Cure for Bullying?

One of the blogs I follow faithfully has been addressing the subject of bullying. It seems like bullies come out of the woodwork in digital areas like social media and blogs.

In recent years, bullying has been a huge subject in the news. Numerous teenage suicides have been attributed to bullying. It isn’t just peer bullying either; some of the most atrocious bullying has been teachers to students.

We tend to think bullying is something kids do. Everyone has to learn to deal with the bullies. Eventually, they grow up and the vile need to put others down or make them look bad disappears. This isn’t the case.

Bullies just get older. They feel empowered to continue their hideous behavior because no one has managed to stop them or convince them of the error of their ways. They up the stakes and suddenly stealing lunch money from the nerd down the street isn’t meeting their need for excitement or validation. Their need for – whatever it is that motivates them to bully.

You can read about one woman’s experience at work here. Can anyone believe that an employer would let such behavior go on unchecked? Maybe if it was the owner who was acting this way, but it wasn’t. One woman ruined a company and caused many people to lose their jobs.

One bully. If one bully can make a fracas, what happens if one ally steps into the fray?

In another post, Kristen Lamb shares some scientific data that indicates bullying behaviors can be stopped. How? Stop feeding the bully.

No, I’m not advocating physical starvation. However, some genetic qualities surface because of reactions in the brain that simulate pleasure or satisfaction become associated with these qualities. Behaviors like bullying and aggression are two such characteristics.

To starve a bully, we need to steal their satisfaction. How can you do this? Let’s take a lesson from my oldest son first:

He was in sixth grade, entering middle school. Before school and after school while waiting for the bus, he played catch  with some boys. A few 8th graders decided to have a little fun with this scrawny little jock-wanna-be. He came home covered in mud, with his shirt ripped off, with his hood dangling from his hooded sweatshirt and his backpack straps snapped in two.

You can bet Mama Bear was on top of that. Those bullies would be sorry – if they could still breathe when I finished with them. My son told me not to contact the school or their parents. He wanted to deal with it.

He laughed along with their pushing and shoving. He shrugged and submitted, pretending it was all in good fun. They couldn’t get his goat. They couldn’t make him cry. He wouldn’t shove back or try to get them to stop. Suddenly, it wasn’t fun for them anymore and they stopped.

It took about three months for this resolution. My son wrote a few stories about bullies for language arts assignments during this time. He maintained excellent grades and continued to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities.

I won’t say I didn’t bite my nails during this time or that my blood didn’t boil when another item of ripped clothing came home – courtesy of the bullies. I will say that my son handled the situation in the way he determined was best. At 12, he understood that if he didn’t give the bullies what they wanted – a scared crybaby or whiny tattletale – they would leave him alone.

That’s the essence of the scientific data. We can starve bullies of their satisfaction. Don’t engage them. Stand up as a unified front against them.

I don’t have the patience that my son displayed at 12. (He obviously inherited that trait from his father.) I prefer to be the change. I would rather step in and stand beside the person being bullied. I’m the one who got her face pounded in for telling the bully to stop.

I’m also the one who got spanked in the principal’s office for smiting the bully in the mouth when they spouted off filthy lies. In either case, I am not someone who can be a bystander. Injustice infuriates me. People picking on the little guy because he’s defenseless ignites a fire of ferocity under my feet.

What do you think? What’s the cure for bullying? Can a regular girl like me (or you) stop a big, bad bully in their tracks?

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.