The New Bully on the Block
Have you ever wanted to smack a kid? You know, maybe just give them a good backhand while no was watching. Well, if you have ever been a parent, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Because if you have been a parent, at some point, someone else’s child, their lovely little ball of joy, has hurt your kid. They have teased them, harassed them, hit them, or terrorized them. They have made your child cry. And if you have seen your child cry due to the malicious mistreatment of others, you know that nothing can make your blood boil more than the vision of your child hurt in your arms.
A couple of weeks ago, my son who had been noticeably more anxious at school throughout this past year, broke down and acknowledged that he had been being bullied for months by four boys from his third grade class. This came on the heels of an incident in which he was pushed to the ground and taunted. Oh you better believe I wanted to march into that school, pick each one of those boys up by the collars of their shirt so that their little legs dangled helplessly in the air, and shake them as their friends watched on in gaped-mouth horror. Ok perhaps I have included a few too many details here for your comfort, as you struggle to digest my wildly inappropriate rage directed at some nine year old boys, but I can quite assure you that I could never even imagine fulfilling that fantasy. Still, it sure felt good to let my mind go there for a brief but disturbing moment.
In part, because I knew these kids. I had volunteered in my son’s class all year and joked with each of them. We had laughed together, read together, and done homework together. And now these little shits were bullying my kid- leaving him in tears, afraid to go to school for fear of the emotional and physical abuse he was enduring on a daily basis. I wanted to yell at them and shake them into the reality that hurting others simply isn’t ok.
But that’s why we are the adults. Hopefully, we can recognize the irony of trying to teach kids to not bully others by beating them. We can evaluate our impulse reaction and recognize that while it may be self-gratifying to enact our anger on a pint-sized third grader, that it is both equally unacceptable and horribly ineffective in getting our point across. We have the experience to know that we would just be the new bully on the block, except now the bully would be 40 years old and have severe back pain after each beating administered.
The reality is that these are good kids. What they are doing is cruel and devastating, but they are not bad human beings. In fear for their own social standing in the precocious hierarchy of male posturing, they are insulating themselves from attacks by keeping them squarely focused on a weaker target. They have not developed enough sense of self to focus on their own needs and insecurities by lifting themselves above the social milieu and instead have opted to push others down beneath them, both literally and figuratively.
Bullying can take many forms and happens for more reasons than we will ever be truly aware of, but it has at its core, a need to feel superior and an inability to express anger in a socially acceptable manner. It is learned and, if not dealt with properly in a timely manner, enabled. It forces the pain one feels for the self onto another to become their suffering. Left unchecked, this will fester into the adult bully- the jackass narcissist that flaunts his or her own desires to the detriment of others. It is the flagrant sin that leaves the perpetrator as empty and vacant as it does the victim.
So what can we do? We can model to them that there are other manners for dealing with our frustrations and disappointments. We assert our angers without acting them out physically or emotionally on others. We show them a better way.
Oh did I want to go in and beat these boys. Of course, I did. But of course, I didn’t. When I walked into the room for my regular volunteer duties, two of the boys wouldn’t even look at me. They were ashamed. They knew they had wronged me, and they could not meet my glance. But my glance did not waver, and as I called them up to check in on the progress they had been making on their store project assignments, the glance was accompanied by a smile. It was a benevolent smile, meant to let them know that I knew what they had done and had forgiven them without even being asked. It didn’t dismiss their behavior or accept it, but it let them know that accountability could come without anger, that I still liked them, even though I was upset by their behavior. It was a smile that showed them a better way.
And then on the entire drive home, I fantasized about kicking the ass of each one those little fucking punks.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every TUESDAY and FRIDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com