understand how any kid that has been bullied long enough would decide to do something truly horrible to end it all.

Now that I'm all grown up, my wife is a teacher. She and I have had numerous discussions about bullying. She seems to believe that bullies will be stopped by students "recognizing" what bullying is (as if they didn't know before they had a class program on it...). Apparently, if you try to get a bully/criminal to understand how they are making the other person feel, they'll stop. I believe that bullying will stop when the bully is either too afraid to continue his attacks, or too crippled up from having his butt kicked. Trying to change their behavior without hurting them in some way is like trying to build a wall out of soup. Good luck with that.

9:49 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger jw said...

drj & Dr helen: A men's list I am a member of had a long discussion about girls in high school who get a charge over kneeing boys in the crotch. It appears, based on a lot of men's experience, that most schools will have such a girl (or more than one...). Universal experience is that school admins take the girl's side of the thing: She's the girl so "he" MUST have done somethign to warrant the violence.

It is pretty sick.

4:01 AM, December 30, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...

Anonymous 9:49:

I sure hope your wife doesn't get a serious case of a victim being bullied in her classroom. Her tactics are dead wrong. Bullies often have high self-esteem and get a real kick out of seeing their victim squirm. So many people think that if you can explain how they make others feel--they would stop. I have often seen the opposite. This eggs the bully on with a heady sense of power. To understand a bully, you must understand how they think. Empathy is not their strongsuit. Punishing people trying to defend themselves is ignorant and potentially harmful in that it leads the victim to feel there is no where to turn except to a weapon. That is what the Columbine killers said in their video. "We tried to go through the normal channels for help but they were denied to us." You are lucky you had a father willing to step in and help you.

8:34 AM, December 30, 2005  
Blogger pst314 said...

"Research even shows that bullies have high, not low self-esteem. I don't know why people think these kids have low self-esteem."

Yes, I've read a number of articles about that, none of which, as far as I know, have received any attention from mainstream journalists. (Gee, I wonder why. /sarcasm)

Off-the-cuff, I suspect that this idea was hatched by "progressive" theorists who were uninterested in fact-checking their theories against reality, since after all the whole point of progressive politics is to shape people to fit ideology.

2:26 PM, December 31, 2005  
Blogger pst314 said...

"Lewis talks about this problem in the progressiv" schools..."

"Progressive" has long been a synonmym for stupid and evil.

2:37 PM, December 31, 2005  
Blogger Aaron Agassi said...

Leave us not forget how covert an activity is serial organized relational bullying. Never the less, "natural consequences" need not be violent or actually undue. Simple civility even actually well within the bounds of Passivism, falls far short of abusive vigilante justice, and ought to be the first recourse after any failure of sweet reason, instead of the usual craven victim blaming.

In other words, "natural consequences" can be social and psychological and still entirely effective and sufficient in many cases, especially when, as most often, sheer impunity is the real central problem. Exposure is what sneaky lying bullies dread.

Civility intervention is the idea behind a modest subversive proposal entitled:
'The CliqueBusters' at

PS. Currently in politics the name 'Progressive' generally stands in for 'Liberal' and signifies the yearning for any kind of real opposition in these United States. But in the context of the history of education, alas Progressivism was and still is a propaganda dodge to evade any call for real democratization of education so as ever to foster any hoped for autonomy.

3:35 AM, May 06, 2006  
Blogger Miles said...

From personal experience i can say that the schools way of dealing with problems usually makes the things worse. Back in Ukraine I've never had many problems dealing with bullies. If you get picked on you fight back was the official policy. If they gang up on you, get a couple of friends. If they are much older get someones older sibling or a parent. It wasn't a perfect system but it worked. When i was nine i immigrated to Boston. Since i couldn't speak a word of English i was a prime target for bullies. Since i knew how to defend myself that didn't really upset me. I figured id just punch the guy back and all would be well. The reality was quite different. I soon learned that defending myself from physical assault somehow merited equal or often worse punishment than actual bullying. Once i even got suspended for a day for being punched in the eye. I'm not kidding thats how arbitrary the disciplinary actions were. As you can imagine this lead to an endless cycle of bullying. If i defended myself I'd get punished. If i tattled to a teacher id get bullied some more. Not to mention that i grew up in a land were tattling was seen as a weak and spineless thing to do. Before long i went from being the top of the class in everything but English to below average. When my grades dropped my father started beating me( hard enough to make me bleed). After that my grades never picked up even when we moved to a better neighborhood. I started skipping school and developed major depression. I'm currently 19 years old and I'm practically a high school dropout. I say practically because i worked out a deal with the school which allows me to turn in work independently after i started sleeping 14 hours a day but i have yet to do anything productive in the year and a half I've been doing it. The sad thing is all that would have took to prevent this is if someone along the way just looked me in the eyes and acknowledged that my life sucks, that my problems aren't all my doing but are still my responsibility to fix. Ive yet to hear such words. Hell when my father broke one of my teeth with a backhand my mother slapped me and said its my fault for drinking too much coca cola.Just in case you might be inclined to give her words some weight don't. My teeth aren't brittle and my dad weighted 40 pounds more than me when this happened and in case you think i had it coming everyone thinks he was completely and utterly out of line and the only thing i did wrong was not back down when i was clearly right.

Anyway, I'm sorry for the long rant i know I'm a couple of months too late to the conversation but i just needed to get that off my chest and i though it was somewhat relevant.

2:52 AM, January 31, 2008  
Blogger Kim K. said...


Unfortunately, you did not have the support you needed at home or at school. Don't let the past define you. You're still standing. Each new day brings with it a chance to make dramatic changes in your life. Don't allow the past bullies at home or school define you forever.

11:53 PM, October 26, 2008  
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