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BY Lauren

How To Deal With A Bully: Old School vs. New School

Yesterday I came across this anti-bullying article by fellow blogger, “Wacky Dad.” His approach to parenting is refreshing and comical. His articles often reflect back to a time where the world seemed less consumed with “baby on board” bumper stickers, hand sanitizer and Baby Einstein and more focused on self-sufficiency and the good old “two miles uphill, barefoot in the snow” attitude. Instantly, I was hooked.

However, in his recent article, Eric Costantino (Wacky Dad)  implies that physically going toe-to-toe with a bully may be a more practical approach than relying upon the zero-tolerance school policies. Eric says “I learned that you always have to stand up for yourself- even if it was going to hurt a hell of a lot”. Well, I whole heartedly agree but let’s not confuse self-defense with self-determination.

I agree that we need to train our children to go “toe-to-toe” with their bully. But let’s skip the boxing ring and focus on strengthening their vocal chords. (And no, I don’t mean choreograph and rehearse a West-Side story song and dance routine, although I would LOVE to see a YouTube video of that!) Rather than telling our children that they are helpless against a bully and that ONLY a teacher or adult can deal with them, our children should be empowered to stand up and speak confidently. They should be taught to identify the problem, communicate what they want changed and develop a consequence if the behavior does not stop. And that consequence should not be a swift kick to the gut, it should be a swift march to the principal’s office. Because the second that your child lift’s their hand to punch their bully, guess what…they are now equally as guilty of assault.

One thing I do agree with Eric is when he states, “Another thing that really bothers me about the whole bully thing is the fact that bullies don’t just disappear after you leave high school.” Bullies are everywhere. Just the other day, a woman in Starbucks cut in front of me. She had a designer hand-bag, big sunglasses (on a dark day?), a BMW key clutched in her leather-clad hand and told the barista “the usual.” Standing there in my Kohl’s coat and Target snow boots, I felt like a bug helplessly squished by her Prada boots. I wanted to scream at her, “Who do you think you are!?” but I didn’t. Because then I would be the crazy person. Not her. Right?

A bully is simply another word for “power-monger.” In my mind, bullying is a power struggle and social labels are used to divide and conquer. That experience at Starbucks resonates with me because almost every single one of my friends said, “Eh, she wasn’t worth the scene. Just ignore her.” But my feelings of helplessness still remained. Next time around, I’m tapping her shoulder with my un-manicured fingers, covered by $2 Old Navy gloves, swallowing my fear and saying, “Excuse me, you just cut in line. It’s my turn.”


Written on January 26, 2011 by:

Lauren Todaro joined The Friendship Circle in March of 2009 as the Assistant to the Director. As a writer and advocate for equality, she is consistently on the search for creative ways to bring more social advocacy and awareness to the Metro Detroit community. Have an idea? Email her at [email protected]
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  • Lauren,
    Thanks so much for featuring my blog in this article.  I appreciate where your coming from.  Physical fighting is not always the answer to the problem and as you say will get the everyone in a whole lot of trouble these days.  I do believe that kids do need to stand up for themselves and learn to be tough.  I only know my way and how it worked for me.  I got my butt kicked a lot but the bully was never willing to come back for more of what I had for him.  If that can be done in other ways other than fighting then so be it – but the kid needs to face the problem head on the same way they will have to throughout their lives in this competitive world.  Ok I’m getting off my soap box now!  On another note I am glad that someone is enjoying my Wacky Dad posts!
    Eric Costantino
    AKA Wacky Dad

  • auntienutnut

    I say next time, def. tap the prada clad chick on the shoulder and let her know you were there 1st.  She may be snotty about it, or even annoyed or perhaps she will surprise you and be sincerely sorry or at least act like she is.  No matter what the outcome or her reaction, the you will be glad you took control, and the starbucks employee will be glad you did too and he/she will very likely support your statement to prada quessn.  Plus Prada queen may just think twice before acting entitled in the future – a benefit to all of us.  You go and get tough with your “$2 Old Navy glove” wearing bad-self. 
    Saying something would also be a great thing for your kids to see if they are with you.  I always stand up for myself (well most of the time) when my kids are around, just for that reason.  If I model it, they may just feel confident enough to do it themselves in their own life.
    Prada Queen – watch out:)

  • That woman dosn’t quite fit my definition of a bully, although she might not be far off it. You don’t realy have anything to lose by doing what you said. It’s only guess work how she will react but if she’s clearly in the wrong and your in the right, then do what you feel that you should do.

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