I’ll start right off with the bottom line: being “nice” and “caring” won’t help kids stop relentless school bullies. Why not?
I’ve been interviewed a lot on radio and TV. But when I ask those interviewers how they stopped bullying when they were kids, almost all the women say they were never taught how to stop bullies. Instead, their well-meaning moms told them:
- Bullies have a hard life so we should have sympathy for what they’re going through and how low their self-esteem must be.
- Don’t sink to the bully’s level by fighting back. You have it easy so you should rise above the bullies.
- If you’re nice enough, kind enough and loving enough, bullies will respond by being nice in return.
- You should never push back – verbally or physically. If you push back, it means you don’t care.
- Violence is morally wrong and violence never solves anything. They cite Mahatma Gandhi as someone who stopped the British without pushing back and by preaching tolerance and love.
All these women now bear a grudge against their well-meaning mothers. Those messages are all wrong. These women learned the hard way that the way you identify relentless bullies is that “nice” and “caring” don’t convert them from predators to friends.
First, the statement about Gandhi is a complete misunderstanding of his tactics. Applying ahimsa to relentless bullies is not a good comparison. If Gandhi had tried his tactics against Hitler, Stalin, Chairman Mao or the founder of Pakistan, he wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes.
Second, violence was required to stop slavery, Nazism, Fascism and communism, to name just a few.
Third, you have to love yourself first. Sometimes, the most caring thing you can do for someone who’s a jerk and a bully is to show them that their tactics don’t work. They’d better learn new tactics.
Fourth, you can’t love relentless bullies enough to change how they treat you. Ignoring, minimizing and “rising above” do not stop relentless bullies. Appeasement, begging and bribery do not stop relentless bullies.
Fifth, you’re not the bully’s therapist; it’s not your job to rehabilitate them. The adults have that responsibility, but only after they protect and defend the targets of bullying.
Appeasement is never effective with determined boundary pushers who always want more. If you suffer in silence, if you whine, or if you advertise that you’re afraid bullies think you’re a victim waiting to be bullied. If you are kind, bullies think you are weak. They’ll continue to harass and abuse you.
Don’t waste time complaining about your society, the media, your parents, your friends, your school officials, or how hard it is.
It’s your job to protect and defend your personal space from predators. It’s your job to make bullies a small part of your mental and emotional world so you can get on with your education and your life
You must be determined, courageous and strong in defending and protecting yourself – not because you deserve it, but because you want to, you have to. “I want to” is more than enough reason to protect yourself.
You must learn how to push back verbally, to get help from school officials, your parents and the police, and to fight back when you have to and you can.
You have to succeed even though conditions haven’t been prepared perfectly for you. Don’t starve while you’re waiting for someone else to set the table. You have to overcome obstacles; it’s a sign of good character.
You may be a target; don’t be a victim!