The internet is a pretty crazy place. Five weeks ago I posted “Son, as soon as someone puts their hands on you…” - it was a well enough received post, y'know, normal par for the course type stuff. Then a couple days ago it gets submitted to a few places around the internet, and over 20,000 people come and read it. There's over 120 new comments there, many of them really intelligent and insightful.
This one stands out to me by "A Psychologist" -
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.
A lot of insight there. Gosh, I'm lucky I've got such smart readers. If you're looking for some interesting insights, that post and the 120+ comments on it might not be a bad place to visit/revisit skim and read through.
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.
Some people won’t be happy until they’ve pushed you to the ground. What you have to do is have the courage to stand your ground and not give them the time of day. Hold on to your power and never give it away.
- Dona Schoenrock
And remember, bullying never has to do with you, it is the bully who’s insecure. Don’t take anything bullies say to heart, they are not worthy of your tears. Be strong, be happy.
- Love Sara Alina