The fact is that when you’re dealing with a real bully situation (not just individual and sporadic bad behavior) chances are good that your child is not the only victim. The trick is to talk to the kids. I have always been successful in getting answers from kids. They do speak the truth – and they can be much wiser than we give them credit, and possibly much wiser than us.
One day, talking to a group of kids about Terry’s treatment of Jack, one of the girls said, “Everyone says Terry will grow up to go to jail.” When I asked why the kids think so she wasn’t able to give me a coherent explanation – which is natural. She just expressed a vague feeling among the kids.
Over the years I have listened to a lot of back-seat conversations between kids as I drive them places. One of those times my son and two friends were discussing Terry. Again, they could not quite put their fingers on what was wrong with the things that Terry did. They did not feel comfortable calling him a “criminal” – which is what they said someone has to be to go to jail. One of the kids finally blurted out, “Well, he’ll definitely be a frat boy.” “What’s a frat boy?” I asked. “Mean. Obnoxious. Drunk. Does drugs. Hurts people…” they threw in.
Now, the strange thing is that Terry had a certain allure among these same kids. When I asked about this one girl said to me, “Terry is mean to everyone that’s why he’s popular.” Other kids came to her help and explained that if you’re not on Terry’s good side then he’ll really be mean to you. I believe that. But I have a feeling there is more to it than just the threat a bully poses. I think there is something attractive in being part of a strong force -- for good or for evil.
I’ll have you take a look at something in a minute.
I wrote in this blog about the “I Am” assignment that the fourth grade teacher gave her students at the beginning of the year. She posted the kids’ responses on the bulletin board outside the classroom. She didn’t post Jack’s – understandably. But saddened and alarmed by Jack’s responses I made a point of reading all the other kids’ responses. I wrote down all the posted answers to the “I hope…” part of the assignment. Here they are:
--to get 100% on spelling test
--to get a dog
--to get a horse
--to help the poor
--to be big
--to get an iPhone
--to rule the world
--that tomorrow is better than today
--to be a bounty hunter
--I get good grades
--to stay a child
--my friends come to my party
--to live forever
--that I’m smart
I also noted Terry’s response to “I hope”: “for the US to win the war.”
Sure enough. It is attractive to be part of a strong force. Terry had learned that – but then again, so had all the other nicer kids who found him popular despite his meanness.
This is why I think we need to find better solutions for getting rid of bullying than expelling bullies. Everyone is a potential bully.
Forgive me for saying it again, but… it’s the attitude, stupid.