Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Today is "anti-bullying day" which I'm all for, though I think it'd be a lot more effective if it were "let the bullying victims bring a baseball bat to school day". There's something about a face-full of Louisville Slugger that tells you not to pick on the four-eyed kid!

In my youth, I wore thick glasses and only managed to evade serious bullying the only way I knew how--make friends with the Japanese kid who everyone would think knew Karate. Unfortunately, this fooled absolutely no one, and so in my third grade mind it occurred to me that the tough and cool kids on TV shows were always the dumb ones (the only TV shows I watched back then were reruns of "Welcome Back Kotter" and "Happy Days"), so my strategy at that point was to always pretend in class that I had the wrong answers. Fortunately I was no longer "four eyes" as I was promoted to "that dumb kid who has glasses but not the smarts that go with them". This is not a good strategy for bully victims.

What is the best way to deal with bullies? The usual solutions seem useless.

1) Talk to the teacher about it. Waste of time--the teachers aren't allowed to smack students anymore (thank you, Supreme Court) and a firm talking to or detention for the bully only means the victim is going to get it far worse next time the teacher isn't around.

2) Laugh along with the bullies, so they see you're not vulnerable. This only makes them think you don't get that they're making fun of you! Then you can add "clueless" to the playground taunts.

3) Remember that the bullies have bad home lives, and are unloved. Er, what are you supposed to do with this information? Feel better about getting shoved and mocked? Or worse, tell the bully that you understand their pain??? That's just the sort of Phil Donahue advice that's going to make things worse.

4) Wait until no one is looking, and smash the bully's head in with a lunch tray. This works in prison, but not so much on the outside. You'll end up in juvenile hall, explaining to therapists about your anger issues. Until you bash the therapist in the head.

5) Don't make yourself a victim. There's something to this--the ones who stand out and are loners are most likely to be picked on. But not everyone can make friends easily, and in the meantime they're getting harassed pretty severely. It's like telling the people of Mexico to "fix your economic and political system". If it were easy it'd have been done.

Sadly, teachers and school administrators can only do so much, since their eyes will miss most of what goes on in the schoolyard and afterward. The only realistic thing to do will come from the parents--teach your kids to toughen up if they're the victims of bullying, and to remember that the day will come when they can swing by in a limo to their former tormenter's home and pay him to clean the hubcaps with their tongue. If you're the parents of bullies, give them the rigid discipline and love they sorely crave, and teach them to use their violence for good instead of evil (like becoming a mercenary with a heart of gold, or a bouncer for a bar that really needs one).

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