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.”