I know a lot about bullies … thanks to certain outstanding bullies of my childhood in BARC quarters, Chembur, Mumbai 400071, India.
I grew up with those bullies, I lived with them for a significant part of my life – and that includes my married life. And they gave me a lot of their personal attention, and they still do, believe me.
Common myths about bullies:
1) A bully is actually a nice person. He’s just misunderstood. Sure. He’s a nice, misunderstood, poor little lost soul. All he needs is some attention. And that’s why he beats the crap out of you every day.
2) A bully is a victim too. He needs help. Sure he does. From a psychiatrist. Or a cop.
3) Bullies are always male, always physically large. Nothing is further from the truth. The two biggest bullies in my life are both less than five feet tall. And one of them is a petite woman.
4) Bullying is just a childhood phase. Bullies grow up into nice adults. Sure. And the Moon is made of green cheese. Once a bully, always a bully.
5) Victims of childhood bullying grow up to become brilliant nerds. And star in Big Bang Theory, eh? No they don’t. They grow up to become angry adults -like ME. And there’s no telling how and where that anger will manifest itself.
6) Bullying is physically or verbally abusive in nature. Not true. In fact, the worst forms of bullying are emotional and are generally ‘silent’.
Social ostracism is a form of bullying that I am personally very familiar with and that I am still subjected to – by the same BARC Chembur bullies that made my childhood miserable.
Bullies form their own cliques of sycophants and hangers-on. They use their cliques to emotionally abuse their victims, by blocking them out of just about every social activity – games, parties, picnics, cultural events, professional events – and of late, social media like Facebook.
7) The biggest myth of all: Bullying victims invite bullying by their own behavior. That’s like saying that a rape victim invites rape. It’s not really the bully’s fault, we are told. The victim must have done something to be singled out.
It is utter rubbish. But that’s what many bullying victims are led to believe. I should know.
How to know if your child is a victim: Many children do not tell their parents that they are being bullied. That’s because the bully and his clique convince the victims that it’s their fault and/or threaten your child with dire consequences.
If your child is withdrawn, spends too much time alone, is reluctant to leave the house either to play with friends or go to school, and gets agitated when asked about it, then you can be almost sure there’s a bully in your child’s life.
This is how my own childhood in BARC Quarters was – until we moved out of that bully-infested urban slum to a much better place called Anushaktinagar.
Unfortunately, a couple of years later, some of those bullies also moved to Anushaktinagar. And continued their bullying.
And now, those bullies are back again – on Facebook.
How to deal with bullying: All bullies are cowards. It’s a cliche, but it is true. As a parent, your response therefore, must be swift, decisive and very assertive.
First of all – do not break the law. Physically intimidating the bully can lead to nasty legal issues. On the other hand, you are within your rights to threaten legal action against the bully – and his parents. It is a good idea to take legal counsel before doing anything.
That said, there is, in my experience, only one effective way to deal with your child’s bully.
And that way is – Direct public confrontation.
Bullies thrive because they think that they can get away with their behavior. Avoiding confrontation, giving the bully a cold shoulder, trying to ignore him, giving him the silent treatment, claiming that you won’t stoop down to his level, will only reinforce the bully’s beliefs and provoke him further.
Direct confrontation is the way. In public. In the presence of his sycophants. If possible, in the presence of his parents and teachers. No need to be abusive, or even raise your voice. Be polite, but tough. If his parents intervene, politely threaten them with criminal action, and tell them to back off. In my experience, a bully usually learns his behavior from his parents, in one way or the other.
Confronting the bully and his parents in public is usually the most effective deterrent. If you can, gather support from your child’s other friends and their parents.
Or best of all, see if you can convince a cop to be there. That would ensure that no one falsely accuses you of anything and will put real fear into the bully and his parents.
Bullying is just another form of rape, wouldn’t you say? And it should be dealt with just as severely.
Don’t be a victim like I was – and still am.
Cheers … Srini.