Children are not the only ones who suffer the wrath of bullies. It happens to people of any age, background, race, or religion and it happens in a myriad of ways. Bullies can be very subtle or violent, young or old, boys or girls, co-workers, family, or strangers. They have one thing in common, bullies prey on those they perceive are weaker than them. That knowledge is useful in defending yourself against them.
I was bullied as a young boy. I was skinny, meek and usually by myself. I was ‘chum’ for bullies who had a feeding frenzy when they saw me. Not surprisingly, the bullies I came across always travelled in pairs. Usually one was the harasser and his buddy was his flunky entourage. Whenever I saw these bullies first (I learned to peek around corners before proceeding) I would run for safety. If they saw me, I would not run, but I would tremble in my shoes. Fortunately, most confrontations were verbal with maybe a little shoving. A couple were more physical and I wasn’t a confident fighter.
In my book, The Power of Dadhood, I have a couple of stories about being bullied. In one story, a young black bus driver in the late 1950s helped me by chasing some white bullies away from me. In another, my father came by as I was being harassed. Both of these incidents greatly affected me for different reasons, which I explain in the book. But there is no doubt I was not prepared for bullies. That is something parents can do for their children.
To ignore them may work for a while. But the bully may feel victory in having thrust the verbal dagger in your self-esteem without consequence and they may look to do it again. They have not been stopped, having gained confidence in their perceived power.
If you can, take a deep breathe and see if you can disarm them instead of angering them. You do that by developing a sense of humor. I was once teased about wearing the same shirt all the time. I told them I got a deal, “but one get five free”. It broke the tension and the teasing stopped. I did, however, stop wearing that shirt to school.
Another thing I now know is physical hurt is rarely as painful as emotional hurt. Just the idea that you may fight back will stop most bullies. One time I did get into a physical fight and I lost badly. I wasn’t seriously hurt but I did have a few scrapes and a bloody nose. Amazingly, I was a little euphoric afterwards because I had not backed down. Had I backed down and ran I would have avoided the bloody nose but felt morose and disappointed in myself. Those feelings last a long time while my nose stopped bleeding before I got home.
Every child is different and no one knows them better than mom and dad. As a parent, you know your child's weaknesses and perceived challenges. Talk to them about different ways to handle themselves in challenging situations. Some preparation will give them more confidence and self-esteem.
If you have a serious issue regarding bullying, you can download this short book for free.
Bullied to Death Click on titleBy Thomas Jacobs
& James Sutton