I saw the article "Memoirs of a Bullied Kid" on the site Single Dad Laughing. It's written by a guy named Dan Pearce, and he seems like a hell of a guy. He's talking about raising his son, about accepting yourself, dealing with conflict, things like that. Pretty inspirational and good stuff.
The Memoirs of a Bullied Kid article must've taken a lot of guts to write, and I massively respect that. That said, I disagree with his conclusion on how to deal with violent bullies. So I want to send some praise and respect in his direction, but also some significant disagreement.
I originally wrote this as a comment for Hacker News, but it came out to about a normal post's length. Tone is more discussion site level than blog post level, but you'll get the gist of it -
"Son, as soon as someone puts their hands on you..."
This comment will be controversial, especially for North Americans and Western Europeans. I ask you to read it and think about it a moment before reacting, and comment if you disagree. I believe what I'm about to say is true, and I'm not trying to get a rise out of people - I want to fix some problems with society.
I feel for the author. I also moved around a lot as a kid. No, wasn't a military family. Just coincidences, reorganizations at work a few times in a row, changing jobs, family circumstances. Sometimes things went great and I fell into a group of good kids right away, sometimes they weren't so good. It's normal that sometimes the new kid gets shit. I understand.
A little teasing is nasty, but kids can cross the line. Something like this:
John and Mike never stopped. They never gave me a day off. And while their bullying hit maximum levels within a few days of school starting, the self loathing grew until I actually hated myself. ... they started in on new bullying tactics like sneaking up and cramming food from the floor into my mouth, knocking my lunch tray to the ground, throwing dangerous objects at me, tripping me, shoving me, and pushing me.
That's crossing the line. Those John and Mike kids are way past any acceptable teasing/jockeying line.
What's the author advise?
And so, I will ask you now to not hate the bullies. Experience tells me that hating them, or being angry with them, will always make it worse. Instead, put your arm around them. Love them. Tell them that they are valuable. Tell them that you expect great things from them. They will stop the bullying.
No, they won't.
This is where I'll offend polite society. I'm not doing it to get a rise out of you. I'll tell you - this is the mainstream advice you hear growing up these days. "Love the bullies, talk it out, and they'll stop."
No, that's false. That's how we got into this mess in the first place.
I remember I changed schools mid-year in seventh grade when we moved. I was born in August which is the cut-off date, so I was effectively a year younger than everyone else. I was 11 years old. The middle school I transferred to was 7th, 8th, and 9th grade. Just how that district was laid out.
A ninth grader - 14 or 15 years old, much bigger than me - pushed me into the lockers the third day at school. Hard.
He then laughed with his friends and started to walk off.
I ran after him, tackled him, and started hitting him in the face.
We both got suspended. No one caused problems with me after that. I found a nice group of friends and was respected. The older kid didn't cause me any problems after that either. He didn't really acknowledge me one way or the other, we were just strangers after that, which suited me fine.
And that's how you've got to do. This love the bullies thing - it's wrong. It ignores our animal nature.
I've got some sets of names I'd name my sons as they're born. They're unconventional names - Cosimo Marshall or Aurelius Marshall if the boy's mother was Italian, Zhuge Marshall if he was Chinese. The boy will likely get teased.
That's fine, tease back.
But son, as soon as someone puts their hands on you, they've crossed a line. Fuck them up. It's the only thing these vicious freaks understand. They're wild animals. They make violence on you, you need to show them that you're the stronger, bigger animal. When someone attacks you maliciously for no reason, you need to impose your will on them.
Even if you lose, lose swinging. They respect it. Be a tough fight.
This "talk it out" shit doesn't work... it's been the dogma for the last 30-50 years, it assumes the nobility of human nature will win out. It doesn't. It's nonsense. It just simply doesn't work.
If you're not strong enough to impose your will on someone making violence on you, then train and get stronger. If you're intelligent, it doesn't matter if the other guy is bigger than you. Take up boxing or martial arts. Brain beats brawn. Fight dirty if you have to. They shove food down your pants or whatever? As soon as he turns around, hit him in the back of the head as hard as you can. If you're much smaller, pick up a hard object and do it.
My Mom is awesome. She picked up from school when I was suspended. We sat in the principal's office and she was very serious, saying yes, my son is serious about school, he never gets into problems, I don't know what happened with the fight. After we left, she took me out to lunch and said good job.
I wished I'd learned that lesson earlier. Some people are animals. The ones that want to hurt you for no reason. Show them that you'll go to self-destructive lengths to defend yourself and avenge yourself upon them, and they'll stop. Also, protect others. I got into a shouting match protecting some McDonald's employees from a mob boss in Hong Kong. A riot cop came to break it up, I was almost in a fight with three mafia guys.
I had two guys try to mug me the other day in a dangerous area. Bad mistake, doubled one of them over with a kick the stomach and shouted at the other one, "YOU WANT TO DIE? BACK DOWN, STAY BACK." He did, he let me walk away while his criminal buddy was doubled over.
Should I have "talked" with them, "loved" them, these vicious criminals? No, they're animals. They don't understand.
Teach your kid to fight back and fight smart. Protect the weak. Be hell and misery to bad people. Pacifism only works if there's someone else that's strong around to keep things together - someone who'll stick up for you. If everyone goes pacifist except the bad people, eventually one bad person with no conscience winds up ruling.
No. It doesn't work. Teach your kids to fight back, fight smart, defend and assert themselves, and protect others in trouble. There's legitimately bad people in the world, barely above animals, and strength is the only thing they respect. Assert yourself.
I don't have a specific tactic but for the sake of it I'll try to make the best example I can. I disagree with your advice. I however, also do not agree with the pacifist advice to a certain extent. I think the best outcome of an interaction in those circumstances would be when the victim establishes respect without physical harm to the aggressor. #1 this makes the victim seem more powerful because he did not have to exhibit much effort whilst putting the aggressor in a less dominant position. Example would be not letting the aggressor off the hook. Walk back up to him if he pushed you into a locker. The next step would be something like asking the aggressor why he did that and establish limits to horseplay (politely or more demanding manner depending on the situation and answer). If the aggressor responds in a taunting manner give him a dose of reality by a more stand-off comment something that establishes your perception of his reality how it is f*cked up (study in psychology would help with this) and to walk towards him while keeping a calm manner. I can't give a specific example of what to say, but it would have to be in close timing with the last words about his personality, a criticizing of sorts. What you would say though, would have to exhibit a perception that you are in control of the situation with a witty comment, taunt, or challenge. He will then two things back down or come at you. In the first case you established social dominance over that person and you can reward them with behavior to further establish a better connection between you, but with the second you have to be able to seem like you are maintaining a neutral attitude while subduing him quickly. I'm not talking about jumping on him and bashing him in the face over and over again; I'm talking about Tom Cameron techniques. Martial arts that subdue the opponent easily without causing physical harm to him or yourself. This to me is the perfect response and establishes complete control over the situation. Although I will clarify that this isn't an ideal world and not everyone will be trained in martial arts so in this circumstance I think it is better to find a more indirect way of establishing a connection while at the same time exhibiting some sort of punishment for being aggressive towards you whether it be talking to his parents and having them punish the child for being out of line or kicking his ass yourself, or making him experience social pressure and embarrassment. It's really just my broader perspective of the situation. I agree with your tactics in certain situations but do not believe they are ideal, because I would want to achieve touching and influencing that person in a positive way. I believe the guilty are not damned; they can be saved. And no, I am not being religious here, but philosophical. I hope that makes since
Thank you for reading. -Jake
so true !! i would never tolerate my son being bullied around in a school yard, i would insist that he stands up to the bully rather him being an introverted target that bullies feed on, fight back, fight smart !
Not much to add that hasn't already been said. So, these two quotations, which I think are brilliant, should do.
The first is from Ciaran Healy, the philosopher who unravelled the Eastern myth of enlightenment down to its very core. "It is the fate of honest men in the midst of atrocity to be at war."
The second is from Karl Popper, found in his book, The Open Society and Its Enemies vol 1. "Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them."
So, I realize this is an older post and I'm now the last person in the conga line but I'll go ahead and throw down a comment because this topic always strikes a cord with me. I only ever had one bullying experience when I was a kid and I most certainly didn't love the bully. A kid who was my age only with a rough and violent streak came up behind me and put me in a headlock. My immediate reaction was to nearly snap his leg in half. It didn't end well for him, and no one else stuck up for him. By some unbelievable twist of luck, none of it got reported to school administrators. No one got suspended. No one else ever attempted any physical violence towards me again, ever, for any reason. And believe it or not I got along pretty well with the bully after that.
Here is another less dramatic example of the animalistic response hinted at in the post. I took karate lessons as a kid. It was cheesy, silly, a lot better than baseball, and despite its undeniably strong tendency to attract the strange I took a lot of really valuable life lessons from it. One of those was that some things cannot be told, they can only be shown or lived. There was a simple drill we used to do, you would pair off with another person and each would take turns throwing punches at the other persons abs, and taking said punches. The point was to work on your control, not force. So you were supposed to hit very, very lightly. Just make a snap on the edge of the skin. Of course many people, particularly natural bullies, liked to take that opportunity to wail on someone as hard as they could. I was very good at taking punches, and had a lot of control. So most people thought I couldn't hit very hard when in reality I was simply demonstrating a high degree of control over my force. Whenever someone new decided to unload mule punches with no control I would always give them one opportunity to reign it in and say "hey, that was pretty hard, you should control your punches more" when they decided to not take that advice, I'd double them over with a force at least 2x the one they had delivered. No one ever needed more than 1 or 2 lessons to understand the value of control. You can't tell people they are punching you too hard, all you can do is punch them harder.
I think life isn't something that should be trifled with. As long as an argument is still verbal, there are very few good reasons to escalate it to the physical. But once someone crosses that line, and means you real harm you should strive to end that threat with every ounce of your energy.
This is not at all the situation the author is discussing. Your son was not being physically threatened, but rather annoyed by another student and responded with violence...
I agree that we don't have a world of peace and harmony
What I question is to provide solution where kids have to solve it alone and by themselves (learn to fight and kick our opponent yourself). It's giving an easy and very comfortable way out for adults, and that's pretty unfair in my opinion. (i show you how to fight, now my job is done).
I could summarize it like this: this solution lack love.
I agree. Totally. We need to be good citizens, etc., but you need to draw a line at some point and let people know (somehow - it doesn't always need to be violence) that there's only so much shit you're going to take from anyone.
I got a similar situation when I was in school. I was always the shy type and was lucky enough that I grew past 1.70m (5.5') by the time I was 11, so most of the time people just let me alone. I had my friends, etc., but there was always the asshole that would get cocky (it was the right age for that).
I only needed to use physical violence twice: once, one of my classroom mates decided to pick on me and, ignoring the fact that I was taller and stronger than him, when I got bored of it (something like a week after he had started), I just pushed him against a fence while he tried to get rid of me and made it clear (verbally) that I wasn't taking it anymore. I tell you, I should haved done that before... no more problems.
In the same school, not a year later, I had another problem, this time with a guy not in my classroom (but my same age). I knew he was one of the "problematic" ones, and he tried to generally harass me and, at some point, just pownced on me because he thought it was funny. I didn't: I wear glasses and back then I was quite conscious of it, how expensive they were to my parents and I just didn't anybody to break them accidentally. I simply blocked him, but he got hurt. An hour later, he came to me and tried to hit me. Again, I was bigger, etc., so he end up in the ground and I was an inch to hit his face. No need too; it was witnessed and everybody got the idea: don't mess with the shy kid, because he'll fight back. Actually, he got suspended (I managed to get away with it), and had no problems whatsoever for the next few years.
So... no, I won't recommend my kids to just go and fight their way out of everything, but if it ever comes to this, I'll probably explain them this little story of their younger dad, and let them decide...
Your own arguments work against your conclusion.
You say that undiagnosed vascular problems etc. could lead to death one in n hits, etc.
Of course, those statistics are valid for the victim as well, and the chance the victim dies increases every time he does not defend himself.
As a child I fought the bully. He did back down for a while. He still verbally harassed me for several years. I always suspected he became a marine.
But now with my own son, I feel its very import to find a school for him where he will not be bullied. He is going to the most expensive school in town. In order to be admitted you have to produce a good conduct letter from a former teacher. He is very happy at this school. There is no bullies. It is a sacrifice to send him there but I feel its worth it.
There are other solutions to fighting back.
I've studied bullying for a number of years now. The social dynamics of bullying are very old, evolutionarily speaking. The references to dominance hierarchies and such are not ill-placed, teenagers are primates after all.
Coupled with that, they're grappling with all sorts of psycho-social issues ranging from hormones to newly placed pressures to define themselves and seek a future worthy of respect, etc.
Moreover, this is the first and last place (outside prison) where physical dominance really matters and can be exercised with relatively little consequence - so bullies milk it the best they can.
More interestingly, however, is the folk psychology behind bullying - especially the post-70's origins of the "low self-esteem" theory of bullying; which is the pseudo-scientific backing to what is essentially a Christian message of passivity (to whit, many low self-esteem theory experiments were sponsored by Christian institutions).
The evidence, however, just doesn't stack up. Bullies frequently score much higher than normal on self-esteem tests. Nearly all research done in the last 20 years confirms most people's intuitions - bullies are self-centered assholes who hurt other people because its fun and they can get away with it.
The best way to handle it, it seems, is to increase accountability. This is distinct from consequence. If a bully thinks he will get caught and in trouble (virtually any amount of trouble) the likelihood of him bullying abates. Whereas, even if the penalties are very stiff, if a bully doesn't think he'll get caught or the punishment will "stick" he'll bully remorselessly.
It's unlikely we (as parents, teachers and legislators) can remove or reduce the social incentives to bullying - as mentioned above dominance hierarchies are instinctive. But we can improve the ways bullying is monitored and punished.
In my research, a big barrier to bully accountability is actually that the punishments are too harsh and not contextually determined. If a teacher gets wind of bullying, there are usually pre-determined routines of punishment to be exacted. Not only is this a lot of work for teachers, many back-off because the punishment is often very severe (thanks to the 'zero-tolerance' system) and ill-fitting to the offence. These systems were erected to be "fair" and to avoid teachers being victimized by overly defensive parents of bullies (side note: bullying is strongly hereditary).
This allows bullying to continue so long as its below some arbitrary threshold of severity.