Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dealing With Bullies and Their Parents

In the midst of economic collapse, Middle-Eastern uprisings and a budget struggle threatening to shut down the country, President Obama today gave us a speech about bullying.

It is ironic that the very atmosphere of political correctness fostered by the folk who put the President in office is responsible for the rampant rise of bullying in American schools.

Where I grew up, if you did something wrong, the neighbors hit the phones and your mama knew about it before you could get home.  If you got in trouble at school, you got in twice as much when you got home. If you committed a heinous act in front of an adult, that adult was very likely fully empowered by your Dad to bust your butt. Then, when Dad found out about it, he'd bust your butt and call his friend to thank him for popping you on his behalf.

We have passed through an era in which people have gradually become so afraid of being sued by parents or reported to child abuse authorities that grown adults are reduced to mere bystanders.  Hillary Clinton is fond of telling people it takes a village to raise a child. Unfortunately, the litigous nanny state we live in has handcuffed all the people in the village and turned loose the children unsupervised.

And children are notorious barbarians. Without supervision they adopt a "Lord of the Flies" tribal social structure in which bullies rule the roost. So how do you, as a concerned adult, do anything about the problem of child-thugs in your neighborhood, public parks, grocery stores or churches?

You follow the advice of the angels!

Whenever an angel appears, the first word it always says is, "Fear not!"

Providing guidance to children is a rough sport and not for the faint-hearted. You must show unflinching courage when facing a young hoodlum. They smell fear. Show none! When you observe a child bullying another, here's what to do:

  1. Approach the scene of the crime quickly, with a firm stride and confidence in your demeanor.
  2. Don't ask for permission. If the parent is nearby, don't make eye contact with them. Keep focused on the young miscreant.
  3. Firmly tell the child, "That's enough." Expect him to stop and give him (or her) your best steely-eye and usually, the shock will stop the behavior long enough for you to move between the bully and the intended victim. Do not raise your voice. Speak calmly and evenly. A calm person has great power, grasshopper. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth if you need to calm down.
  4. Describe the specific behavior you want stopped, even if it sounds vague as in, "Stop tormenting Tommy."  The more specific you are about what you saw, the better.
  5. Don't argue with the bully.  He will deny the behavior. Don't be surprised when he does. Whatever you do, don't let him draw you into an argument. If you allow him to challenge your version of the facts, you give him power over you.
  6. End the incident quickly. The best way is to explain to the bully that you WILL follow up by talking to his mother and father. They usually beat a hasty retreat at this point.
What you should do if the child's angry parent steps in?

I long ago quit asking parents if I could correct their kids. Usually, if I have to bark at one, the parents are more embarrassed than the kid. Also I'm large and have that teacher persona, so I seldom have a parent get in my face about it - not that it would do any good if they were to try. In the couple of incidences where a parent did take umbrage, I patiently explained to the parent, the full extent of the child's sin, explained exactly why I felt it necessary to intervene and assured them that I only intervened because I was not aware they were nearby and was certain they would never have condoned such behavior had they been fully aware of the problem.

Getting the parent involved in this fashion is one really great way to send home the misery to a child who is bullying his peers. The conversation at home typically begins with, "How could you embarrass me like that...."

If all the adults out there actually did subscriibe to the "It takes a village" philosophy, unruly kids wouldn't have anywhere to go to perpetrate their petty crimes. They would be confronted with corrective forces at every turn. Nothing trains a child better than living in an environment where every adult in the child's life subscribes to the 15 commandments.  You know the first ten. I've added five more as a kind of appendix for children.

     1. Thou shalt not sass thy Mama
     2. Thou shalt not run with scissors or other sharp objects.
     3. Thou shalt not go swimming for one hour after eating.
     4. Thou shalt not scratch thy private parts in public.
     5. And thou shalt not bully!

It's time adults in this country buck up and provide these young-uns some guidance. There's nothing to be afraid of. You cannot be sued for telling a child to behave himself. Just don't hit them or raise your voice and you'll be okay.


1 comment:

  1. Oh, and the sixth: Thou shalt wear clean underwear lest thou be injured in a car accident and have to go to the emergency room.