Auntie Says…Bully? How about tormenter or bulldozer?—it’s a better fit.
There was recently an article in the news about a school bullying incident that escalated to the point of involving the police. Apparently the Principal and staff could see the situation getting out of hand and chose to use every resource at their fingertips. Bravo.
The Administrator and staff aren’t miracle workers and realized their own limitations in dealing with a simmering situation. Having outside support is huge in taking a stand against the unrelenting bullying that some students inflict and others suffer.
It was the comments following the article that I found to be most insightful. Many said they were teaching their children to fight back—‘knock the other child down’ they said ‘and then kick them’. While the comments didn’t shock me, they made me sad in that there is a misunderstanding as to what is actually happening in the schools and it makes me think that we need to re-think the word “bully”.
The word is used to conjure up the image of an overly aggressive kid who pushes a smaller one down and steals the ball. That kind of hands on school-yard posturing hasn’t changed over the centuries and is only part of the picture. Parents telling their kids to fight back are not wrong because they’re giving their kid permission to have a voice. It’s a matter of “how” they fight. Hands on doesn’t work and chances are the kid retaliating will be the one who gets in trouble. We’ve all heard it—he started it—but it doesn’t make a difference. Having someone treat you badly is not ok and screaming bloody murder until an adult arrives (or the aggressor leaves) is an option.
Bullying has evolved over the years. It doesn’t necessarily mean hands-on, violent confrontation—it’s become sneakier, slimier, and more silent. Imagine someone walking by your work station every day, several times, whispering, ‘you stink’ or ‘I’m gonna get you’… always out of earshot of any authority figure. What if you were being deliberately ‘nudged’ in the hallway—just enough to throw you off balance—constantly. It’s sometimes done with a smile by someone who’s considered a “good kid” and not necessarily your likely suspects. It can be like a game or power play to them. Imagine going to work everyday and having your co-worker treat you like that. What if, every single day—over and over—you’re told you should ‘go kill yourself’…‘go off and die’…‘no one loves you’? That’s a slow erosion of an individuals self worth and confidence. You might want to punch them in the face in the lunchroom, but then what?
I remember reading about a woman who was the target of an online hate attack. She said that though she knew all the words were false, it ate her up inside. Every time she turned on her computer it was there…mocking her. While computers and phones can be turned off, the hateful whispers, innuendos, the seemingly innocent jabs in the hallway, or the open mocking by individuals, doesn’t go away. The question I ask, is whether or not this nonviolent/hands off bullying is being viewed as being as serious as a bully knocking down a kid and stealing the ball. I’m not sure it is and I think it’s worse—much worse—and frightening.
Maybe we need to change the word ‘bully’ to ‘thug’ or ‘goon’…how about ‘bulldozer’?
The real question is, what satisfaction do these bulldozer kids get out of making someone else feel like crap? I know one person had commented on the recent bully story saying that the home life of the tormentor needs to be the focus. I totally agree. The focus needs to be off the act and on to the wrong-doer. They’re inflicting life long pain for what we all see as ‘no reason’, but there has to be some pay off. I’d like to know what it is.
If you have a story to share…let’s chat.
Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the south Okanagan. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or fayeearcand.com