If everyone is bullied then who are the bullies? Answer: Us. I guess?

This week Hailey went to a bullying workshop at her martial arts school and I sat through it and agreed with most of what was said, except that it was missing the one thing that all bullying talks seem to miss.

They get that most people will be bullied in their lives but you almost never see them point out that almost all of us will bully others ourselves.  We talk about it like bullies are these horrible hobgoblins creeping around in corners because it’s easy to forget that we are the bullies.  We all have the capacity to be cruel and horrible.  Sometimes it’s because we’re young and stupid and scared.  Sometimes it’s because we think we’re doing something noble or brave.  Sometimes we’re screaming terrible things at people, but really we’re screaming those things at the ghosts that haunt us.  And those people scream back.  At us, and at their own invisible ghosts standing in front of us.  Sometimes it’s done inadvertently.  So much so that we don’t even recognize it.  We don’t see that we step on the small tender pieces of others.  We don’t recognize how unaware others are that they are stepping on us.  We fight back because we have to stand up for ourselves and for others.  We fight back at others because others are fighting back at us.

When Hailey comes home from school she sometimes tells me awful stories about kids being horrible and I try to help her.  I tell her middle schoolers are a bunch of assholes.  I tell her it’s good practice to ignore them because people are assholes all over.  I help her with the ones she can’t handle on her own.  But I do one thing that I hope other parents do as well.  I remind her how easy it is be horrible ourselves.  I tell her to be mindful of others.  I tell her to be kind.  And that is not always easy, as evidenced by the fact that my first response is to call middle schoolers “a bunch of assholes.”

Hailey found the bully seminar helpful though and was telling Victor about a few of the things she’d learned, like when you see a kid just about to get pummeled you can go up to that kid and say, “Hey, the principal told me to come get you.”  That way you remove the kid from the situation and you have a reason to leave too.  And they taught about how to protect your head in a fight, or how to deescalate it.  And Victor said that all sounded good but if someone was pushing him around in middle school he’d just say, “Hey.  You ever see a donkey-faced person get kicked in the mouth?” and I was like, “THAT’S TOTALLY NOT WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO” and Victor was like, “I didn’t say you should actually kick them in the face.  Just…you know...ask the question.  It’s not illegal to ask questions.”  And Hailey was like, “Yeah.  That sounds like a good way to get sent to the principal’s office,” but Victor was all, “Well, if your principal calls me in I’ll say, ‘Hey.  You ever see a donkey-faced principal get kicked in the mouth?'” and then I yelled, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?  YOU ARE A TERRIBLE EXAMPLE,” and he shrugged and said, “I’m just asking an innocent question.  I really want to know‘.”  And then we had to leave Red Lobster because I was yelling too loudly and Hailey couldn’t stop laughing.

I sort of lost track of this blog post but I think the main point is that you should be kind.  And tell your kids to not be assholes.  And don’t have loud disagreements at Red Lobster because they’re really sensitive about that shit.

I don’t have a good image for this post so here’s an angry otter:

133 thoughts on “If everyone is bullied then who are the bullies? Answer: Us. I guess?

Read comments below or add one.

  1. You’re so right. I hate thinking about times when I may have joined in being mean to someone when my friends were doing it as a kid. Especially because other kids were mean to me. I wish everyone could just be nicer.

  2. Good advice. If more people were kind or thought if what they were saying or doing and how it impacts others the world would be a better place. Love the otter!

  3. Also helpful to teach kids that sometimes people bully because they have a shitty time at home, or they have low self esteem and it just doesn’t feel good to be them. Not excusing the behavior, but it sometimes helps to understand that when someone is bullying you, it’s not because there’s something wrong with you. It’s their problem, not yours.

  4. Middle-schoolers ARE a bunch of assholes. I wish someone had told me that when I was there. Ugh. But it sounds like you’re raising a level-headed daughter. Good job!

  5. All public service messages should include angry otter videos. I think it really drives the message home.
    I’m sure as hell not going to forget this one soon!

  6. I saw this about a minute after that new Burger King anti-bullying post and let me tell you they should pay you to do their commercials. Good thoughts and funny stories. And supportive parenting I guess?

    Always nice to see you being the responsible adult while Victor runs rampant <3

  7. My parents had me switched to a different elementary school after 4th grade because I was bullied so much at my old one they were worried it’d kill me. (Two of them liked trying to catch me unawares and push me off of high things I’d be reading on at recess, all oblivious like I get when I’m reading.)

  8. Just be kind. This!! It costs literally nothing yet can have such an enormous positive impact on others (and yourself).

  9. I was bullied, and in turn bullied other people as a child. I think that’s pretty common. The trick is to do differently as an adult. Not sure I’ve completely conquered that urge yet lol. Love the otter!

  10. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself too. Our own brains can be assholes too.

  11. Thanks for bringing up this side of things. I used to teach middle school and still work with 12-13 year olds at church. Whenever I talk about bullying, I make it clear that I was a bully as a kid. I’m 5 ft. 3 and 100 lbs, so I get a few raised eyebrows when I say it, but it’s true. I thought I was standing up for myself, but really I was being a little sh*t head. I tell those kids how it made me feel powerful and how feeling good at the expense of another person is bullying, no matter what way you accomplish it or how much you think the other person deserves it.

  12. It is good that you remind Hailey to be kind also. Not because she wouldn’t be, since being your daughter I would bet money that she is a very nice person. But the worst memories I have in my life and the worst guilt I still feel and probably always will is for the times when I was unkind to another who could not fight back. I know that I was acting out of sorrow and rage for the way that I was treated by others bigger and stronger than I was, (I was badly bullied as a kid and back then there were no seminars or meetings or workshops or help for that…it was every kid for himself), but I still hate myself for the times I passed that on.
    I never would have done those things if I had known that I would feel bad about it for the rest of my life.
    I sometimes wonder, though, about the real bullies. The ones who get pleasure or self-aggrandizement out of bullying others. I wonder if they ever feel guilty or bad, and suspect they don’t.

  13. This is one of my favorite, and perhaps one of the most important, comments about the issue of bullying I have seen–the fact that we all are very lucky both victims and perpetrators of bullying in varying ways. We should always remember that when dealing with all sides of the issue. Thank you.

  14. I was never bullied as a kid, so I was completely unprepared when I was the victim of bullying by a couple of male co-workers a few years ago–so badly that I left my job. Long story, but anyway, I wish I’d had some strategies, although a punch in their donkey-faces would have been a good start. Love the otter:-)

  15. Thank you for this insightful piece. Can’t think of a better time for this. And as a reminder, middle schoolers are not the only assholes, I am gobstruck by the disgusting tone set by some of our “leaders” and unsurprised by how malignantly it has spread through the populace at large. New slogan: Let’s Make Americans Civil Again. All of us, Left, Right and Apolitical. The kids are watching.

  16. You are a great mom and personally, I think you have your poop in a group just fine despite what any professional may or may not tell you about yourself. Hailey is a lucky girl, or a smart one, to have picked you and Victor for parents.

    Also? We are especially the biggest bullies to ourselves. I know I pummel my own ass almost daily over the stupidest shit, and it’s hardest of all to remember to be kind to myself. The snarky side of my brain tells my sensitive side “you’re not even worth the time to bully so I dunno why you do it” which creates some kind of quantum paradox of self-worth(lessness?) that confuses both sides of me long enough to shut me up and walk away. Yay, insanity! 🙂

  17. So funny you called them assholes because that’s the same exact conversation I had to have with my son in middle school. It became our little code. When he’d get out of the car, we’d look at each other and mouth “assholes” and then he’d go off laughing. I’m probably not the ideal mom example, but at least I got my kid to smile during a period of time he hated school because of the bullying. I’m glad to say that through it all, he never lost his compassionate heart. He’s a better person than I am!

  18. My daughter is a freshman and so far hasn’t seen any bullying but she’s also a track star, so bullies – good luck catching her. She can also screech in a high pitched wail that will liquefy your brain.

  19. Very good point about the need to tell kids how they can also be bullies and how not to bully. I doubt anyone thinks of themselves as a bully. I never considered that aspect until you pointed out the missing discussion on being a bully. It was definitely an “ah ha” moment for me and like most “ah ha” moments, so obvious and surprising I hadn’t thought of it before. So, thanks for pointing it out and I hope you mentioned to the person who gave the talk that they should include “you may be a bully” in their future workshops.

  20. My daughter is the biggest advocate for her friends being bullied, but this year was accused of bullying when a friend of hers got mad at her. It’s such a hot topic that it muddies the waters for the real issue. Middle schoolers can be assholes

  21. What I wouldn’t give to have that otter at my dinner table, especially at Thanksgiving.

  22. Middle schoolers ARE assholes. 🙁 And I usually got in trouble for defending myself against the assholes because as a girl, I was just supposed to be quiet and hold back my emotions and take it apparently.

  23. Love this.!!! Sometimes even assholes need a little
    kindness. Then maybe they will stop being one.

  24. I shudder at how angry and mean I was in high school and I pray to be kinder all the time. Fantastic blog

    (I think everyone has moments during their school years where they look back in regret at how they treated someone. It’s weird that we don’t talk about that though. It’s such a valuable lesson that we’re afraid to talk about. ~ Jenny)

  25. I never kicked a donkeyface in the mouth, but I did punch a bully in the glasses.
    That was immensely satisfying because he&his cronies left me alone after that. I suspect this had something to do with how he had to explain to his parents how his new glasses got broken… and live with his cronies knowing that a geeky girl punched him.

  26. That’s so right. I think about how I might have been more helpful (especially in middle school but also now) ALL THE TIME. I seem to get the idea to help about 5 seconds too late. Then I kick myself all day for not acting immediately.

  27. We all have our moments where we could be better as people. And often, with kids there’s that one person that really gets them riled up and it’s hard for them to describe why.

    My son’s bully was his best friend for five years. Then one day the bf got mad about something and wouldn’t or couldn’t communicate it to my son. We spent the next two and half years fighting to get the kid to stop and to get the school to step in. Kid was beloved by most adults and had no problem making friends at school (unlike my son.) He was nice to everyone else. It made it hard to get other people to take the problem seriously and his parents to this day claim my son was the bully because he fought back once.

    Remember, even people who seem cool and nice can be jerks to someone else. make sure you don’t have that person in your life you can’t help but be mean too and when someone says that the “nice” person treated them badly, maybe don’t dismiss them out of hand.

  28. For a minute there thought you were talking about desiccating hands. “And they taught about how to protect your head in a fight, or how to deescalate it.” Deescalate, brain, not dessicate.

  29. I’m not sure it works with bullies that you know just like to be hateful, but my first reaction to someone being unkind is to ask myself what I don’t know that could change how I view the situation, and then give the benefit of the doubt. I suppose it’s a form of thinking the worst, but for the best.

    Maybe that kid who shoved me in the hall and made me drop my books was racing to get to the bathroom so he wouldn’t wet his pants – I can handle picking up my books if it means he made it in time. Maybe that lady who cut me off in traffic was distracted by her kids smacking each other in the back seat – I hope they get home safe. Maybe the man who tailgated me relentlessly and then blew past doing 110 was rushing someone to the hospital – please don’t let me doing the speed limit cause somebody to die.

    There’s almost always some circumstance that could mitigate unkindness, and I want to be the kind of person who assumes that must be the case rather than jump to labelling someone a bad person. It becomes much easier to engender compassion when your mindset shifts from “What a jerk!” to “I hope [the mitigating situation] turns out okay.” Even if 99% of the time they really were just a jerk, what kind of person would I be if I let my first thought be hateful about someone who is desperately trying to get home in time to tell their dying grandma goodbye?

    I just don’t want to be guilty of that.

  30. My daughter was bullied her first week in high school. Unfortunately, the young man did not understand he was dealing with Satan (who is beautiful and eeeevil and has had that nickname since second grade). She was retrieving books from her locker when he (with his buddies behind him) yelled “you sure were good in bed last night”.

    Without missing a beat, she said quite loudly, “yeah, but you squeak like a squirrel when you’re excited.” Mic drop. She shut her locker and walked away. He ran off, his buddies were holding on to one another screaming with laughter. She still has a wicked tongue, LOL!

  31. It’s a great thing to teach kids about the dangers of bullying, but it’s also a terrible disservice to equate “being mean” with bullying. One mean comment does not equal bullying. True bullying takes place over a period of time, when someone has an advantage over another. It’s systemic and meant to cause physical or emotional harm. When my daughter would come home saying she was bullied, oftentimes the case was just a friend having a bitchy moment. That’s not bullying.

    On a lighter note, when she came home in second grade and said that a kid had called her a jack-o-lantern because of the teeth she was missing, I told her next time to say, “Oh yeah? Well my teeth are temporary, unlike your face, which is forever.” She was appalled, so she’s a better person than I. In all ways.

  32. That poor misunderstood otter. He’s not angry. He’s just sneezing. God bless you, otter. Bless you.

  33. I’m struck by the coincidence of reading this today when this morning I was completely gobsmacked after reading a news article about teachers being bullied.
    In this incidence a teacher took away a girl’s cellphone after refusing to stop using it during class. After school the teacher was followed by the parents of the girl and when she slowed down, she was dragged out of her car and very badly beaten, including loss of a tooth and hospitalization.
    I don’t usually engage in teen speak but I JUST CAN’T.

  34. Love this. (NOTE: Typo in second paragraph where it says, “tells me an awful stories” instead of “story.”)

    (Fixed! Thanks! ~ Jenny)

  35. I teach middle school kiddos, I had a conversation once where I admitted to being part of a group of kids in elementary that picked on a girl. Like a lot of kids I was going along with the crowd to avoid being the next one. I told the students when I think back I am so embarrassed and ashamed of my behavior and wish I could go back in time and defend that girl. I don’t know what became of her after elementary, I just hope she found nicer people to be around. I think many of us have been on both sides of the coin (bullied a bit in middle school too), it is hard to admit that once you were part of the problem.

  36. This is what I learned when my kid was being bullied in middle school–parents of the bullies do not care. They are more concerned with whether or not their kid is “cool” and that makes the parent “cool” in return. If you are not the most athletic boy, or your son does not go along with all their wacky shenanigans, your kid is not “cool” and therefore…deserves to be picked on. Those parents are also just glad that it isn’t their kid…they don’t care to stop the behavior of their child because they don’t want THEIR child picked on. And the school looks the other way because to document these situations gets hairy…and a ton of work. It’s not that we are necessarily the bullies…but the people who look away and don’t stop the behaviors of our children.

  37. Fucking middle school. It’s like the worst of us amplified and put under a microscope for all our frenemies to see. Fuck middle school. When you’re going through hell, keep on going. There’s an end.

  38. Thank you for this post, you – as always – raised a very good point. We all have the capacity to be nasty. Horrible to think about, but true. And yes, over and above everything, we need to be kind. What a better place the world would be, if more people were kind.

  39. The worst part for me is that my daughter, due to autism and poor social skills (not malice—I don’t think) used to cross many of those boundaries herself. They never tell you what to do if your child IS the bully and it’s not a question you’re encouraged to ask. Thankfully, she’s matured out of those behaviors now, but I still worry about who she hurt before she did and how long the wounds will last.

  40. Yes, thank you for saying it.
    I look back and cringe at times when I was an insufferable asshole in elementary and middle school and didn’t realize how unkind I was being because I was so focused on trying figure out how to navigate my own way through the hell that is the social scene.
    I’m currently trying very hard to figure out how to teach a 3 yo and 1 yo how to be kind to each other, and I’m just sure I’m screwing it up in some way.

  41. And @Lin: yes, some of us really do. But realistically, how can you stop your kid from bullying behavior when he/she’s in a building you’re not even close to? All you can do is try to emphasize that it ISN’T okay and you need to be kind. A lot of the behavior you may not even KNOW about unless the school or the victim contacts you. How do you keep control of a situation you aren’t even aware of? Really, how do you? Thankfully my daughter is in 8th grade and has picked up on the “Be kind; treat others as you want to be treated” idea, but it took YEARS of repeating it before she got it. And what she may have done before she figured that out haunts me. Who did she hurt? How badly? I’ll probably never know, but I do care. I’m sorry you ran into such a seemingly uncaring environment. Probably there were some parents who cared a lot, but you are NOT encouraged to ask help for, or even admit you know, your bully child.

  42. I really like what you wrote but I can’t stop laughing at that otter… which probably means I bully otters. But… I’m still laughing. Sorry. I really agree with y… HAHAHAHAHA

  43. I was the kid in grade school who was picked on unmercifully but mostly I ignored it. Those silly kids would really have to up their game to make school worse than my homelife. Anyway, later many new people joined our school.. One of the new girls was really showy, like turned every conversation into about her, about how unique she was, how her belongings were all designer and name brand (like 3rd graders in the 70s even knew what that meant) and blah blah blah. I kept thinking, “you are asking for it” and sure enough she became the girl that everyone picked on. Rachael Rachael Booger Eater. I was so relieved to NOT be the one being picked on for a change. I was more than happy to take part in bullying her.

    Her mother arranged counseling sessions for a group of us to find out why we picked on her and to make us all be friends. I thought everything over very carefully before I spoke and then lied my ass off saying that I just went along with the group because I thought it was harmless fun–no way was I saying it was because I was glad it wasn’t me for a change and I knew personally it wasn’t harmless fun. The counselor later complimented me for my honesty and thinking my answer through–again I grew up with the worst parents ever, I knew how to think my answer carefully to make adults happy and not toss a match onto the gasoline fire that was my family.

    I became good friends with Rachael after that right up until one day I called her on the phone to talk about a book she was going to lend me. My mom picked up the other line and spewed out about a whole minute worth of obscenities, one after the other, like she was reciting a list of bad words with many repeats in it. Afterward, mom calmly said, “You deserve that for how you treat me” and hung up. Yeah…. Rachael couldn’t lend me the book and or ever talk to me again because her mother said so and Rachael couldn’t wait to tell everyone what happened. I went back to being the picked on kid again.

  44. I want to say something useful and enlightening and deep about kindness and standing up for others and generally being a good person, but I am laughing too hard at “YOU OTTERFUCKER” to come up with anything.

  45. I was picked on a LOT as a child. Was mistreated for all of my school years. I once turned it around and picked on another child, and I have never forgiven myself for it. Not ever. I am still so ashamed, but I never forgot that shame, either, and it kept me from becoming a huge monster.

    I think it’s so important to remind our kids that there but for grace go we. Because it is FAR too easy to pick on someone weaker than ourselves when we are feeling low. I remind my kids “Hey, you see how this makes you feel. Make sure you never make someone else feel that way.” Empathy is a more important life-skill than learning to change your own oil.

  46. This is a conversation I had with my daughter this morning. Yes, she needs to know how to handle herself against a bully, but she also needs to not become the bully simply because she’s taking taekwondo and is really good at it. Not as good as her brother, but I’m crazy, not stupid and thus, I didn’t point that out to her. Point being, you are on point. That be nice to everyone no matter what and don’t become the bully is a message I feel is missing from some of the conversations. 🙂

  47. My sister got called into school because my niece responded to a bully by calling them a troglodyte. The teacher had to look the word up and was impressed that my niece knew it. The best way to deal with a bully is to confuse them.

  48. Your second paragraph was the most insightful thing I’ve read in a long time, Jenny.

  49. Words to live by: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” The Dalai Lama
    And exactly what you said, Jenny….”You should always be kind.”
    Thank You!

  50. Always a fan of elevating the crazy to a level the bully is terrified to handle. I can point to a time that got me out of harassment that was headed for abduction and assault.

  51. I have been bullied. I have bullied. This goes on ad infinitum. I will step up here and admit it. I still bully people. I mostly do it online and for the reasons you describe. To stand up for other people that can’t stand up for themselves. I never ever call names but I can get downright nasty. I will never stop speaking for those people. I will never stop calling out the bigoted. I will never stop correcting the outright liars with evidence backed facts. Perhaps I should reexamine my tactics, but I will never back down from the fight.

  52. In the 7th grade, I was a bully. I’m 37 yo now, and it still haunts me to this day.

  53. I was never bullied by my peers when I was a kid. Maybe because I was taller than most of my classmates. I had to be married before I could truly understand what being Bullied was like and I have to say I liked it not. Hence the divorce. However, I taught my kids to champion the underdog and to save those less fortunate. If nothing else I’ve done ever matters, this is my greatest accomplishment. I look at the world sometimes and wonder how humans can be so cruel and horrible. Then I read one of your posts that remind me that there are good people out there too and maybe there is hope for us all in the end. XOXO

  54. I’m still bitter and angry and hope those who threatened my life and spat on me and physically attacked me all have miserable lives and crabs. Really nasty crabs… maybe the clap too, burning seething clap.

    I’m not a good person.

    But neither were they so fuck em. I hope they die in a ditch cold and alone and i’m not gonna feel guilty about that. they made me want to die, they stubbed cigarettes out on me, they threatened to push me in front of a train, they hurled a glass at my freaking head in front of my mother ffs! they were little psychos. No amount of “hard home life” excused them behaving like a pack of rabid dogs.

    So yeah, I hope they’re miserable hollow empty people because they deserve misery. They deserve no love, no light, no good. Fuck those assholes, I hope they’re wracked with guilt for how cruel they were.

    there is a distinct difference between joining in laughing at the weird kid like the bullies in primary school did and telling someone to just go kill themselves. Those kids in high school weren’t bullies, they were psychotic little asswipes.

    I tell you what though, god help my kids if I ever learn they’ve been hounding a child the way those savages did. And god help any kid who tries to do the same to my babies. I will rip their damn faces off and do the same to their stupid ignorant parents.
    Because honestly, if you have raised a kid who thinks telling someone to die is “lol funny”, you’re a terrible parent and a piece of shit human being. Do you damn job and raise your kids right, and maybe, just maybe, they won’t be threatening to murder people!

  55. I taught middle school for a long time, and I’d say, “I love these guys! They’re the best! Parents must be overreacting with their stories about how argumentative and dramatic they are at home”. And then my 3 kids reached middle school…all together: 6th, 7th, and 8th grade this year. I’ve been doing A LOT of apologizing to all those parents lately.

  56. When I was in third grade, I silently watched my teacher (a nun) unmercifully bully (actually torture) one of my classmates for an entire school year. I don’t know what happened to that kid after that. I have never forgiven myself for not realizing that it was wrong for a teacher to do what that nun did. I don’t think I will ever forgive myself. That’s probably no bad thing. It keeps me aware.

  57. Here’s what I noticed overhearing my granddaughters watching a show. Strawberry Shortcake or something like that. Lots of kid shows/ads, supposedly in the interest of stopping “mean girl” behavior, appears to actually be teaching it, showing what words and tones to use. So the little 5 year old is copying and repeating the mean shit to her 2 year old sister. The “moral of the story” goes over her head. She wants to be the mean girl, because that girl gets to have the power. Did I make any sense there? I mean almost every kid show seems to have the same cast of characters. One mean bully, one “nerd” who gets picked on, one cool kid who steps in and gives a little lesson. But, it seems to me kids are picking up the whole idea that there will be bullying and here’s what bullies say. Like they’re all learning their script. And passing it on to the next generation.

  58. Wonderful, important post and conversation. I was thankfully never really bullied growing up, despite being shy, nerdy, and gay. But I look back and think about all the subtle bullying I saw going on around me, and it pisses me off, and it pisses me off that I never stepped in to stop it. As a kid I was much to shy to bully anyone myself, but as an adult I realize that I have sometimes acted as a bully with my mother when we have major arguments. And then I feel so, so guilty afterwards.

  59. I’m 41, and I occasionally have a dream where the kid who was always horrible to everyone (including me) is now kind and gentle. Once, I thought maybe I’d FB stalk them to see if they’d grown up — nope, their public postings made it quite clear they are still mean. Not “thoughtless”, as most of us have certainly been, but downright cruel. Disappointing.

  60. Love your story and the otter, they are so in your face!
    When I was a kid in the 50s and 60s in a rural area, it was very survival of the fittest! We even had a teacher who hit kids with a wooden ruler on their hands! So, the bullies ran the playground, and no one did anything. There were these 2 girls that didn’t just push, the scratched with their speciall t sharpened nails, and pulled out hair. One time when I was 11, they started following me, pushing me to face them. I walked away but the didn’t stop, so I turned and beat them both up, you see they didn’t know a girl could use her fists. I was smart enough to not hit them in the face, but the must have had some body bruises. They never tried me again, steered well clear. No teacher mentioned it, though some saw, no one sent me to the principal. I never had to fight anyone else. When my younger sister came home from Middle school all cut up and bleeding, mean girls, I taught her to gight. She never had another problem. Sometimes if it is dangerous enough, and you live in a bad place, you have to make a stand. By the way, I never bullied anyone ever.

  61. Jenny how do I change the name on my account? I’d rather have a great spy/undercover name where I’m way more comfortable sharing. Bad wig and dark glasses… I’d make a really good undercover kick ass writer of thoughts and experiences…

  62. Well, apparently my new name is…Anonymous! Did I drunk message you to change it? Bahaha

  63. I love this blog. I never know what I’m going to learn here…
    So I’ve been through plenty of bullying and I mean bad, like all my belongings were first “forgotten” in a house move by stepdad, soon followed by what I’d managed to keep, being put outside in the rain, a not great thing when you’re barely 15 and need to have safe conflicts with parents to learn to create boundaries and separate into an adult… thanks Mom.

    What I would say to Hailey is that when bullied people do not learn better ways of relating to themselves and to others, they seem to become bullies later. And there’s an element in broken or abusive homes where once-bullied people become parents. Their child becomes the same age they once were and “Pop!” up comes the goblin of their past. Instead of turning away from what happened to them. this set of people just re-run that abuse script on the children they should be using their experience to protect. This was my mom. My experience is that’s what Hailey is seeing in play in her classmates.

    I had opportunities to become a parent and I absolutely knew I did not have it together to do it properly. I passed on reproducing and it was the right decision for everyone. If I’d re-run abuse on my child it would have broken my heart. One of my buds had a daughter who is now the same age (mid-teens) my buddy was when she was violated, and her mother just abandoned buddy emotionally. With her daughter now a that same age, my buddy has come unglued. I tried to talk with buddy, but she’s cut contact with me. People sometimes do not want to disconnect from the * in their pasts, and nothing will persuade them to change if they don’t want it.

    I’d always thought I was fairly OK with adults, but the last time there was alcohol involved with some online bullying I was angry over, I woke up the next day just horrified to the bone at how gleefully I’d then gone for someone’s throat. That event was 4-1/2 years ago and I’m still feeling it was my lowest point, though I’ve since thought of others that come close…

    If one can’t care enough about the other person to want to behave better, be selfish enough to not want to bring that garbage into your own life. Because it will stick to you, like a booger you can’t flick… I had yet another person apologize to me about a real beat-down they’d done to me over 45 years ago- and had searched for me to apologize. That’s a long time to feel lousy.

  64. I was bullied as a girl in high school by a big handsome popular boy who was impressing his friends. He’d sit behind me in class and snap me by flicking his fingers hard into my back and tell his friends he was going to settle a bet by having sex in me.
    One day class had just gotten out and he snapped me again. We were in a bare cement stairwell and he was a step above me. I turned and grabbed him and he lost his balance. i pulled him past me as I turned forward and flung him down those bare stairs and then threw his books at his head afterward as he sat on the carpet at the bottom. There were about 20 kids but no one said a thing. I am so, so lucky I didn’t kill or cripple him. It could have happened in a second.
    Also, he quit torturing me.

  65. I am not suggesting punching a bully but this post got me thinking about something my ex said to me once (he wasn’t useful for much but I’ve never forgotten this piece of advice).
    If you need to punch someone in the face, an attacker or whatever, aim for the inside of the back of the skull through the face; hope that makes sense. Generally people will subconsciously pull back slightly as they get close to the face and the power is reduced. If you tell yourself that you need to hit the back of the head from the inside, the punch will have more force. Also, don’t forget to tell your kids to keep their thumb outside of their fist.
    I’m not condoning violence but I’ve had to use this method myself and it makes a hell of a difference and can give you a few more seconds to get away. Maybe someone somewhere will benefit from this advice one day although of course I hope it is never necessary.
    PS, love the shit you post

  66. I had a similar experience, but it was a Denny’s at 6am. My fiance and I were having an argument about ring bear vs ring bearer for our wedding. The bleary-eyed college student at the next table was not pleased with us.

  67. All those PSA posters also never address What If Your Kid Has FAR TOO MUCH SELF-ESTEEM instead of not enough. I knew a kid who was so sure she was the natural leader of her school group, etc, and they should all do what she said. As it happens, she was also a bully — not the physical kind, but the psychological kind. There were no classes on bringing reality to such a kid. By the time she was in high school, she was diagnosed with a personality disorder, but the warning signs were there when she was 7.

  68. Hi Jenny,
    I’m a teacher and I see bullying a lot from students and adults alike. On both the parent side and the teacher side. People don’t know that they’re doing it. My most valuable question when confronted with students who have been in a bad situation is ‘what happened just before s/he hit you?’ Everyone plays a part. The victim of bullying also plays a part….and I am not blaming the victim. What I’m saying is, often, the victim of bullying has learned unhelpful behaviours that can be changed easily. They can answer a bully’s questions, they answer a bully’s text messages, when they walk away they go to a more secluded part of the playground instead of walking right up to a teacher on duty. Their instincts and behaviours they’ve learned make the situation more likely to blow up and a lot of those behaviours can be unlearned. (I love the ‘Hey, the principal wants to talk to you…it’s a great one’).
    As the teacher, I get confronted with a lot of undesirable behaviour too. I learned to say ‘I don’t like the way I’m being spoken to at the moment, so how about we talk about this tomorrow when we’ve had some more time to think it over’…and I tell the parent ‘I’m afraid I have to hang up the phone now’. As a younger teacher I would just sit and take the tirade thinking i had to listen to someone ripping me a new one. I hadn’t learn empowering behaviours that don’t strike back at the bully.
    Hurt people, hurt people.

  69. Abby Graves: You teach your kids to be kind by being kind yourself. Kids learn by example and emulating their parents’ behavior, not by what we tell them. Especially at such a young age, you have to show them what to do.

    My father was the bully in my life and it actually did the opposite and made me strive to be kind (actually a defense to keep me safe). I was terrified that someone wouldn’t like me and be mean to me. I grew up being too nice (which everyone told me I was) which led to me avoiding being bullied bY a lot of people but left me with being a doormat. It’s taken me years of therapy to learn how to stand up for myself and be discerning. As my therapist said “not everyone has to like you.” I try to treat everyone with respect.

  70. I see where you’re coming from, Jenny, but I feel like there is an important component of power missing when we only say we’re all the bullies (or can be). If it helps makes any sense, it reminds me of people talking about racism and so-called reverse racism; there is a power differential that means bullying (or racism) is more than just being mean. So I think people also need to talk about that and how bullying is systematic, not just individual. (Does this make any sense outside of my head?) It is often connected to classism, racism, ableism and other forms of societal discrimination/hierarchies that kids pick up from their families and culture.

    Of course I’m definitely biased since I was the severely bullied child who also got to be the first one punished under the school’s new No Tolerance policy because I fought back while being assaulted by a fellow student (while the whole class laughed) and the teacher- who knew I was being horribly bullied- walked into the room right when I defended myself. The bullies were never punished and most of them were from more wealthy or influential families than mine.

  71. I love that you are a member of the ‘my kid will sooo do that’ club vs. the ‘my kid would never do that’ club. The day my son told me way after the fact that he had tried out being a bully for a bit, my heart hurt. We are each and every one capable of each and every thing, and kindness can be very hard and thankless work or just not the sort of work we’re capable of sometimes. We do have to get back to kindness as soon as possible though, it’s got to be why we’re all here, nothing else makes sense. I’ve also lost track of this comment like you with your post, but in short, I like what you had to say.

  72. Wait, did you and Victor trade personalities? Isn’t he the one usually yelling at you for asking weird questions?

  73. I thought i was the only one who thought this. Thank you so much for putting this out there. My son was bullied throught his years in school (he just graduated high school) but he also was unkind to others at times. Havong t e bigger picture is always helpful. I hope they add this conversation to all the bullying talks and support events. Again, thank you so much for sharing this. (And of course, one just otter be kind all the time.)

  74. I have never bullied intentionally, but I have sometimes lost control of my mouth while being honest. I was bullied so badly in Middle School and High School that it resulted in my first clinical depression and suicidal ideation. I found much kinder people after High School. Bullies still exist in the workplace, but not as many. Also, they are usually more covert.

  75. I love how everyone is being wonderful and talking about anti-bulling and I’m over here laughing my head off at Victor and wanting to agree with him even though I know I shouldn’t. I can’t help it. It was a good question 😂😂😂😂. You guys are wonderful.

  76. I’ve been reading a fabulous book called “Thank You For Arguing”. It’s about the art of persuasion. It has a section about bullying and even kind-of, sort of supports Victor’s idea of throwing them a curve-ball.

  77. We all have shadows, the ugly and frightening parts of ourselves we wish weren’t there. The most dangerous people are those who don’t believe or realize they have shadows, who are comfortably convinced that what they’re doing is right or just don’t think about it. The worst things in history – bullying taken to extremes, on appalling scales – are done by people who just know they’re right.
    I’ve learned that the things that most piss me off in others are sometimes, though only sometimes, them holding up mirrors and showing me my shadow.

  78. I never leave comments but these are really important to remember in life . I will talk with my grand kids about this today.too important to wait .thank you so much 😎

  79. Your angry otter friend looks like me trying to get out of my husbands sports car…oh…and bullying is wrong!

  80. My kids are in middle school and I hear all the horrible things kids say to each other and it makes me so sad. I need to remind them to not be the bullies themselves as it is easier than we’d all like to believe. Thanks for the reminder.

  81. This is fantastic and you’re absolutely right. It’s so easy for us all to point the finger at others and say that they’re the jerks, but we’re all assholes, whether we like it or not. The goal is just to be not an asshole for the majority of the time.

  82. Thanks for saying this. I feel like everyone casts themselves as victim or defender-of-victim. Apparently I was the only asshole. Actually, I was the primary asshole, but I received a lot of support for being an asshole. I wasn’t abused at home, or spoiled, nor were my parents themselves bullies. I did it because everyone else seemed entertained by it, and I had no other redeeming social qualities. Apologies to my victims

  83. I still remember the summer week when I was about 9 that myself and another kid for some reason found it hilarious to constantly ask a younger kid in the school “Are you under three?”. It clearly frustrated the kid and that made it all the funnier to us. And the worst part was that we were the only three kids over 3 in school that week (it was a working parent day care situation and everyone else had gone on family holidays) so he really could have done with a friend and instead we delighted in pissing him off.

    I still don’t know why I found it so funny that week. I stopped the next week. Like a fink I never apologised. I happened to be around his house a while later and I felt so guilty. And he was so nice to me. Which made me feel worse. I think he took my obvious guilt as an apology, but I should have said it.

    No idea if he remembers that, but I do and I remind myself that though I’m generally a nice, empathetic person, I can be capable of senseless cruelty.

  84. I always characterized myself as “bullied” in elementary and middle school and though I believe I truly was, I realized as an adult that there was something simple I could have tried to help alleviate it. I could have been NICE to my bullies. I was too prideful so instead I pretended like the things they said and did didn’t bother me at all. I wouldn’t shed a tear or admit any kind of distress over it. But inside I was miserable and terrified of them. I spent years that way instead of just showing them I was human and being nice. I try to stress this to my now middle-school-aged son. He has not had much trouble with bullying (despite being small physically) and I am so grateful. Thanks for this post.

  85. My daughter was getting bullied by a former friend in gym class in high school. She took it for awhile, but finally one day as the girl was walking away, my daughter, in a very loud voice said “Hey (girl’s name).” And when the girl turned around, my daughter said “fuck you!” And walked away. All the girls sitting in the bleachers who were afraid of this girl because she was one of the popular girls, gave my daughter a spontaneous round of loud applause. The girl never bothered my daughter again. I have never been so proud of bad behavior, she stood up for herself, and sometimes that’s all it takes. Of course this being high school, they were friends again in a couple of weeks and the incident was never spoken of again. Nobody ever bullied my daughter again either, though.

  86. DUDE! This. I just spent HOURS this week writing a presentation for my Brownie Girl Scout troop because they were acting like shit heads to each other. Mostly it was one kid, but the problem was, too many of the other girls stood right there and joined in. It was like when one kid pukes and then a whole bunch start sympathy puking, but they weren’t puking, just being mean. I really want them to be kinder to each other and everyone, and to be brave in standing up against mean girl nonsense, but if I’m honest I have been complaining about this ineffective mother that can’t get her child to understand no. And honestly, she just pulled the “well she gets hyper when she eats too much sugar,” routine on me which really aggravated me since we weren’t even eating sugar and that is a nonsense excuse for bad behavior to begin with. Just stop being assholes to each other. Remember that everyone is fighting a battle you don’t know about. Be kind, then be kind and finally be kind.

  87. Umm… I love ya Jenny, but no, not everyone is a bully. And being bullied does not necessitate being a bully in return. There’s a clear distinction between someone who is systematically trying to break someone else down or who clearly has it out for that person (or people), and someone who has emotional reactions or bad days and occasionally says mean things (but realizes it and is generally mortified or at least cares about the other person’s feelings). One is being a bully, the other is being human (a human who has normal emotions). I was bullied relentlessly as a child/teen who didn’t fight back (because I was too scared/too empathetic to bully others) and it really is easy to see the difference.

    I wish people would stop saying that “everyone is a bully” because it’s a false equivalency and it devalues the experiences of people who have lived through extensive bullying and/or emotional trauma. That’s really what we’re talking about here- physical and/or emotional trauma as a result of systematic targeting.

    That said, I understand where the sentiment comes from- a want to allow people to be human and have their emotions and let them atone for the bad things they may have said or done out of an emotional reaction, but I think you can do that while still making the correct distinction. It is true that many childhood bullies grow up to realize what they did was wrong and then do the right thing. I actually had several kids as older teenagers apologize for bullying me when we were younger. However, I’ve also seen many child bullies also become adult bullies or the bullied become the adult bullies, or people who were never bullies as kids become adult bullies. There are all kinds of combinations because variety is the spice of life! 😉

    In close- we kind of dilute the meaning of important topics when we say “everyone does it.” No. Everyone has the CAPABILITY of doing it, but not everyone has or does or will do it. (In this case, become a bully).

  88. I was just talking to my middle-school-age son about this stuff the other day and have been really pondering it all. He and his friends are being menaced, daily, by older boys who lie in wait, push them around, yell profanities, and throw things at them every day after school. He has become increasingly bothered by it. Normally he is pretty happy-go-lucky, but got tearful over it the other day. I work as a court reporter and am in court dealing with felons every day. As adults, if somebody is stalking us (because that’s what it’s called), we have the protection of law. But for some reason, we give our kids a bunch of stupid, inadequate advice like, “Don’t fight back” or “Don’t be a tattle-tale”. I really do not understand these stupid approaches. I also tell him to get used to dealing with assholes (pretty much a direct quote) but I do not tell him to turn the other cheek.

  89. Johnny Cash’s Out Among the Stars really hit this on the head for me.
    “He knows that when they’re shooting at this loser
    They’ll be aiming at the demons in their lives”

    There is so much we don’t know going on in the lives of people we interact with. And it often blows up in our face without being about us. Be kind and have courage.

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