I live in a small town and there are many wonderful things about small towns. The downside is, everything and everyone are under a microscope. People usually know what you are doing before you do. It is just the nature of the beast.
One thing that our small town has that it seems every town has, large and small....is a bullying problem. I know I have talked about this before, but since the problem seems to continue, I guess it is worth more than just a mention.
Our school district, like many districts anymore, has a zero tolerance policy on bullying. I believe it goes something like, if you are "caught" bullying, you are suspended and if the act is heinous enough, possibly even expelled. Zero tolerance. Except...it's a wishy washy policy that often times the bullied is the one who ends up suffering the consequences while the bully skates by, free to bully another day. How....you ask?! Because bullies aren't stupid. They know the school policies so they bully under the radar of staff and administration and unless staff and administration actually "see" the act, apparently nothing can be done. There is also the little talked about fact that at times, staff and administration are also the target of bullies and once this happens, well you can imagine. The inmates start running the asylum.
There is a Facebook page in our town where people can discuss town issues. One issue that seems to constantly stay at the forefront of discussion is bullying. It is sadly happening from kindergarten right on up through high school and parents are frustrated that administration is not listening or doing anything about this. We have kids bullied to the point of trying to commit suicide and still the problem remains and ever growing issue. Why? I have my theory, but first I want to discuss the bully vs. the bullied.
The bully is a kid that regardless of how popular, good looking or smart they are, feels insecure and not at all as the world see's them. Because they feel so horrible about themselves, they feel the need to go after others and they get some perverse satisfaction out of making others feel as horrible as they do. The bully is a kid who has everything except what he/she craves the most.....attention. They go after that attention anyway they can with the attitude that any attention is better than no attention at all. Add to that, many of these kids have parents that live by the mantra..."my kid would never" when in reality their kid is not only doing it but is also the ring leader, and you have a kid who knows they can get away with anything. And finally, the bully is a kid who has never been taught that others matter. They are not empathetic in the least and quite probably are one of the most shallow, self involved, narcissistic individuals you will ever meet. They feel entitled to act anyway they choose, they are two faced and hold no relationships close to them. They don't have friends, they have followers and they are cunning enough to know when, where and to whom they can put on the charm, whether it be teachers, parents or anyone else they are trying to manipulate. They lie as easily as they breathe and they have no remorse for their negative actions regardless of who gets hurt or how they hurt them. It is not a pretty picture and I bet as you read this, you know at least one person that has one or more of these qualities. You know a bully.
Now the bullied. The bullied is someone who is viewed as weak. In reality though, the bullied is usually a rule follower who believes that IF they follow the rules, they will be taken care of. In other words, they believe that if someone bullies them, that if they go to their teachers or principal and tell them what is going on, that the issue will be taken care of. They have been brought up to believe that you don't or can't fight back so you must sit back and wait for someone to take care of or save you. When they do tell what is going on and nothing is done, then they are viewed as a "snitch" and usually they become an even bigger target. Eventually they just give up and quit telling.
Sadly, anymore with the internet and social media, bullying is no longer just a school yard issue. Bullying follows kids wherever they go whether it be Facebook, twitter or Instagram and what is said about them is forever out in the internet world. Kids are not emotionally equipped to handle this kind of personal terrorism, so it is no wonder so many kids choose to kill themselves when they are harassed day and night and no one listens.
So with all of this going on in our little town and all across the country, I asked a question on Facebook today. I asked:
"If a kid were bullying another kid and being sneaky about it around adults or authority and the kid kept the bullying up...do you think the bullying would stop if the bullied kid suddenly punched the kid and knocked them to the ground telling them that if it happened again, they would end up on the ground again?"
I wanted to know if people would be honest and if people felt that standing up to a bully might stop at least some of the bullying kids now face. The answer overwhelmingly was YES, kids need to stand up to a bully. Some of the answers came from people who had been bullied themselves and many came from parents who felt that regardless of the consequences, i.e. possible suspension, that their kids needed to stand up and fight if necessary to stop themselves or others from being bullied. Among these answers, there was one who said, "No...violence begets violence."
Honestly, I was surprised that there weren't more that felt this way, but since I was asking for opinions, I respected the fact that among all those that felt the complete opposite she spoke up and said No! And truthfully, I do in a way see where she is coming from. We live in a world where every news cast, every paper and a majority of the headlines that come into our news feed all have to do with violence of some sort. We live in a violent world and I am sure, to her, this sounded like more violence. Unfortunately, sometimes in this world in order to survive, you have to fight fire with fire.
So now my theory. I know you were sitting on the edge of your seat just waiting for it. Okay...my theory is this:
We have become a world where we expect "someone" from our parents, to our teachers, to our government to take care of us....regardless of our age or circumstances. We have become a weak society and because of this, we forget that we actually hold a great deal of power.
When I was growing up, my parents taught me that if someone bullies you, you have every right to fight back. Teachers and principals used to live by this standard too. I remember telling a teacher one time when I was about first grade that a boy had pinched me. She looked at me and said...."Go pinch him back." The boy was standing right there and I did pinch him, right in front of her. You know what? He never pinched me again. You know why? Because he knew that I would pinch him back and most bullies will not mess with someone that fights back. They prey on the weak.
I think if more parents empowered their children and taught them to first use their words to fight back (I have talked myself out of a few bullying situations) and then if that doesn't work, to literally fight fire with fire, there would be a whole lot less bullying. That empowerment and confidence then stays with them their entire life, and that is so important because we all know that there are going to be bullies all throughout our lives whether it be bosses, spouses or just abusive people in our world who see us as a weak and easy target. We have to teach our kids that the world is not going to protect them, it is up to them to stand up for themselves and yes......sometimes fight.
Bullying in our society has gotten way out of hand and a zero tolerance policy is only as good as the people who enforce it. I say, teach your kids to stand up for themselves. Will this get them suspended? Possibly, but the likelihood of them getting bullied by that kid again when they get back in school became much less.
Words hold a lot of power and sometimes they are all that is necessary to get you out of a bad situation. Other times though, a bully needs to be shown that you are not afraid and that they hold no power over you. If that takes a punch in the nose, then so be it. It is not the end of the world and more than one punch in the nose has been the start of a long and lasting friendship.