Wearing purple

I've been thinking a lot about bullying lately. First there was the rash of teen bullying that led to six suicides in the last few weeks. But I've also been thinking about how common bullying is in all segments of society, even among adults, and what we can do about it personally.

My older son has been in this strange bullying cycle with some kids at school for the past few years. There's one ringleader who seems to have a strange psychological hold on the other boys (there are 4 or 5 others, including my son) wo calls the dance. The ringleader decides who he likes that day based on who will do what he says, and then they harrass the other kids. So it's this shifting cycle of bullying and being bullied, and it makes recess both an adrenaline rush and a minefield.

For the past few weeks, my son hads been talking himself through how he's going to resist and stand up to the ringleader. His dad and I have been comparing notes, and our son has been talking about it with both of us, broad strategies and rehearsing the things he's going to say.

I don't know if he's going to be able to break completely free right away, but what I do know is that  bullying only really works when the bully convinces the victim that the bully's point of view is the right one. So just by talking about it with our son, we're giving him some perspective to figure out what he's going to do.

My best friend was being bullied by her boyfriend, who was making her think his behavior was normal. Once she started talking about it and realized it wasn't, she broke up with him. Another good friend of mine, a teacher, is being bullied at work by the administrators of her school. She, also, did not realize how wrong the situation was and how unethical (and probably illegal) her administrators' behavior was until she started talking about what was happening and we all freaked out about the abuse.

I am hoping that the conversations lots of us are having about the teen suicides can translate into conversations about bullying in general. I know I talked about it with my son this morning. And in our conversations about his dealing with his bully we've also talked about how not to bully other people and what to do with feelings that you might need to show power over someone else.

I don't have any concrete strategies except to shine a light on bad behavior. Even if the abuser doesn't stop, the person being abused at least knows it's not right and not their fault.


46 thoughts on “Wearing purple”

  1. “bullying only really works when the bully convinces the victim that the bully’s point of view is the right one”Wow. That is so true, and I never thought of it that way before.
    I’m so sorry to hear about your son’s situation. Is there anything the teachers can do to help stop it? Talk the ringleader or separate the kids or other parents or something? I think it’s great that your son is recognizing the situation is wrong. Hopefully, the other kids will realize it too.
    Incidently, I just wrote up a post delving into when I was picked on (really bullied) when I was younger. I’m guessing a lot of us have been thinking about bullying lately. Which is good, because we need to all talk and think about it in order to help make it better for our kids.
    When I was in grad school, I also worked full time at a job with a boss who was totally crazy. I mean, this woman literally needed to take medication. We were a satellite office, so very removed from the rest of the company, and the things that went on in that office were really emotional and verbal abuse. I never thought of it as bullying before, but it totally was. Even though I wasn’t the one getting picked on, I was the one who brought it to the attention of HR when we took a trip to the main office. Then, she made my life very difficult. But I was still glad I did it, and even more glad to when I left that place. In fact, many people in the main company knew she was a large reason for my leaving, and she didn’t stay on much longer after that.
    It’s amazing to realize that bullies aren’t restricted to the school yard.

  2. I definitely need to learn more about the dynamics of bullying. From what I understand, the bystanders (and bystander apathy) allow a lot bullying to continue. It is sad to say, but a lot of bullies tend to be quite popular.Kindness needs to become more popular.

  3. The bullying news (and related adolescent suicide news) makes me profoundly sad. I just want to cry every time I think about it. Why oh why can’t human beings be civil to each other? My son is nearly 5 and next fall will enter kindergarten; I hope his experience is a good one. I agree that kindness needs to be popular.

  4. This has been on my mind as well. Obviously because of the recent suicides, but also because of an incident I witnessed with my daughter. She is three and was waiting in the foyer before pre-k started. She choose to sit next to a female classmate whom she adores, who promptly slid away from her on the bench. My girl, oblivious, scooted right up next to her again. The other girl stood up and changed seats with a scowl. And I saw this *look* cross my Foo’s face. This flash of hurt. And it occurred to me that my daughter had just – possibly for the first time in her life – been hurt by a peer.No, it’s not the same thing as bullying – and hello, they’re THREE – but it opened up my train of thought to the pain and social trauma of children. It makes me sad to think of the struggles my kid has waiting for her, though I know it is inevitable.
    And of course it brings up painful memories from my own childhood. My group of grade school girlfriends had a very distinct leader who would decide on a daily basis who we would all be ‘mad at’. Sometimes it lasted a day, sometimes much longer. And when it was my turn I remember a series of phone calls between myself and members of my clique which left me in hysterical tears – did I mention this was 6th grade? My mother became furious at the situation and instead of building up my confidence, listening and giving me insight and suggestions, she instead demanded angrily that I handle the situation the way she thought it should be handled. Which made me feel panicked that she would somehow make the situation worse.
    I guess the point of my rambling is that I hope to have better coping skills than my own mother did when it comes to my daughter’s emotional situations. I want to give her the confidence that I never had, the self assurance that the decisions she makes are the right ones. I think that giving her a good grasp of her own feelings – instead of avoiding emotion – will give her an understanding of others and why they do the things that they do. She will be hurt, I know that. But how she reacts to it is due in large part to how *I* react.
    We’ve all heard it a thousand times, “Kids can be cruel.” But God, they so can be.
    *Sidenote: The ringleader bully of my grade school clique is now the secretary in the office of my daughter’s private school. Funny, eh?

  5. I’m sorry, Moxie, for what your son is going through. Is he in 3rd grade? I’ve read (and found to be true for my son) that it’s a tough year socially, for all the kids. It’s when they start to grapple with their own identities as social beings apart from their families.My son is quite socially adept, but last year (3rd grade) was HARD. I think you’re doing all the right things; the talking it out at home really worked for us. For my son, the pulling away from the negative friends was a gradual process and it was hard for me not to rush him through it. It took most of the school year but, in the end, I think the effect (better friend choices) will be longer lasting because he worked it out himself. (I’ll add that I learned this the hard way since I initially pushed too hard and he started lying to us about who he was spending time with at school.)
    I tried to keep the behind-the-scenes parental manipulating to a minimum, but I did do a couple of things. One was to arrange after-school/weekend playdates with friends outside the negative group. I also checked in with his teacher to make sure that his school work/behavior wasn’t suffering (we were seeing some behavior slippage at home, so I was concerned). And, I requested that my son not be placed in class with the “ringleader” this year.
    4th grade is going much better, thankfully. I know the problem will come up again at some point, but I feel like we have some strategies and trust in place that will hopefully give us a head start next time it comes up. Good luck!

  6. “bullying only really works when the bully convinces the victim that the bully’s point of view is the right one”I’m not so sure about this. I think it’s more when the bully convinces the BYSTANDERS that the bully’s point of view is the right one. Because I’ve seen plenty of victims stand up for themselves only to have things get worse for them. Bystander apathy is more of the problem today – kids are taught “it’s not your problem, stay out of it”. It is my belief that while bullying hasn’t gotten any more prevalent, the likelihood of the bystanders to allow it to happen has.
    That said; the kind of bullying that can happen via the internet scares me. 15 years ago if you were given a wedgie after gym class only a handful of people witnessed it. Today that same incident can be broadcast to 1000s of people in a heartbeat and played over and over again for the rest of your life.

  7. There is an interesting discussion going on over at Julia’s (julia.typepad.com) about bullying in school. There are some interesting (to say the least) suggestions about how her son should respond to kids who are teasing him.My boy is in first grade, and I’m starting to think about what I will tell him the first time he comes home and says that someone was mean to him. What has worked, or hasn’t worked for any of you? I really want to give my son the tools to stand up for himself, but I’m not sure what the best tools are.

  8. I agree with @kakaty, certainly about the internet. I think Moxie is also right – the success of the bully is that he/she is able to convince *everyone* that it’s ok.I was bullied mercilessly in middle school, for almost 4 years. I don’t know how it looked from the outside, but from the inside it felt like the whole school was part of it, and certainly no one did a thing to stand up for me. It would have helped if they had, but I also would have had to have some kind of self-regard that would allow me to believe that it wasn’t ok, and I didn’t.
    In my adult life, I’m still coping with the fallout from getting mixed up with the bully who fathered my child. He did convince everyone around us that the way he acted was ok, or that he wasn’t really doing and saying what he was doing and saying – I’m not quite sure how to define the denial he was/is able to perpetuate among most of the people who knew him. I am now convinced that it is not right and that I need and deserve to protect myself and my daughter. There are also a bunch of people around me now who understand and support me.
    I guess the idea I’m closing in on here is that it’s not one or the other. I did have to work hard and be strong, steadfast, and forceful to convey to friends, professionals, etc., that I was being abused. If I’d continued in the denial that led me to accept that treatment, I would not have as many people in my corner now. Not only that, there *were* people who tried to tell me what was really happening before I was ready to look at it, and my denial was impenetrable.
    It’s like a feedback loop, or an electrical circuit or something. All the connections need to be made in order to counteract the bullying. Without the circuit being completed, the awareness fizzles out for the victim and the onlookers.
    Sorry about that awful metaphor!

  9. My girls are only a year old so I haven’t experienced this yet for them. But I am wondering — doesn’t anyone talk to this boys’ parents? And what about the parents of the other boys? Or would that just backfire? Shouldn’t the teacher/school do something?In my personal experience — bullies are actually at least a little bit afraid and they are counting on you not fighting back. Years ago, I was being bullied in a work situation (by a manager who had been a friend, or so I thought). It was very difficult at first but in the end I fought back simply by standing my ground (calling their bluff). She was eventually pushed out.
    I think it’s great that you’re helping your son find a way to push back.

  10. I am a little flummoxed by attaching the “bullying” buzzword to poor interpersonal behavior across the board — mostly because I think it almost infantalizes the behavior. Some people are shitty. That’s what it is. Some kids are shitty to other kids. Some adults are shitty to other adults.I’m not saying “kids will be kids” AT ALL — but I am saying that “The Bullying Problem” is not something humans are going to be able to address and bring to a halt, because there are ALWAYS going to be total f*ing assholes who are shitty to other people.
    Bullying is not a trend, it’s not a modern problem and it’s not something we’re going to “fix” with the right intervention or raised consciousness, or whatever. IMO, it’s evidence of the potential for evil in our natures and as long as humans still have feet of clay, we’re going to struggle with it.
    Regardless of where it comes from, bad behavior, cruelty, disrespect, bigotry, aggression and the apathy to tolerate it all are always going to be personal struggles against which we need to arm ourselves, our children and one another. Labeling it when we see it, “Hey! That was a jerky thing to say! Cut it out!” (rather than excusing or ignoring it) and teaching, teaching, teaching our kids to be kind, gentle, empathetic and activist when they need to, are the only ways we’ll make an impact on the climate of anonymous vitriol that grips our culture.
    I ‘m not making much sense … I think what I’m really trying to say is that “Bullying” is not the problem du jour. Jerks behaving like assholes is the problem — always has been, always will be. We’ve got to make sure we’re not raising the jerks, we’ve got to make sure we’re not BEING the assholes and we have to try to find a way to mitigate the damage the jerks and assholes are doing. I think, around here at least, we’re doing the best we can — AskMoxie is refreshingly asshole-free, and there’s something to be learned from that. How did we do it?? Hmmm …

  11. @Mrs Haley– this is true. And I worry that all the e-communicating is making it worse. The college boy who was filmed and then killed himself went four days after the incident without face to face communication with the roommate. They had some online chat but didn’t deal with the problem.Teaching our kids to talk about difficult things, encouraging our friends to feel free to disagree with us, allowing politics to be discussed at a party- all these things will help people learn how to communicate. That is something we can do with our children that will make their lives easier later.

  12. @MrsHaley: Have you read the book “Cloud Atlas”? Your post is pretty much the theme of the book, and it’s truly an amazing read. I recommend!Anyway, I am really interested in this topic, as my second-grade son has been bullied this year by an older girl.
    I didn’t know about how bad it was until the day he told me she’d punched him in the stomach, and that she wasn’t returning to school. I’d heard little murmurings from him here and there about a girl who “hated” him, but didn’t know that she’d been making him miserable. I will say that his behavior during that period was definitely “off,” and I suspected something amiss on the playground, but he was not responsive to my questions, always saying, “Fine,” when I asked him how things were going at recess.
    I don’t have any answers. I’m sad that my son didn’t feel comfortable telling me how bad it was.
    For the future, though, I’m trying to continue my efforts to let my son feel free to talk, and to really, really listen to what he says (I have “How to Talk…” by my bedside again these days). And I am going to start sending the message that it is absolutely the right thing to stand up for yourself and your friends.
    Oh, and I think martial arts might be in his future, too.

  13. This is a very timely and welcome post for me-I have a 5 year old in Kindergarten who has been coming home from school the last 3 weeks very down. Since I come from a family of non-communicators, I’ve mastered the art of reading body language and facial expressions and easily determined something was going on at school. After some discussion about how things are going with the kids at school-he told me that two boys he was very interested in being friends with have been telling him they don’t want to play at recess or saying they won’t come to his birthday party, telling him they don’t like him, and various other hurtful things. My first response was to encourage my son to seek out other boys-he’s in a very boy heavy class. And these are 5 year olds…I’m not even sure where to begin the talk about what a crock I think it is to treat “friends” that way. I just hate the idea that my son is internalizing these negative comments and may start believing that he’s inferior. But I had to put my foot down last week and call the teacher after the lead bully called my son over at recess and proceeded to kick a ball into his groin which left him still aching 4 hours later. The teacher talked to the boys the next day and made them apologize and now my son wants these boys to come to his birthday party again. Ugh. All in all-I’m not sure if any of this has been handled well (by me or the teacher)and I’m sorely in need of advice. Am I overreacting…is this normal kid behavior? I’m looking forward to reading the other posts and wonder if anxiety medication is in my future?!

  14. I agree with Mrs. Haley…..bullying is not a new problem, but the way/method of bullying has changed, making the stakes so much higher for the victim (and the garnering of power so much greater for the bully). I am a teacher, and I also agree with Mrs. Haley that bullying will continue in some shape or form as long as we inhabit this planet. It’s how we teach students to navigate through it that is what needs to change. I think there should be a two-pronged approach: First we must figure out why the bully is behaving in that way. Children do not arrive on this planet pre-programmed to be jerks. They act that way as a response to something. What is it? How can it be addressed? It is our responsibility as teachers and parents to figure out why our students or our children are behaving in this way, and to follow that thread back to its origins so we can re-direct it in a healthier way. SECOND (and one that has, in the past been often ignored or glossed over) is how we address and work with the victims of bullying. The fact that all of the attention and consequences have focused on the bully (punishment! Consequences! Intervening! Supervision! Follow up!), with very little focus on the victim AFTER the incident has occurred. What kinds of tools are we offering them? How are we preparing them for playing both the role of the victim and the role of the bystander? Coping skills and recovery skills have been glossed over because we are all focused on dealing with the problem, and not really with the actual aftermath. I 100% agree with Moxie that the real problem with bullying is that the bully has convinced everyone – bystanders and victim – that their way of thinking and behaving is the correct one. Teaching kids how to handle situations like this both before they occur and after they occur will go a long way toward taking some of this power away from the bully. Simply punishing the bully and believing that the victim’s problem has been solved is pretty short-sighted.

  15. @Midwest Mom I’m both a teacher and a mom, and I’ve seen more of this kind of violence go ignored “because they’re just kids” than I can tell you. So here’s my thinking:Deliberately hitting another child in the groin with a ball is not bullying, it’s assault. Same goes for punching/kicking, all other physical violence.
    It’s too easy to say it’s just a kid thing, when what we really need to do is make it clear to both the assaulters and the victims that their behaviour has serious consequences. If we don’t, these kids are liable to move on to high school figuring it’s ok to hit their boy/girlfriend as long as they say they’re sorry later. Or the victims are liable to keep accepting both smacks and apologies.
    So, I say let your son know that people who hit us on purpose are not our friends, ever.

  16. I’m not wearing purple today since the only purple clothing I own is a cashmere sweater, and it’s not really practical to wear at home with the kids. Well, not if I want to wear it again!I don’t know really know what to say about bullying in general. I think it’s a good conversation to have, but wearing purple today is about LGBT youth. I don’t think it is the same to equate being bullied/harassed because some is queer (or perceived to be) with being bullied for another reason.
    LGBT youth may not be out to their parents for fear of being kicked out of their homes. Politicians constantly use LGBT people as scapegoats for what is wrong with society. A lot of churches teach that homosexuality is wrong. Queer kids get a lot of messages that they are not acceptable and often don’t have a safe haven.
    Dan Savage had a really good column about this. The blame for the suicides isn’t squarely on the feet of the bully. People who create a society where being gay is treated as not acceptable are also responsible.
    Being bullied for any reason is terrible. I have no idea how to deal with it or why it happens. But I don’t want this day to become a conversation just about bullies (although I know this is just a jumping off point in your thoughts, Moxie). LGBT youth are invisible enough already.
    Also, yes, of course I was harassed as a teenager. I was out as a lesbian. It sucked, and I didn’t tell my mom or any of my teachers. It was never physical (which I would call assault), but I remember planning my routes to my classes to avoid certain areas/people and knowing where friends and supportive teachers were. It sucked for sure. But it got better.

  17. grade school…makes you wish for preschool again, when kids are all so happily clueless. even if a kid is being mean, the impact is not so profound because it’s just not internalized as much. the extra awareness that comes from kids getting older does result in a lot of emotional complications.i think books are helpful in talking through these issues with kids:
    for younger kids i love this book, “Simon’s Hook, A Story About Teases and Put-downs.” fyi amazon link http://amzn.to/9mhrW3
    these are good ones by trudy ludwig…
    a good one for older girls about more subtle girl bullying, “My Secret Bully.” fyi amazon link http://amzn.to/ddytrx
    a more general story for older kids about bullying, “Just Kidding.” fyi amazon link http://amzn.to/cZKZq9
    hope that helps someone.

  18. Wearing purple today = supporting the LGBT community against homophobia and cruelty, like @Brooke says.I struggle with a definition of “bullying,” but maybe feel like it is something we know immediately when we hear it described or see it, no matter what the ages of the people involved.
    @Moxie – I think it took major guts to tell the world how you and your co-parent are proactively trying to break your son out of his pattern of being a follower and an enabler of a young male abuser and his clique. Brava!
    What the world needs now are more parents who are accurately tuned in to the social worlds of their children, and who understand the unvarnished truth of the specific roles they are playing within it. Easier said than done, I realize… There is something about being bullied that makes survivors not want to tell anyone; least of all their parents. And a lot of bullies probably aren’t being parented well in the first place. If we’re honest, most of us are guilty of being followers. It takes a lot of personal strength to stand up to abuse, and to speak truth to power. No easy answers here.
    I tend to think this might be one of those shitty, unavoidable areas of life where the most realistic goal is simply to help our children mourn the loss and support them to make healthy choices, as opposed to trying to shield them from all loss – though that’s what we all dream of in a perfect world.

  19. I’ll take the bullying talk one step further and say that I blame the patriarchy. This is the cultural source of the need to assert power over someone who is perceived to be lesser. The reason to do it is to keep yourself from being the one who is judged and treated as lesser. Sounds pretty sick, doesn’t it?I disagree with the idea of the bystanders being apathetic. I think their silence is proof of their investment in not being the one who is the bully’s next target.
    We’ve got to tear down this hierarchical thinking and work towards being egalitarian.

  20. “Queen Bees and Wannabes” by Rosalind Wiseman is brilliant on this subject…that book reflected my middle-school experiences so accurately and with such spot-on insight that it made for uncomfortable reading.

  21. MrsHaley….exactly!! I wish people could just be nice to each other. Being mean and treating others the way you wouldn’t want to be treated is just a mystery to me.We were walking home from school today when a friend of mine confronted her daughter’s bully on the sidewalk. The bully acted as though she had no idea what she was being accused of….even though she had done the same thing last year in 3rd grade. Sadly, my friend and I agreed that the reason the girl was behaving like a bully was because it ran in the family…..from the top down. That’s very sad. Where else would we learn that behavior from?
    I’m thinking about asking our school if they could host an assembly on “bullying awareness.” Since the media is buzzing with it….we should at least address it at school.

  22. My son was being constantly being hit by his “best friend”…it had happened over the summer, we had a talk with the kid’s parents and it stopped for a while. 1st grade came around and it started again, only this time our son did not say anything to us, we found out through another parent. Again, we spoke to the parents and we spoke to the teachers, but this kid was smart enough to do it when the teachers weren’t looking. The beatings continued until one day my husband grabbed the kid and said, if I hear you beat up my son one more time, I’ll beat you up. From that day on the hitting stopped….I’m sure the kid told his parents cause my husband was driving him home and from the next day his grandparents would pick him up.

  23. Ah, my daughter was bullied for the first time at the tender age of three. Can you believe it? By a 5 year old girl who started a game where the other kids would call my daughter a “big bad wolf” and run away from her or “shoot” at her with their finger guns. I don’t know if my daughter totally understood, but it made her cry and she told me, “I didn’t like that.” Broke my heart, mainly because I know she will face this kind of stuff her whole life, even in adulthood. So I am another who agrees that the only real thing to do is teach our kids coping skills. How to cope when someone bullies us. Hopefully how to stand up for someone in need…so hard, that one. And not to bully. We have started talking about “if you are laughing but that makes someone else cry, then you need to stop. it is not okay.”

  24. We haven’t personally entered this territory just yet (DS is 2). I can see the potential for bullying by some of the older kids at DS’ daycare, but we haven’t witnessed anything yet (and hopefully never will).DH is very concerned about bullying and how to handle it with DS. He was the youngest brother of 3 and was taunted and bullied a fair amount throughout his school years. He stood up physically to the bullies and I know he doesn’t want DS to have to go through that.
    I am concerned about what the future might bring in this regard, but it’s not (yet) one of my top worries. Probably because I wasn’t the subject of bullying in school…Though I was a bystander that said nothing in some cases, for exactly the reason that @Celeste states – I didn’t want the bully’s attention on me. Not proud of that now, but definitely something (standing up for others) to keep working on as @Mrs.Haley said.
    Also, so far DS seems to be the kind of kid that other kids are drawn to. I suspect that even though he has a shy side, he’ll be quite adept socially (which is interesting since DH & I both grew up as very shy kids).
    If this plays out, and DS is not the subject of bullying (or even if he is for that matter), I think we’ll need to focus in our house on how not to manipulate others for your own means (and why it’s not good), and also for standing up for those that are being bullied or mistreated. This is why I love @Kristie’s “If you are laughing but that makes someone else cry, then you need to stop. It is not okay.” It’s all about empathy. And treating people how you would like to be treated. Respect. But you all know that.
    @caramama, I survived a bully at work a few years ago. She was my boss. And a total nightmare. My gut instinct told me on day 1 that she was bad news. Everyone around me said ‘Give her a chance.’ So I thought that I was overreacting and had too high expectations. Of course, my gut instinct held to be true. There was a whole huge HR investigation into her practices. I’d like to say that she was fired. But, instead, she pushed all the good employees out of our department and was never fired, amazingly. I managed to switch jobs within to work for another, much better boss (and had strangely gotten the nightmare boss on my side…I figured the only way out was through). But it was sad to see everything we had built up demolished by one person. She eventually quit, but the damage had been done. I have worked with my fair share of mean and nasty people. But she, by far, took the cake. It was definitely bullying in her case (as well as treating people badly).
    ” I think, around here at least, we’re doing the best we can — AskMoxie is refreshingly asshole-free, and there’s something to be learned from that. How did we do it?? Hmmm …”
    Here! Here! It IS totally refreshing. What I think the Moxites have been able to do is to stand up for one another, regardless of weather we agree with each other or not, and to discuss our differing opinions respectfully. There is a code of conduct and we collectively defend it vehemently. Strength in unity, that kind of thing. Someone who wanted to be an asshole wouldn’t last long here because it’s not tolerated. Which I guess is what everyone is trying to get at above. That being said, I think it’s a bit easier for us to do it here because we are fairly, as a group, like minded. IRL we all have to deal with a wider cross section of people with varying beliefs. That makes it that much harder.
    @anonthistime, ITA with everything you said. My brother’s newly adopted daughter was the bully (mostly emotional manipulation vs. physical) with a few girls at her school last year. This was totally shocking to us as every time we see her or she comes to visit she is a totally sweet, kind, respectful kid. And not overly so, where you’d think something was up because she was too sweet. But as a kid who was adopted at 11, well, she’s had a difficult life up until now. And I’m most certain that her bullying tactics definitely stemmed from that. It doesn’t excuse it, but I agree that we really need to work back to the root problem. I think she and the friends involved have made up. And also interesting to note that the bullying occurred in grade 3. Perhaps a link with what @Laura points out above.
    @Brooke, “…wearing purple today is about LGBT youth…I don’t want this day to become a conversation just about bullies (although I know this is just a jumping off point in your thoughts, Moxie). LGBT youth are invisible enough already.”
    Well put and thanks for the reminder on the true focus of the day. These will be waters that some of us will be navigating with our kids some day.

  25. @ Mrs Hailey – while I completely agree with your points about bullying not being new and needing to be kind to each other, I *do* think there’s some special/specific behavior that I call “bullying” specifically in cases where unequal power dynamics create atmospheres that are particularly toxic to an individual. For example, lots of people are (sadly) a$$holes – rude, prejudiced, aggressive, etc. But a$$holish behavior doesn’t necessarily affect us. We are affected when because of the dynamics of a certain situation we find ourselves without or with less power – so for example, a group of kids at school versus an individual child (or popular versus unpopular kids), an abusive husband vs. his wife, a boss, etc. In my understanding anyone with power can bully, and that’s what makes it more pernicious than just having to deal with a jerk. Of course it’s much harder for children to bear because they have incomplete senses of selves – they don’t know who they are yet (anyway, this is how I think of it) and so they are more vulnerable to the opinions of others.You know what image I always think of when I think of bullying? TV footage from the 50s and 60s – the integration movement in the south. I see teenaged African-Americans walking into white schools for the first time, and you can see the lines of white adults screaming obscenities and abuse at them, spitting and throwing things, the lives of these young people in danger even. I see their strength, and perserverance and I think, how can I give that to my children, that refusal to allow other people to define your worth?

  26. I just hope my husband and I are able to guide our children thru bullying in the future without them having too much trauma. Considering I just came out of a surprsing bullying experience at work recently, I know I have a lot to learn. I was completely taken off guard by the bullies’ behavior. For a while I really started to internalize all the shitty things being said about me and my work performance. I didn’t even recognize it for what it was until I talked about it with others.So, I guess one big lesson I learned is it needs to be talked about before it can be addressed.

  27. My 10 yo daughter is having an issue with a friend who is generally very nice. She is sensitive in both senses of the words: she is adept at reading feelings and her feelings get hurt easily.My daughter loves this girl dearly, but we are really struggling with the fact that the friend says really mean things to my daughter as a coping response whenever she is feeling unsure. Because she is astute at reading feelings, she really knows where to stick the knife. She really is mostly kind and loves my daughter, but then there are these moments.
    She is also skilled at hiding this behavior. I have only heard it form her on three occasions when she didn’t know I could hear her. I have heard from daughter, though, that it happens not infrequently.
    Her parents have no idea – and in general think she walks on water people-skills-wise. They only see her usual kind persona. Her mom is my closest friend, and I just have no idea how to handle this. I am not sure the parents would even believe me if I told them, and then I would lose my closest friend. And my daughter could lose hers.
    In my head I vacillate between encouraging my daughter to be sensitive to her friend’s internal struggle and not wanting to teach her to tolerate abusive behavior in important relationships.

  28. @grrr How do you coach your daughter to handle it? Should she ask the friend, “Why would you say something like that?” and call her on it? or “You know that’s not true.”You never know – she may push her parents buttons when she’s mad too, and the mom has just not mentioned it to you.

  29. I teach at a University and I am continually bullied by my students. No kidding.I HATE teaching in the classroom because of this and dread posting paper and exam grades as the onslaught of complaints, grade grubbing is out of this world.
    Sometimes I just want to scream, who is the one with the upper level degrees? Who went to school and studied to do this job, yes this specific one? Who is published in reputable journals about teaching and learning. It makes me want to quit. They continue to question my expertise, judge my exams/marking and make me feel terrible.
    As they say so sweetly…”we pay your salary” “it costs us $30 a class” (which I frankly feel is a deal) all the while drinking their Starbucks and wearing their Lululemon.
    I have been recognized as an expert educator and have won awards for my teaching. I get exceptional student evals but yet….they still complain/bully!
    So yes, bullying is alive and well….

  30. Am I the only one who feels pressured into wearing purple? I suppose wearing purple is okay, although I always seem to forget what color I’m supposed to wear or risk feeling like a cad. (Can a woman be a cad?) It feels like middle school, when I wasn’t supposed to wear green on Thursdays lest I wanted to be teased for being horny. Like we knew what that meant!What I really resent is Coming Out day. Here’s my story: I’m not a straight ally. I’m a bisexual ally, happily married, and not about to make an issue out of a non-issue. Wearing purple is fine, I suppose, but being pressured to come out or tell my story is pretty awful.
    I’m sure I’m not the only one who keeps things from my parents. I don’t think they need to know what goes on in my head about sex, or about what I did in bed with what kind of people in the past, or would do in some possible future. And with facebook? Yeah, they’d know.
    I’m not in the closet out of shame. I’m in the closet because it makes life easier — almost as easy as it is for straight people!

  31. It was brought to my attention that my earlier comment might have come across in ways I did not mean.I did not mean in any way that having a mental illness, behavoiral health issue, or taking medicines for those issues equates to bullying, abusive behavoir or being a bad person. I myself take ADs for my Seasonal Affective Disorder and am constantly preaching to support mental/behavoiral health.
    In the particular case of my ex-boss, she literally needed to take medications, but she either was not taking them or not on the right dosage. Unfortunately, she became paranoid and verbally and emotionally abusive when not on any or the right dosage of medication. That, combined with other aspects of her personality, the environment where we worked and the fact that she was raised in an abusive household lead to some pretty awful working conditions. There were a lot of reasons behind her behavoir, including repeating the cycle of abuse she was raised with, but her actions were unacceptable no matter what the reasons.
    I hope that clarifies my comment. I hope this is all coming out right! I don’t fault the woman for having behavoiral issues and needing medication, but I was very frustrated that she would not seek help when she needed it (and it was pointed out to her) and that she continued inexcusable behavoir to me and others, bullying to get her way and to try to keep us quiet about what was going on.

  32. Moxie, have I told you lately how awesome you are?I wish that all parents took such an active stance to deal with all the bully-supporters that enable the behavior. Go you!

  33. @caramama, you have just described my (newly) ex husband. He was a bully. Meds made it a little better, but not much, and never for very long. I understood what you meant. Not everyone who needs meds is a bully. And as Moxie once told me, putting (my ex) on meds is just giving me a medicated asshole.

  34. My older son was bullied in 4th grade, verbally – but it was either out of notice of the teachers or just put down as “kids will tease”. When he finally pushed a kid who got in his face, my son was the one who got in-school-suspension. I didn’t (and still don’t) think that was a fair response, but he dealt with it. And I had a meeting with the teacher and the asst principal to deal with some of the underlying issues. It was partly a poor classroom situation (new teacher, large class, no one my son really fit in with). They made some changes in the classroom and things got a bit better. And I requested some particular changes for his classroom placement the next year and things were much better.

  35. “There’s one ringleader who seems to have a strange psychological hold on the other boys (there are 4 or 5 others, including my son) wo calls the dance.”To understand this phenomenon (remember Lord of the Flies?), I highly recommend Hold on To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld.
    Dr. Neufeld has a lot of information regarding understanding bullying and what to do about it.
    Good luck.

  36. I find it odd that we have family doctors and family dentists, but have not as yet prioritized family counsellors.I wonder if regular, professional talk therapy could lessen the impact/effect of bullying. Generally, it seems everyone could use an objective ear during those excruciating “middle years”. I tend to think that it might have helped to avert some of the tragedies we have seen lately.
    (Do I think everyone needs counselling? In a word: yep.)

  37. To me, this is a problem that adult bystanders and parents of bullies need to be held more accountable for. I really, really want to hear from a parent of a known bully and understand if/how they try to address it. We want to think well of people, so I think we are often inclined to assume the bully’s parent just doesn’t KNOW about their child’s behavior but I am starting to doubt this. I’m generally not one who wants “values” taught in school, because that is such a scary road, but surely there are a handful of universal ones like compassion that could get a little emphasis? Teachers, how do you talk to the parents of bullies?

  38. Bullying Requires Non-Education Professionals Bullying requires non-education prfasseionols to step in.Unfortunately, education prfasseionols, as experienced as theyare and have to be with education-related matters, do not havethe know-how or experience needed to deal with radicallyuncontrolled bullying. However, there are police (men and women), psychologists (men and women), and therapists (men and women) who are not in the business of education; but who are trained to deal with the deviant behavior expressed by a true bully. A 1-800 number for bully victims that is easy to remember should be plastered everywhere in schools from the classrooms to the halls to the restrooms to the playgrounds to the busses and athletic fields as gentle reminders to students thinking of getting out of line (bullying). This no-nonsense number would direct the bully victim to immediate help by trained prfasseionols who will evaluate professionally the bully’s mental health and stable or unstable home situation; deal with the bully’s deviant behavior; and help the bully victim through the merciless trauma/abuse he/she experienced all without repercussions to the actual victim. Of course, legal action and prosecution against the bully (not the school) go without saying. As an added incentive, the school administration may dial the number from the school office. Often, but not always, the bully is a repeat offender. Reporting the crime helps authorities build a case against said bully in court holding the bully accountable for his/her actions.

  39. Lily,People like you inspire me! This arltice really hit home! My son has been a victim of bullying & it has devastated our entire family. Our religion has been questioned as well since this all took place in a Catholic school system. We cannot seem to get any help with the matter here in Indiana. And it hurts me to find out that this is still continuing in the same school to this day. The administration/staff/minister ignore what is going on and the dicipline is just not there. Repeatedly the students are rewarded for their behavior by allowing these students to participate in the same events that the victims take part in. The school is creating the future for these children What else can we do to keep this from happening? My son is still dealing with the aftermath .

  40. My wife and I have 88 years total of public scoohl teaching- we never had any student ever have a bullying problem that re: homosexuality!This new push for bullying is simply a stealth attempt by the gay community to create acceptance of their disgusting, disease spreading sexual activity!Some bullying is always going to be there-we teachers dealt with it-without extra incentives and pledges! But no special rights for those campaigning for the 2 % of gays to get their foot (won’t what else) in the door!

  41. REPLY TO MAXIMUSThe councillors have been surntpoipg the Inchgarth bully boys for some time and are unlikely to change for the very reason(s) which you allude to. It has been obvious to ALL observers for a very long time that Mr O’Connor seems to hold some sort of power over certain councillors. The reason(s) for this have been the subject of much speculation both within and outwith the Town House, and some bizarre explanations have been discussed at length, some of which may be true but have remained unsubstantiated. What I can say is that the pieces are falling together, albeit rather slowly.It seems that some of the councillors seem to think they can escape the imminent scandal by getting out now. I would suggest that such optimism on their part is misplaced.As for the Daily Liars, otherwise known as Aberdeen Journals Ltd, one would expect no better from them. Can you believe that Ms Lorna Robertson of the Evening Express was an attendee at the Garthdee Community Council meeting of 8th February 2011, during which Mr O’Connor gave an update on progress at the Garthdee Alpine Sports Centre in his role as a director of the facility representing the Community Council ? Of course we now know that Mr O’Connor had never been elected to represent the Community Council, a fact which all of those present, including the representative from the Evening Express, chose to ignore. It is inconcievable that the other members present could not have known this, although it is of course possible, if not indeed likely, that Ms Robertson did not. Either way, what on earth was a representative from the Evening Express doing at a meeting of Garthdee Community Council?During this same meeting Mr O’Connor explained, without a hint of irony, that he did not recognise the Kaimhill Committee but that he had accepted a nomination from the Parent Council to serve on this same Kaimhill Committee which he refused to recognise. Did Ms Robertson not find this strange? Did she really not consider this to be insane?It does not end there. This meeting also witnessed the resignation announcements of no fewer than FOUR long serving community council members, and the simultaneous election of three co-opted members, two of whom just so happened to be members of the Inchgarth Committee. Did Ms Robertson not find this to be of any interest? Did this not spark any journalistic instinct into life?I could go on and on, although you will be glad to hear I must now conclude this response. Each and every minute of the Garthdee Community Council reveals something of more than passing interest and will form the basis of future posts. Perhaps this is why they have failed to publish any minutes since May.

  42. Daniel Cappello, the executive dritceor of the Jersey Shore Convention & Visitors Bureau.Basketball Wives came on after these House Wives of “Whatever” and begin to act just as stupid and ignorant and violent. This program feature minority. One of the character name “Tami” is the worse of the worse and the most ignorant on the show! All of the women are no role model for no one! Many are mother If you can believe! Shaq’s ex-wife Shaunie O’ Neal, the executive producer of Vh1′s “Basketball Wives” and “Football Wives. Shaunie is behind all the drama and totally guilty of being just as ghetto and ignorant!Who judges the judges? Well, I do. You do! Of course, I’m talking about the television show judges. There’s a plethora of judge shows on American television these days, but the genre started out with Judge Joseph Wapner and the original The People’s Court which had its debut in 1981. I feel the show was the inspiration for the Court TV network today.Judge Waper has strongly criticize Judge Judy calling her unprofessional and a disgrace to the profession. I would like to say that she is not alone. Judge Mathis is also unprofessional and in my opinion angry and disrespectful .A thug in authority! Judge Joe Brown I believe suffer from Alzheimer. Judge Marilyn Milian is sick in the head and has a angry problem she she never ever be a judges! Judge Jeanine Pirro thinks she is a stand up comedian she is a piss poor judge!!! She is nasty and disrespectful to litigants .telling litigant to “sit! Shut up” get out” speaking to litigant like dogs!Right now, I have to list Judge Judy Sheindlin as the epitome of the successful television court judge. She’s quick-witted, clever, brash, and unprofessional and rude, usually acid-tongued. She’s become a successful author, as well as a household name even for those who really don’t watch daytime courtroom fiasco. Um…cases, not fiasco, of course! Hands down, she’s had the most effect on the genre since its inception with Wapner. She’s the Simon Cowell of the television courtroom genre.With the behavior of these people is it any wonder bullying is such a problem in America! Young people look at these TV judges with no self control unprofessional disrespectfully and pure bully. Young people do as they see!

  43. I was harrassed, if that is what I can call it by an old soochl friend. We had been infatuated as youngsters and now in middle age found each other again. After 3 months of email exchanges, photos, phone calls and many plans and promises of a future. I was dicarded without a valid reason. The man seemed to be delusional to say the least. Went from devoted lover and friend to a man who threathens to end my life. Harm and destroy me and all I hold dear. Has made me cringe with fear as he can astral project to my home. Did not like me having other friends. Fabricated a web of lies, that he was dying of cancer etc. Now I am wondering should I go with my gut feeling and do something to protect myself? Can I expect danger? He has my address, emails and contact numbers. I hardly sleep at night.

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