Bullies always have reasons they think are good enough for why they harass and abuse their targets. It’s always the fault of their targets. Bullies think their excuses and justifications should relieve them of any consequences for their behavior. They are that narcissistic and self-deluded.
What’s wrong with these pictures?
- Walter shoved the little kids around at school. He waylaid them in the halls, in the schoolyard, in the cafeteria and in the bathrooms. Walter said the other kids weren’t nice enough to him and, anyway, they were exaggerating how much pain he’d caused. His principal knew that Walter wasn’t likeable and that his father abused him, but not in ways that could be reported to the police. His principal’s anti-bullying strategy was to tell the other kids to be more understanding of Walter’s situation, to be nicer to him and to wait for Walter to outgrow his problems.
- Sonja was well-known as the nastiest girl in school. A few other girls, who admired her certainty and righteousness or were afraid of her, did what she told them to do. They helped her make sarcastic remarks about other girls, shove them, harass them and pick on any of the physical or mental qualities they called “defects.” Sonja claimed that the other girls had started it by being nasty to her and that they deserved what they got. Anyway, she was only having a little fun. Her principal knew Sonja was actually very insecure and was always criticized by her parents. Nothing she ever did was good enough for them. Her principal’s anti-bullying approach was to encourage Sonja’s targets to be more understanding of her, to try to win her affection and friendship, and to wait for her to learn to be nice, despite the examples she had for parents.
In both cases, these principals had accepted the excuses Walter and Sonja had given. They also accepted the socially-acceptable, psychological explanations for Walter and Sonja’s behavior as excuses and justifications so that there should be no consequences for them. They had it hard enough at home.
In both cases, the principals had turned their targets into victims.
There were no consequences for Walter and Sonja: no detention, no suspensions. Since nothing happened to them, they never had reason to change. In fact, since they were allowed to continue their bullying, they had gained more power at school.
In addition to the principals not protecting their students, the principals made no attempt to rally all the students to do something about them. When people can’t get the responsible authorities to protect them, they are given only a few simple choices: submit to the bullying or become vigilantes and take justice into their own hands. Of course, those principals will punish them, even though they never did anything to Walter and Sonja.
The take-home message is that while we can have sympathy and understanding for bullies’ excuses, justifications and problems, we must still stop their bullying behavior.
Of course, in order to make the point, I’ve simplified the cases I’ve presented. But the point is simple. Any complications and difficulties only mean that we may need more determination and cleverness to implement an effective plan. But those complexities don’t change the direction we need to go. They may mean that we, as parents, may have to bring great pressure and publicity to bear on principals who won’t stop bullying.
Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps. Call me to design a plan that fits you and your situation. And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.