Bookworm has a post up about bullying.  I found myself trying to recall how it was handled when I was a kid, but honestly I can't remember a single example.  Did I grow up in some kind of pacifist's paradise?  Now and then kids would be mean to other kids, ostracizing them, forming nasty little cliques, but I can't remember anyone being beaten up or physically terrorized.  Sometimes the outdoor play in the neighborhood got a little rough as kids experimented with projectiles and informal combat, but it seemed to be equally rough on everyone who got in the way, not directed at any special scapegoats or victims.

Did any of you grow up in similarly bully-free schools or neighborhoods?  If you grew among the bullies I read about all the time, did people fight back?  Get the adults involved?


Eric Blair said...

The adults did not care in the schools I went to.

The attitude seemed to me at the time to be: "You need to turn the other cheek."

Cold comfort that was.

Grim said...

It can be effective, under the right circumstances. I once had an older boy come up behind me and hit me with both fists joined together, like a club, across the back of my neck. I turned around, looked at him, and then walked on.

I never saw him again. After that, he'd go hide if I was in the area. I mean, he gave it his best shot.

That was in High School. We had lots of fights in junior high. I really used to enjoy them, though, so I can't say that I ever felt bullied. There's something very satisfying to a boy of that age to scrap with others. It's one of the natural joys of the age that we've somehow managed to ruin for them.

That does not apply to boys in leg-braces, of course, like the one in the story T99 cites. I think they have always had a very rough life; there seems to be a natural human impulse to try to kill off the weaker members of the troop, perhaps out of some instinctive sense that they are sick or may otherwise bring harm to the group. The anger we feel at the injustice doesn't change the fact that such torment also feels very right to the bully, or appears to do: they have a kind of primal sense that they're doing the right thing (and therefore, they never leave off).

Grim said...

However, that fact also implies a solution: the weak one can escape their torment if they prove their strength. This child's impulse to bring a gun was the right general idea; it just needs to be refined.

E Hines said...

My bullying encounter was as a third-grader in a new town and a new state. Another boy and two girls began picking on me, pushing and shoving. I took it for a few days (my mother's "turn the other cheek" meme), but finally I'd had enough. One recess, I beat the crap out of the boy, and when I went after the girls, they ran. I never had to face them again, and I never was bothered again.

One advantage I had though, was mind set. I had two older brothers (the youngest of whom was 7 years older), and we fought all the time--both real brotherly fights and ordinary rough-house fights. I never was disposed to losing or accepting my lot. And I was an experienced fighter. In that playground fracas, I skipped all the pushing and shoving and rolling around on the ground; I went straight for the head with closed fists, mixing in deliberate punches to the upper stomach (the concept of solar plexus or diaphragm being unknown to me at the time). When the boy folded, I did go down on the ground with him, continuing punching him out.

I had many fights after that in grade school, but not more than any other kid my age, and never any started by me, never any more with that gang, and the fights always were brief affairs. I never enjoyed the fighting and avoided them when I could, the "many fights" notwithstanding. Given my experience with my older brothers, I've always viewed fighting as total war affairs (even if not articulated that way at that age), and I got no enjoyment out of the damage I viewed as necessary to inflict to avoid losing--and the consequences of losing to a bully.

Teacher involvement? Not so much. During that earlier bullying episode, I did tell a teacher. I don't recall the specifics of her response, but it was clear to me that there was not quarter to be had from the adults. The primary concern was that the same number of kids who went out to recess came back to class after recess.

If geography matters, this was in upstate Illinois.

Eric Hines

bthun said...

Back in my day, fathers and as often as not mothers expected the child to stand up for himself. Of course back in my day bullies were often little more than posers styling and profiling to intimidate the smaller, meeker, and/or weaker to give up the lunch money or cow down simple to pump egos.

I can not recall a single instance where any sort of weapon was used. Way back when there was a notion, even among the angry youth, that there are lines not to be crossed. So I'm going to say there was very little serious violence, unless a person considers youngsters scrapping hand to hand, one on one, serious violence.

As Grim points out, "We had lots of fights in junior high. I really used to enjoy them, though, so I can't say that I ever felt bullied. There's something very satisfying to a boy of that age to scrap with others. It's one of the natural joys of the age that we've somehow managed to ruin for them."

Yup, I encountered bullies mostly in the middle (we called it junior high back then) and a few in the high schools I attended. Come to think of it, there were far fewer in high school. I can only recall a handful of serious fights in high school, and of those, only one where the opponent was considered a bully.

I guess I was fortunate in having two older brothers that instilled in me a desire, no make that a burning need to resist being pushed around, think of the character in this tune. My experiences with bullies was usually a one-shot affair. Again I will credit two older brothers who gave me a determined will to fight back. They also upped my threshold for pain through their training techniques.

bthun said...

*Nods in the direction of Mr. Hines regarding having the older brothers as trainers. The age spread between myself and my nearest older bro is 11 years.*

MikeD said...

Mostly I dealt with social bullying, but I did have one physical bully in sixth grade. That one ended with adult intervention as I recall. I'm not quite sure why it didn't end with a fight, I'd been in fights previously (but I can't recall any after). Perhaps it was a case of "both parties will be in trouble", but I can't actually recall if that was the case or not.

I do distinctly recall that around 9th grade (when my growth spurt hit) that if I ran into that kid again (he went to a different HS) that I would exact a pound of flesh in revenge. Lucky for me, I never saw him again. Not because I'd be worried about getting hurt (I was MUCH bigger than he at that point) but because I'd probably gotten into some trouble (at least with my parents as at that point, I'd have been the aggressor).

Joseph W. said...

The way I learned it - it wasn't "bullying" at all unless it was physical. And I was brought up on the "fight back" model - by my family, I mean, not my worthless public schools. These would punish me equally with the aggressor when I fought back, if the adults got involved at all. I didn't care - it was always worth it.

Cass said...

My husband was gone so much of the time when my boys were young. I grew up moving pretty much every year, and new kids are always targets for bullies.

I reacted the way Grim suggested earlier - I just tried to stay calm and talk my way out of it. This seemed to work all the time, even with groups of kids who followed my little brother home from school. As long as I showed no fear and no emotion, they backed down.

Not so sure this would have worked if I'd been a boy, though. I will say that I saw girls fighting in jr. high and that really scared me.

I told my boys to try my method first, but if (and only if) that didn't work, they should hit the other kid as hard as possible. Try to knock them down and then walk away. That seemed to work. I remember only one real fight apiece with my sons. In the first case, the two boys ended up being good friends. In the second, a group of bullies left my youngest alone after he fought back and there were no repercussions from the school.

Joseph W. said...

Never got a knockdown myself, but drawing blood and leaving visible marks is a good thing - bullies, as I knew them, hate to bleed and hate to be marked.

bthun said...

"I grew up moving pretty much every year, and new kids are always targets for bullies."

So true. My first year at the high school in N. Calif was an adventure. My first week there a kid, the only bully I can recall fighting in high school, jumped me without warning in phys ed class. The event went to ground and I *again tips hat to older brothers training* managed to wind up sitting on his chest making a mess of his face. Next thing I know, I was floating aloft, suspended by the very large and very strong coach, who then tells me how disappointed he is in me. *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* =8^}

A few weeks later, I was standing in the courtyard talking to other kids when I was hit in the back with a rock. I was told one of the laughing upperclassmen threw the rock, so being reared as a Southern gentleman, I gave it back to him, at a high velocity. The bell to go to class rang, he threatened to finish the skirmish later but never did. Typical tough guy.

I was not tested any further by the male tribes at that high school.

Anonymous said...

I was bullied all though Jr. High and High School. I'd become the chosen target and it stuck for five years or so. Fat nerds didn't stand much of a chance.

My defense? I vanished into a mental world where I was the pilot of a giant transforming robot, I dreamed of joining the military, and studied as hard as I could in order to get OUT of that place. Only during my senior year, when I started winning all sorts of awards, did I become mildly respected. I learned much later that at one point my parents planned to pull me out of school but the principal convinced them to keep me in because it was so late in the year. Otherwise I'd have to repeat the year at my new school.

I didn't complain in Jr. High because it was the cool kids who picked on me, and in High School I was told that the boys were just being friendly and I should try harder to be friendly back. Um, Mr. Assistant Principal, having to beat a guy off of me with a hard-back library book, and later being thrown down two flights of stairs by his friends when a third party (senior) beat up the bully, is not a sign of being friendly.

And yet people wonder why I don't have fond memories of my teenage years. *snort*


RonF said...

Well, I got bullied a fair amount when I was a kid in elementary grades. Fat, glasses, smartest kid in the school combined to not make me popular. If can call being dragged into the boys' room, getting thrown to the floor and urinated on and then getting thrown out of the boys' room "unpopular". Then between 7th and 8th grade I went from 5' 6" and 156 pounds to 5' 10" and 156 pounds. I walked into school the first day of 8th grade and got accosted by a boy accustomed to picking on me. Having been coached up a bit by my older brothers I popped him one, and that was that. Getting a girlfriend cemented my new status - "at least you're not a faggot" I was told.