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Friday, May 3, 2013
Bullying -- The Undiscussed Issues
We all want parents and teachers to take a stronger stance against bullies to protect those being bullied. While this is a laudable position, there is a serious flaw in that thinking. It is a problem that no one is addressing in the overall bullying issue.
This problem is that many of the people we are expecting to be responsible for ending the bullying are also bullies themselves. Bullying is not something that only children and teenagers engage in.
I was bullied as a child -- and as an adult. I was bullied by both children and adults. By far the adults were worse simply due to the fact that they were generally authority figures.
I was the fat kid by the time I was seven. So that opened me up to bullying. I was also a gentle and sensitive child, so that made me easily victimized. There were boys who tormented me, and the occasional girl.
Most of all there was my father, my stepmother, some of my teachers, and eventually some of my bosses. These bullies were worse because there was no escaping or ignoring them. They had power over me and they knew I had to take it.
My father could be both physically and mentally abusive. He had most likely been abused and bullied as a boy. So he continued the pattern. My stepmother has always gone more with being highly insulting and using overt attempts at humiliation. She once even told me that if I became humiliated enough I would lose my weight.
My second grade teacher was someone who never should have become a teacher, but it was back in the days when there still weren't a lot of options for women. Still, she was ill-suited to the career. For some reason she didn't like me and that colored all of her interactions with me. She didn't want me to be as smart as I was, so she kept trying to put me into a lower level reading group but she had to keep moving me back up because I so obviously didn't belong in the slower group. One day I had a bloody nose during a spelling test. The paper became soaked in blood and had to be discarded. The next day she called me up to her desk and began to berate me for not having turned in my spelling test. She wouldn't let me speak so that I could remind her of what had happened to the test. She just kept telling me what an awful and deceitful child I was and she kept it up for some time. Who knows how long she would have gone on bullying me mercilessly if my body had not had a negative reaction to her venom.
I threw up on her desk. I blew chunks everywhere. It was, and still remains, one of the proudest moments of my life. At the end of the school year she was banned from the school district. Apparently I had not been her only victim.
My third grade teacher was not much better. My family life was falling apart at this time as my parents divorced and Mom was returning to work, leaving me feeling marginalized. Not to mention that I was still dealing with the pain of my previous year of school. So I tended to check out of the real world and daydream. To deal with this my teacher would sneak up behind me and hit me in the back of the head -- hard.
This was the year that we were introduced to class elections from President down to Trash Monitor. To my frustration I could never get elected to anything more than Trash Monitor. So I asked my mother what I should do. She suggested that I talk with my teacher. So that is what I did. She looked disdainfully at me and said that she couldn't do anything if the other kids didn't like me.
Another time she hauled me out into the hallway to chew me out because I had been accused of stealing a pencil from one of the boys. She had the boy out there too. As she started in on me I was horrified. I would never steal someone else's pencil. So I lost my temper with the boy and asked him if his name was on it. He said that it had been written on it, really lightly, in pencil. That was when the teacher realized that it was the boy who was lying. She couldn't handle the fact that this child (me) that she disliked so much was innocent. She hustled us back into the classroom without another word. The boy received no punishment for having lied.
Fortunately most of my teachers were far better than this, but I didn't exactly get off to a good start in the world of academia.
When I got out into the working world it was frightening to realize that many companies had (and still have) a corporate culture of bullying. There is a mistaken belief out there that if you keep people terrified about losing their job that you will get more and better work from people. The truth is that I always work harder for the companies that treat me well. When I am treated well I will also accept making less money.
How can we expect adults to stop our children from engaging in bullying when so many adults are willing to agree with the bullies, or by also being bullies themselves? These are the role models for our children. We need to stop bullying overall, not just among children.