Sunday, May 30, 2010

Some Thoughts on Bullies

Recently I came across a post on Facebook by Annie Fox (http://anniefox.com/cruel.php) and found her web site Cruel's Not Cool.  My son has been mistaken for a bully in the past due to some behaviour issues. In fact he was what some call a provocative victim - someone who kind of gets himself in over his head with kids socially and then can't retreat and tries to fight his way out.


We hosted a Dare to Care session for parents at our school and the administration followed it up with a kid's version. It helped me solidify some thoughts and feelings I have about bullies and bullying and victims and victimization.


I'll give you some background: I had bullying tendencies as a child. I bullied my brother and some kids at school... then somewhere along the way the tables were turned and I became a victim throughout grades 6-9. It was a horrible time in my life and I really feel I got dealt a much tougher deal than what I'd dished out. I think when I bullied as a kid I was a situational type of bully... there was no systematic bullying, which is one of the necessary ingredients to be a true bully. But let me get back on track with my thoughts...



First I think we have to realize that adults can display some bullying behaviour that is masked as "authority" or "demanding respect". They forget that you must give respect to gain it and they write off kids' feelings as moot... so not surprising kids behave the same way to others.


Second, I think we need to consider that no child grows up as a natural bully. they were all bullied before... likely by adults first.


So often we think bullies need to be made to feel worse for their actions but we forget that if they were at peace inside themselves and feeling ok about themselves, they wouldn't be bullies in the first place and no amount of shunning or brow beating will make them choose better actions in the first place, it will just make them bury their emotions for a later date, sometimes in adulthood in the workplace.


As a society we save all our compassion for the victims, we have none left for the bullies. Imagine if we treated them as victims as well, or saved some compassion for them. It's obvious that they are hurting inside and it's just overflowing...


The solution that society finds acceptable is to tell the bully that he or she is wrong/bad/evil/horrible. That in itself is a form of bullying, systematically (a system, society) telling someone they are "less than". It's not discipline, discipline comes from the word discipleship: "One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another".


To me, this means we have to embrace and assist bullies, to help them heal and find their missing pieces. Because when they do that, they can fully understand how their actions affect others and they can fix the wrongs their actions created.

6 comments:

Annie Fox said...

Well said! Thanks for reminding us that we've all been on all sides of the bullying issue at one time or another. I tell this to the kids at my student assemblies... just like them I have, at times, been a bully, a gossip, a "2nd lieutenant," a target, a silent witness/bystander... been there! I've also reminded kids that when we're angry or hurt or jealous enough to want to get back at someone, we ourselves need some support to help us deal with our feelings and the situation that got us where we are.

Annet said...

At one time or another, I am sure we have all been on the giving or receiving end of this. Whether it be in the workplace, at sporting events, at school, in families, etc. I too am close to this issue at the moment, for my son has recently been expelled from school for so-called bullying behaviors. He is popular, funny, bright, and not at all shy. Everywhere he goes, there are kids who flock to him, and he is usually always smiling. He changed schools to my hometown a year and a half ago and suddenly became the target of a "provocative victim" who had never fit in and was upset because the "new kid" jumped the barriers to the top of the social ladder. The school took his side and since then my son has been labeled "bully", "dangerous", "seeking to fit in" etc. If it were not for his extreme resilience, I think he would have allowed all of this to destroy his self image and errode his confidence. But he perserveres. Since we began homeschooling, he began to smile again, and the kid that I know came back. Sometimes, I think the "victims" use bullying as a tactic that they know will work in a "zero tolerance" environment, and since schools are so hypervigilant, it is rare for them to question a complaint from a student or parents. Sometimes the "bully" is really the victim, and in the process is slandered and their reputation left in tatters.....

Serenity Now! said...

We may have different definitions of provocative victim Annet. The one difference between a bully and a provocative victim is that the PV does not target or plan what happens.

Other than bystanders (like those Annie mentioned) there are three victims: passive victim, provocative victim, bully victim.

Some web sites claim that the PV is called such because they try to provoke the attack. But the training I went through suggests that the INTENT is never to provoke bullying but that there is an appearance of provocation that is actually a kid with poor social skills trying to defend himself by going toe-to-toe and failing.

I could be wrong and every situation is totally unique. It sounds like your son is a victim of a specific system in that school. I feel that at times we have to fight for our kids to be seen as unique individuals and not as stereotypes.

Anonymous said...

It is a really long story, but to make it short, the problems started when my son tried out for school sports. The "victim" was at the bottom end of the "draft" and so was my son, there were 3 kids vying for 2 spots. The other child began to accuse my son of bullying to attempt to have him suspended from the team. That was last year.
The background on the "provocative victim" is that he comes from a family where all the children are adopted, the family is extremely enmeshed, overprotective mother, father who will sponsor sports just so his very unatheletic, ADHD child who sits in the middle of the basketball court during practice because he loses focus, will be able to play on the team. My son got in the way, and the bullying from the other family was systematic. The school called the other child a provocative victim in that he antagonized and hung around where the peer group did not want him, and when he was rejected he would act out aggressively. He beat up younger children on the school bus, and attacked mine on the first basketball trip out of town. That's when the harassment towards us started. We are meeting with a rep from the Minister of Education today to discuss this again, as we were not satisfied with the School Board's actions because they only acted to protect the liability of the school, the principal and the board.

AnnetR said...

Sorry, that was me again. Annet

Serenity Now! said...

That sounds very tough Annet. My heart goes out to you. It sounds as though the parents don't believe in natural consequences. My son has ADHD Inattentive type and what happens if he doesn't pay attention in sports is that he won't get picked. As it turns out, sports is the only think he pays attention too I think! :)