Do you carry a “rattlesnake” in your hand?  Was it thrown at you or did you grab it willingly?  Do you typically throw them at other people? The rattlesnake represents the responsibility to make something happen or to change in order to please somebody else.

To read the rest of this article from the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Times, see: Eliminate ‘rattlesnakes’ from office interactions http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stories/2005/10/03/smallb4.html

Some bosses hurl rattlesnakes downstreamSome employees toss them upstream to make a supervisor responsible for satisfying them.

One problem is that people usually pretend there’s only one responsible party in any interaction, and they throw the rattlesnake at someone else in order to establish blame and responsibility.  On the other hand, some people gladly take all the rattlesnakes and let the other person off the hook – as if they feel guilty for any imperfection or they enjoy being martyrs.  Then they have the burden of coping with rattlesnakes forever because interactions continue escalating.

But, in most interactions, personal and business, there are usually many rattlesnakes.

For example, at a team meeting, Kathy got hurt and angry when Peter said he hadn’t gotten a necessary document from her.  She fought back tears, scowled, crossed her arms, clenched her fists and swiveled her chair so her back was to the group.  Peter said he was sorry – he hadn’t meant to imply that she was incompetent.

How many rattlesnakes were there and who had them?  See the original article for more information and assessment.

Another example: Ellen got straight to the point in her performance evaluation of Glenn – she was frustrated.  He was technically skilled but he resisted change and pushed back loudly and repeatedly in meetings about why the team couldn’t do what it needed to do.

Glenn told Ellen that he didn’t like her style of managing and evaluating.  He felt disrespected and threatened because she was brusque, and that’s why he got defensive.  Good management, he said, meant that Ellen should adjust her approach to the preferred styles of each individual in the group.

How many rattlesnakes were there and who had them?  See the original article for more information and assessment.

When it gets to the stage of anger, people focus on their emotions instead of the work that must be done.  Harassment, bullying and abuse inevitably follow.

You can start de-escalating by doing the natural things: Don’t throw rattlesnakes and if someone tries to hand you one, don’t take it.

Great leaders don’t allow rattlesnake-tossing contests; they’re just a waste of time and energy.

Often, people need coaching to help them overcome their defensiveness and passive-aggressive tendencies, and to build the strength, courage, determination and skill needed to stop angry confrontations and to emerge as the obvious candidate for promotion.  To get the help you need, call Ben at 1-877-828-5543.

If you think that fear of change is normal human nature, you’re wrong.  That’s especially true for the leaders you select. For example, Harry was slated to move up to Senior Vice President in a few years.  In the meantime, his division needed to change its direction and way of doing business.  He must groom a great leadership team and weed the appropriate people.

To read the rest of this article from the Denver Business Journal, see: Select leaders who are excited by challenge, change http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2007/03/12/smallb8.html

One member of Harry’s present, six-person team had to be let go.  He was an excellent project manager and he liked being custodian of repeatable processes.  However, he couldn’t handle the changes required.  His need for controlling every detail led him to resist fluid goals, processes and relationships.  He got rattled, constantly threw up roadblocks and underperformed.  In order to solidify his position, he also tried to sabotage his competition.

Another member of the team felt threatened because there wasn’t enough lead-time to prepare for shifting hurdles or moving targets.  She found a cookie-cutter job with fewer challenges.

Harry got the standard leadership advice:

I disagree. While resistance may be the norm in our society at this moment of time, that doesn’t make it normal.  In other cultures and in America in the past, “normal” was to be excited by change.  That’s where the great rewards are.  Think of Edison, Rockefeller and Ford, for example.

Whenever our ancestors came to America, last year or 30,000 years ago, they faced huge changes and took great risks.  They thrived, or we wouldn’t be here.  We have those hardy genes.  People who thrive today will have the same qualities their ancestors had.  They won’t be brainwashed into feeling fragile.

Our normal reaction to change can be eager anticipation; just as we had before our first day of surfing or skiing.  Like life, these activities are inherently dangerous and exhilarating.

In truth, our only security is in ourselves; not in false guarantees of employment for life.  Anyone who needs guarantees will fight to make an organization stay the way it is, which will kill it.  They won’t rise on their teams.

If we try to force things to stay the same, performance decreases.  Behavior sinks to the lowest level toleratedNarcissists, incompetent, lazy, gossip, back-stabbing, manipulation, hostility, crankiness, meeting sabotage, negativity, relentless criticism, whining, complaining, cliques, turf control, toxic feuds, harassment, bullying and abuse thrive.  Power hungry bullies take power.

The higher you go in a company, the more you have to keep your head in the game when things change suddenly.  Harry’s company isn’t downsizing, but most people who stay will have to learn to function well in continual change.  He’ll provide training, consulting and coaching – but not hand-holding.  And he won’t be conflict-avoidant in protecting the high standards he needs.

Of course, there’s tremendous risk in moving ahead.  But there’s more risk in fighting to stay the same.  A static organization will become unprofitable and all staffers will become unemployed.  Since only a few basic processes will stay the same, people who are comfortable only when repeating a known process will become uncomfortable.

Get over discomfort.  Our feelings aren’t handed to us in stone.  Don’t wait until we’ve developed a sense of safety and confidence, or an abundance mentality.  Take responsibility right now.

Life is an open system.  Get used to it.

High standards for how to respond to challenges and change protect everyone from unprofessional behavior.  You can learn to eliminate the high cost of low attitudes, behavior and performance.

All tactics are situational.  Expert coaching and consulting can help you create and implement a plan that fits you and your organization.

The principal and teachers at Sheila’s school were proud of their efforts to stop bullies.  They had a team, including a psychologist, to deal fairly with students accused of bullying. They were certain that:

  1. Students became bullies because they’d been bullied at home.
  2. Bullies had low self-esteem and weren’t aware of other ways of making friends.
  3. Bullying was in retaliation for bad treatment and that if provocation decreased, so would bullying.
  4. If other students stopped hurting the feelings of bullies, bullying would eventually stop.
  5. Since bullying was not the fault of one person, negotiation and mediation, would eventually stop bullying.
  6. The best way to stop bullying was through forgiveness, sympathy, compassion, understanding, education and compromise.

These educators were not going to let those poor, damaged kids who’d turned to bullying be harassed, taunted or abused, verbally or emotionally, or through unjust accusations.

What’s wrong with this picture?

For example, when Sheila finally had enough and complained that a clique of mean girls made disparaging remarks about her weight, hair, pimples and un-cool clothes, her teacher asked for proof.  Sheila could only offer her word against the girls who denied being mean to her.

Since there was no proof, and the accused clique was composed of popular girls, Sheila’s teacher told her that she didn’t believe those girls would act so mean and Sheila better watch her false accusations.  The teacher said that Sheila was probably jealous and maybe she should dress better, lose weight, make friends and avoid antagonizing the popular girls.

Sheila’s mother met with the teacher, principal and school psychologist.  They assured her that there was no evidence for Sheila’s accusations.  Then they asked many questions about Sheila’s home life and psychological state.  Maybe Sheila was going through something difficult at home.  Or maybe she was simply jealous and suffering from some teenage turmoil because she didn’t fit in.

They suggested that Sheila try to make friends with the popular girls – be nice to them, ask them what upset them and try to change that, give them friendship offerings, open her heart to them or turn the other cheek if she was misunderstanding what they said to her.  Maybe Sheila was simply too sensitive to the way high school girls naturally were.

They told accused clique of girls that Sheila had complained about them and encouraged them to be nice to her, despite her complaint.

Having been forewarned and directed at Sheila, but having no consequences to make them stop bullying, the accused girls escalated their attacks and got sneakier.  Sheila was subjected to daily barrages of hostility, venom and meanness.  When nothing happened to the clique, they got bolder and eventually beat Sheila up in the bathroom.

Unfortunately for them, a teacher happened to be in one of the stalls and heard the whole scene.

The school officials now initiated their program to stop bullies.

  • They investigated to find out what Sheila had done to provoke the attack.
  • They told Sheila’s parents to trust them.  They were working on the problem, but because of confidentiality issues, they couldn’t share what they were doing.
  • They encouraged Sheila’s parents not to talk with the parents of the clique girls.
  • They encouraged Sheila’s parents not to go to the media or to a lawyer.
  • They assured Sheila’s parents that the quieter the issue was kept, the more likely there would be a rapid resolution to the situation.

The principal and therapist had Sheila meet with the girls to mediate the situation by themselves.  They told the girls that they thought the students could solve the hostility on their own and that Sheila was willing to compromise with them.

At that meeting, the girls pinched Sheila, punched her, pulled her hair and threatened her with worse after school.  Then they told the principal and therapist that they’d apologized and promised not to do anything if Sheila would treat them nicer, but that Sheila had called them names, insulted them and refused to compromise.

Over the next six months, the attacks on Sheila increased, and the principal and his staff kept trying to educate the bullies.  Subjected to repeated teasing, taunting, harassment and physical abuse during this time, Sheila’s inner demons emerged, she gained more weight, became morose and depressed, and often had suicidal thoughts.  Her confidence, self-esteem and grades plummeted.  She even went through a period of guilt, thinking that the way the girls treated her was, indeed, her fault.

It took a lot to overcome her sense of despair and defeat, activate her fighting spirit and help her recover a sense of purpose, determination and hope.

By the way, the truth of Sheila’s accusations was later verified because one of her narcissistic persecutors had proudly used her phone to record most of the attacks.

There were many early warning signs that could have alerted Sheila’s parents that school officials would do nothing to stop the bullying. There were:

I could say a lot about specific steps that the principal, teachers and therapist could and should have taken to protect Sheila.  But they were the kind of do-nothing administrators who eventually make the headlines.

However, for this article let’s focus on the assumptions these educators had that assured that they wouldn’t consider protecting Sheila effectively.

  1. There are the ones listed at the beginning of this article.
  2. These supposedly responsible authorities cared more about understanding, educating and forgiving the bullies than about protecting their target or about creating a safe environment at their school.
  3. They thought that the feelings and confidentiality of the bullies were more important than Sheila’s pain.
  4. They were willing to sacrifice Sheila for the sake of education and therapy on the bullies.

Almost every student at the school knew what was happening and recognized the accepted culture of bullying.  That’s why there were no witnesses; the students knew better than to risk their necks when they wouldn’t be protected by the adults.

As is usually the case, in a school in which bullies are not stopped, Sheila’s treatment was not an isolated case.  When Sheila’s parents made her situation public, many other parents came forward with reports of how their children had been bullied by other students and how the administrators had not protected them.  Even after many other cases surfaced, the principal and his staff maintained the same approach.

Only the results of extensive media publicity, a court case and the intervention of a district administrator changed the situation.  Actually, more publicity resulted in a faster resolution of the situation.

Obviously, I don’t think that education, compassion and therapy are the best methods of stopping bullying.  The best method is to stop the behavior:

  1. Create an atmosphere in which bullying is not tolerated.
  2. Remove bullies.
  3. Protect targets; don’t convert them into victims.
  4. Encourage witness to come forward, not to become bystanders.

Then we’ll see which bullies respond to education, compassion and therapy.

I won’t sacrifice the targets for the sake of the bullies.

For some examples, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” available fastest from this web site.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Amy was raised to be a nice girl.  She had learned not to act if she felt angry or if she sensed any resentful or vindictive feelings within her.  When she held back because her motives weren’t pure enough, she became easy prey for her bullying brother. When they were middle-aged, her brother moved back to their small town after having been gone for 20 years.  He began spreading vicious lies and rumors about Amy.  He blackened her reputation around town and even manipulated their mother into believing that Amy had always been jealous of him and that’s why she would claim he was nasty to her.

It was all lies.  Actually, Amy had done a lot to help him and had ignored his attacks; she’d never been nasty.  He was a sneaky, narcissistic, abusive, covert bully.

But the more his poisonous words went unchallenged, the more people believed them.

Amy obsessed on what he was saying and what was happening.  She couldn’t sleep, she wallowed in negative self-talk, shame and guilt, and became grumpy and angry at her family and at work.  She got anxious and depressed.  She even contemplated suicide as a solution to her dilemma.

Amy had helped her brother so much and she couldn’t understand why he’d do these things.  She tried reasoning with him and in return he attacked her verbally, venting a lifetime’s hatred and jealousy on her.  He blamed her for all the problems in his life; all his troubles had been her fault.  He told her that she had only succeeded and had a wonderful family because she’d fooled them all and he was going to bring her down.  He wouldn’t listen to reason or any compromise she offered.

He accused her of being evil.  Her anger and desire to retaliate proved how bad she was.  Since she did feel angry, resentful and vindictive, maybe he was right and she was deluding herself by thinking she was a good person.

Finally, Amy was forced to reevaluate some beliefs she’d accepted when she was a child:

  • Truth will out; good people will be justified.
  • Turn the other cheek; follow the Golden Rule.
  • Never act if your motives are impure; if you feel the slightest amount of anger, resentment or vindictiveness.

When she could see that the wonderful life she’d created and her teenage children’s happiness were threatened, she broke free from her old rules and roles.  She evaluated those old rules-roles as an adult with much more experience than she had when she was a child.

She could see where and when the old rules might apply, and where and when she needed new rules because she was now a responsible adult.  She realized that her most important jobs were to protect her children, her marriage and her reputation.  She felt like her old skin had been ripped open and a new sense of clarity, urgency and power filled her new skin.

She told her teenage children what she’d realized.  She’d told them secrets about her brother that she’d hidden because she didn’t want them to know how rotten he’d always been.  But she had to protect her family from someone who’d destroy it, even though he was her brother.

She told their mother the truth, even though that hurt mom.  Her mother had always tried to ignore how bad her son had been.  Now she had a choice, face the truth and side with her daughter, who’d always been good to her, or continue siding with a son who was weak and manipulative.

Amy told the truth to her friends and many of the important people in town. The hardest part for her was to overcome her reluctance and produce evidence for many of the rotten things her brother had done while he’d been gone.  There were newspaper clippings to back up what she said.

Also, she reminded people to judge by character and history.  How had she behaved to them over the years: had she lied, deceived or harmed them?  Or had she always been kindly, considerate and truthful?

Her brother had to leave town.  Amy felt sorry for him, but she knew that her responsibilities were more important that her sympathy for her brother, who was now reaping the painful harvest of the seeds he’d sown.

Most important, she had a much better sense of what she had to do to fulfill her responsibilities and that she wouldn’t allow her feelings to put her in harm’s way.  Also, she saw that she had not let herself be overwhelmed by anger or resentment.  She hadn’t blown up and lost her character or the respect of the people in town.  Instead, she had stayed calm and thoughtful, and developed a plan that succeeded.

Now, she’s much stronger, courageous and determined.

Expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

If you worry that your child will be bullied in school next school year, but you don’t know what to do until bullying happens again in September, you’re missing a golden opportunity this summer.  Summer is the best time to organize in order to protect your children on day-one. Seven tips for what you can do this summer:

  1. Don’t wait until there’s an incident or a history of incidents.
  2. Organize parents to pressure legislators, district administrators and principals. This step is a crucial one.  A small group of parents supporting an anti-bullying program and pressuring district officials and principals can make a huge difference.  You don’t need all parents; you only need a small, core group to start with.
  3. Make sure your district administrators and school principals have clear and strongly worded policies and programs to stop school bullies. Make sure they have emergencies procedures to institute swift and effective investigation and action.  Does the program start on day one?  What initial assemblies will be held with students? How will they be involved in on-going programs?  What training will teachers and all staff get to help them recognize and stop sneaky bullies?  How will hot-spots be monitored – buses, bathrooms, lockers, hallways, cafeterias, playgrounds?  What support will teachers and staff get to protect them from angry, bullying parents?  How will they deal with the first boundary pushers so that the message of zero-tolerance gets out?
  4. Get police involved. Do they have a special unit to stop bullying, especially cyberbullying?  Do they speak at school assemblies?  Are they fearless in dealing with bullying parents of school bullies?
  5. Stimulate media to publicize stories about the effects of bullying. Find reporters and producers who were bullied or have kids in school now; especially kids who have been targeted.  Help them find experts to interview.
  6. Learn what constitutes evidence and how to document it. Learn how to support proactive principals.  Learn what you will need to do to motivate lazy, uncaring, colluding or cowardly principals.  Do you know what media and legal pressure will stimulate your principal to act?  Talk to a lawyer now so you’re prepared.
  7. Publicize the policy and program before school starts. Organize parent-principal-teacher assemblies to gain buy-in to the school’s program and processes.  Encourage parents to educate their children about not bullying and about what to do when they witness bullying.

Don’t waste your time with nit-picky detractors and critics who have nothing better to offer.

Look at the price to all kids at a school where bullying is tolerated or condoned, or the friends of bullies are allowed to pile on to victims by threatening and abusing them or by cyberbullying.  We all know the consequences of not stopping bullies and of allowing them continued contact with their targets, the bullying and violence will increase.

At schools that have a do-nothing principal or in which principals blame the victim and avoid the bully, kids’ inner strength, courage, determination, perseverance, resilience are threatened.  You have to be the one to demand that principals keep your children safe while officials try to ignore you or thwart your attempts.

Principals who avoid the issue make the targeted children feel helpless and that their situation is hopeless.  It starts them down the path to being victims for life.  It destroys self-confidence and self-esteem.  It stimulates anxiety, stress, guilt, negativity and self-mutilation.  It starts children toward isolation, depression and suicide.

Organize this summer so your children will be protected from school bullies on day-one.

Remember, all tactics depend on the situation – the people and the circumstances.  So we must plan tactics appropriate to us and to the situation.

Rather than buy a packaged anti-bullying program that ends up buried in a storeroom, stimulate school and district officials to create their own, based on what will be effective for your specific school situation.  Expert consulting and coaching are necessary to implement an effective program.

We don’t need more research and statistics to know that domestic violence is a travesty and must be stopped.  For example, watch the graphic five minute video about the effects of that brutality and the work of one safe house helping women and children.  Domestic violence is obvious – you can see the results of physical battering. On the other hand, even though domestic bullying and mental and emotional abuse are more wide spread than overt beating they’re often hidden from view.  Since harassment, bullying and abuse often fly below the bullying-radar of the targets and the public, I want to focus on it here.  Targets who accept the bullies’ promises or threats or on-going torture often don’t recognize how bad it is; how demoralizing and defeating it is; how their souls are being eroded over time.

Of course, some men are bullied by women, but notice the patterns of the bullied women who have written these (edited) comments:

  • “Out of the blue, he started taking control over me (commanding me), which I am not liking.  He is not letting me meet my friends or go out with them on weekends.  He doesn’t let me wear dresses, saying his parents don’t like it.  I am not allowed to do anything; no friends, no meeting people, no phones, nothing.  These things were never an issue previously.  I tried to work out things during last five months by listening to him and not meeting or talking to my friends.  He just keep saying ‘Listen to me and things will work out; otherwise pack your bags and leave.’  He doesn’t let me go out anywhere without him.  He doesn’t want to sort it out by talking.  Whenever I try, he says, ‘I am not here to listen to you.  You have to do whatever I say.   I don’t want to hear a ‘No’.  Now, I am always depressed and sad and smoke a lot more.  I lost my smile.  I lost myself in this relation.  Shall I give up or keep compromising without any expectations in this relationship?”
  • “I have been in a four year relationship, and have a two year-old daughter with him.  I have been feeling depressed lately and having second thoughts about us being together.  He controls me.  I can’t go any where without asking him first.  Sometimes I feel like a little kid asking for permission, even if it’s to go to the store.  My friends ask me to go out for a girls’ night and he gets mad if I mention it, so I stopped asking and him and just tell my friends I’m doing something that night so I can’t go.  Now, they don’t even ask me anymore.  When his friends are here he acts like he’s so cool and even yells at me in front of them.  It’s extremely embarrassing.  I feel alone.  I tried leaving in the past and he won’t let me take the baby.  So I stay because I don’t want to fight and I’m not leaving my child.  What do I do?  How do I make it an easy break up?  How do we get out?”
  • “At first my husband was the sweetest man I ever met.  He complimented me and had such great manners.  Then slowly but surely he began changing into the worst thing I could ever imagine.  The sick thing is I know I don't deserve it, but I can't leave.  It's like he has some strange control over me.  He constantly puts me down about my intelligence, appearance and my mothering abilities, which hurts the most.  It’s such an everyday obstacle that I find myself questioning why I stay.  It's gotten so bad I'm beginning to believe the things he says to me about how I'm useless and no one will ever want me but him.  Every bad thing that happens, he takes out on me.  Every single thing is my fault.  I want to leave but I still find myself staying, feeling bad for him and his feelings.  He can't even compliment at all without letting me know that I'm ugly and lucky he even loves me.  I'm just so sad anymore.  I don't even recognize myself.  I'm not allowed to speak to my family or friends.  I just don't know what to do anymore.  I'm so lost.”
  • “My husband and I have been together for eleven years with four children.  We go through the cycle of an abusive relationship.  Every time we argue, I get called a ‘bitch,’ which I have asked him many times to not do.  We kiss and make up.  Then everything's fine and dandy again.  He doesn't like to talk about our fights and says he will not name-call me again.  But every opportunity he gets, he's right at it again.  I guess I keep hoping he'll change, but I know he never will.   I don't feel any love from this guy.  He has fooled around on me and even went as far as marrying someone else while we were married.  Just recently he took my wedding ring away and threatened to pawn it.  He also promised my kids that he'll take them on a vacation.  He doesn’t even work, so I ended up having to get funds just to take the kids on the vacation.  Today, we fought again and he said sorry and he'll start today on not calling me a bitch.  Then ten minutes later it happened again.  I feel so stuck.  I feel as my only way out is suicide.  But I don't want to give him that satisfaction.  All I did today was cry.  And I don't even have anyone to talk to because everyone is sick of hearing me cry over him.”

Some patterns I see are:

  • He commands, bosses and embarrasses her in public.  She submits because she wants to avoid bigger fights.  She hopes that since she gave in this time, he’ll be nicer next time.  But he’s relentless in arguing, bullying and abusing; he never stops.  If he doesn’t beat her, the threat is there.
  • When she’s nice and logical – discussing, asking, compromising, begging, arguing, appeasing – she may get peace because he’s gotten his way, but it’s only momentary.  Her good behavior doesn’t buy his in return.  He never reciprocates by letting her have her way next time.  Eventually, she submits completely and asks permission to do anything.  He’s in complete control.  When he’s mean, angry or out of control, it’s her fault because she isn’t perfect.  It’s as if, “Since he’s angry, you must have done something wrong.”
  • She’s mocked, criticized, demeaned and humiliated until she doesn’t know what to believe.  She thinks she’s helpless and wouldn’t be loved or succeed on her own.  He’s so convinced and convincing that she begins to question herself, increasing her self-doubt, stress, anxiety and insecurity.  Eventually, the results of emotional and spiritual defeat are physical defeat and sickness.  Even though she knows she doesn’t deserve such treatment, she usually has some self-doubt and guiltShe makes many attempts to be perfect according to his standards.  She forgets that it’s her standards that should matter to her.
  • Step by step, she’s isolated – cut off from friends, family and sources of her own income.  She loses her old self; she loses her confidence and self-esteem; she becomes depressed, heart-broken and ready to give up.
  • It’s even worse if there are children she thinks she’ll have to support if she leaves.  Eventually, she begins to think like a victim – she can’t see how to get safe house help, legal help or the police on her side.

These targets keep hoping they’ll find some magic wand to change him; he’ll become a loving, caring, nice and reasonable person.  But that’s not going to happen.

Or they think that the most important value is making a marriage last even though it’s a marriage of torture.  Or that what matters is whether he loves her or not, when what really matters is how he loves her.

The question they must answer is whether it’s more important to keep a marriage at any cost, while giving in to fear and despair, or whether it’s more important to risk demanding the behavior they want in their personal space.  And if someone won’t behave decently, either they’re voted off our island or we leave theirs.

Maybe if these targets thought that they’re dealing with relentless bullies or predators, they might summon the strength to take steps to get away.  They might accept that the Golden Rule won’t stop narcissistic control-freaks; that appeasement won’t change predators; that unconditional love won’t convert carnivores; that unconditional forgiveness won’t heal the wounds they think drive him to be so abusive.  Maybe they’d realize that asking, threatening, yelling, demanding or an endless number of second chances without consequences are merely begging.

Those abusive, bullying control-freaks always interpret their target’s kindness, reasonableness and compromise as weakness and an invitation to take more from them, to control more of their lives, to eat them alive.

Ultimately, these women get the worst that they’re willing to put up with.  And eventually, the price they pay is slow erosion of their souls.

That’s why the first step in creating a bully-free personal space is for us to rally our spirits; to become strong, brave, determined and persevering.  Endurance endures.  Then we can make effective plans, take skillful steps and get the help we need.

No matter how difficult it seems, getting away is the only way to have a chance for a wonderful future.

All tactics are situational, so we’ll have to go into the details of specific situations in order to design tactics that fit the target and the other people involved.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of people commanding themselves, stopping bullying and getting free.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

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AuthorBen Leichtling
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Sometimes toxic parents think they have us over a barrel even after we’ve grown up, gotten physically and financially independent, and started our own family.  They count on our loyalty to some ideal of “family” no matter how badly they treated and still treat us.  They count on our self-bullying and guilt.  They count on us still trying to jump through their hoops to win their love and approval...  They count on our fear that they’ll manipulate the rest of the family into thinking we’re ungrateful and bad.  And they often count on our enduring the verbal and emotional abuse so we can inherit our share of their fortune. Of course, I’m talking about those toxic parents who are still blaming everything on us and abusing us because “It’s your fault” or “You are selfish, ungrateful and don’t deserve any better” or “It’s your duty to do what they want in their old age.”  They’re the toxic parents who know our every weakness and sensitivity, and still poke them hard when they want too; still find fault with every little thing we do; still compare us unfavorably to someone else or to their standards; still criticize, belittle and harass us and our spouse and our children in public or they’re the sneaky ones who criticize, demean and denigrate us in private but pretend they love us in public so everyone thinks they’re wonderful, loving parents.

Of course, we’ve tried everything we can think of, but the negativity, harassment, criticism, blame, shame, bullying and abuse haven’t stopped.  We’ve tried to do exactly what they want, but it’s never enough.  We’ve apologized and pleaded with them to stop, but that just makes them act nastier.  We’ve gotten angry and threatened not to see them, but they broke down in such tears of distress we felt guilty or they blamed on us even more or they acted nice for a few minutes but, when we relaxed, they attacked us more about something different they didn’t like.

So what can we do now?

  1. For the sake of peace and quiet in the whole family, we could keep trying to endure the abuse while begging them to stop.  After all, we never know; if we only kept trying, if we only did enough, they might change.  Also, they might leave us in the will.  And it’d be our fault if we quit too soon.  Many people fly low until they have children and see their toxic parents either criticizing and emotionally abusing their children or belittling and criticizing them while being sweet to the grandchildren.
  2. We might continue objecting and arguing; enduring our frustration and anger.  Usually this tactic repeats endlessly and often spirals out of control.  Relentlessly toxic parents won’t admit they’re wrong and give up.  Eventually they’ll escalate and cut us out of the will.
  3. We might try withdrawing for a while; not seeing them, telling them we won’t return emails and calls, and then carrying through.  People usually shift from the first two tactics to this one when they see the effect of their toxic parents on their own children.  This tactic sometimes convinces nasty, mean, bullying parents that they’d better change their ways or they’ll lose contact with their grandchildren.  But the relentlessly toxic parents don’t care.  They’re sure they’re fine and they’re sure they’ll win if they push hard enough, like they’ve always won in the past.  So they don’t change and we go back to arguing or we give up or we finally respond more firmly.
  4. The next step is to withdraw for a long time, maybe forever – no contact.  It’s sad but we have to protect the family we’re creating from our own predatory parents.  It’s usually both scary and very exciting.  Most people, despite any guilt they feel, also feel a huge surge of relief, as if a giant weight or a fire-breathing dragon has been removed from their shoulders.  Our spouse and children may celebrate.  Get out of town, go on a vacation, turn the phones and email off.

What to expect and how to respond?

  1. They’ll attack when we withdraw.  Expect them to make angry calls and send hostile emails.  Save these on an external drive or a cheap recorder before deleting them.  They want to engage us, so do not engage endlessly and fruitlessly; no return calls or emails, no hateful or vindictive responses.  We’ve only gotten to this point because they haven’t changed after many approaches and warnings.  We might have to change our phone numbers to unlisted ones and change our email addresses.
  2. They’ll rally the extended family.  Prepare by making cue cards of what to say; no excuses or justifications.  Just tell the family what you said and did, and what you plan.  Ask them not to intervene.  Tell them we’d like to see them but only if our toxic parents are not present.  We’re sorry they’re caught in the middle but that’s life.  They do have to choose who to believe and what behavior to support.  Be prepared to withdraw from anyone who attacks or interferes.
  3. They’ll disinherit us.  When they can’t manipulate us through love, blame, shame and guilt, they’ll try greed.  If we don’t do what our toxic parents want right now, they’ll cut us out of the will.  Don’t be a slave to greed; it’s a deadly sin.  If we want to have a bully-free family life, we’ll have to make it on our own.  The real benefit is not merely ending the brutality, it’s the strength of character and the skills we gain when we make decisions for ourselves and chart our own course in the world.  We’ll end the negativity, stress, anxiety and depression usually caused by toxic parents.  We’ll develop the strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience we all need to make wonderful lives.  We’ll be able to express our passion and joy without cringing, waiting for the next blow to fall.
  4. We’ll have an empty space in our lives.  Even more than the empty physical space we’ll now have at the times when we used to get together with our toxic parents, we’ll have a huge mental and emotional space.  How many hours have we wasted thinking about our parents, worrying about the next episode, dreading what might happen next, agonizing over what to do.  We don’t have to do that any more.  Of course, being weaned from an old habit takes a little time.  We must be gentle with ourselves.  Focus on the freedom we now have.  Now we can think about the things we want to think about; not about pain and suffering, not about past failures.  Now we have space to bring into our lives people who will be part of the tribe of our heart and spirit.
  5. Our children will wonder why.  Tell the kids in a way that’s age appropriate.  Are we protecting them from the verbal abuse of their toxic grandparents or from lies that paint us as bad people?  They’ll want to know what’s going to stay the same.  Will they have fun, celebrate holidays, get presents, have extended family?

The most important lessons we offer our children are not through books and lectures.  Those are important, but the most important ones are the ones they see in our behavior when we’re models of behavior we want them to learn.

Be a model for them of someone who protects himself and them from anyone who would target them, even someone who’s close by blood.  Being close by behavior counts more than blood.  Show them not to be victimized even by blood relations.

Show them to how to be the hero of their lives.

With expert coaching and consulting, we can look at individual situations and plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.  We can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.  We can overcome childhood rules to endure whatever bullying and abuse our toxic parents dish out simply because they’re our parents.  We can become strong and skilled enough to stop bullies in their tracks – even if those bullies are blood relatives. “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of children and adults getting over their early training and freeing themselves from toxic relationships.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

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AuthorBen Leichtling
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In their New York Times column, “From Dangerous Home to Safe House,” Amelia Duchon-Voyles, with Liz Welch, describes how Amilia helped a woman and child escape from a bullying and domestic violence situation.  They also described the mother’s progress toward standing up to her batterer and to establishing a steady life for her and her son. Good for all of them.  Their individual efforts, in emergencies, under duress, save lives.

Some ideas for the targets of domestic violence are:

Some ideas for the targets of domestic violence are:

  1. Don’t remain a victim.  Whatever your second thoughts, stop the harassment, bullying, abuse and domestic violence by getting away safely.  If you’re threatened, beaten, terrorized or abused, get away.  Don’t live in fear.  Don’t allow your children to grow up in fear.  In your heart of hearts you know that if you stay, you’re dooming your babies to a life of pain, stress and anxiety; negativity and depression; low self-confidence and self-esteem; increased chance of addiction, alcoholism and suicide.
  2. Find a safe house and helpers to get you away and to start a new and better life.  Seize any window of opportunity; you don’t need a plan with all the details worked out.  From a safe house you can make and carry out a better plan than you can when you’re terrified.
  3. Don’t worry about the stuff you leave behind.  It’s got his cooties on them.  You’ll get new.  More important than any attachment you or your children might have to the stuff, is the value of being free to breathe deeply again, to laugh and sing and dance with abandon, and to plan for a great future.
  4. Your children need your good example more than they need his bullying, abusive presence and any benefits you imagine of growing up with a bully for a father.  They need to be away from the fear.  The boys need to learn that bullying and violence won’t be tolerated or get them what they want.  The girls need to learn that they don’t have to tolerate abuse and battering.
  5. Don’t believe his promises.  You’ve heard them all before.  Don’t answer emails, texts and calls.  Your safe house helpers will help you get the police on your side.  Give up false hopes of rehabilitating him.  Later you can find a different love that feels good.
  6. Get stable over time.  You can get education, skills and a job or career to make a life in which you can get your own place.  Start stable routines for the kids.  Convince them that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.  Tell them hero/heroine stories.  Even though it takes time and hard work, they can be fine as adults – successful people and good parents.
  7. Don’t think about divorce and moving far away until later.  The people at the safe house will help you plan ahead.  Guilt and shame won’t help you now.  When you can stand up straight again, you’ll figure out how you let yourself slide into marriage hell and you’ll take steps to make sure it won’t happen again with a new boyfriend.

Be courageous, take the risk.  Your future, your children’s future is calling to you to make your lives better.  No matter what you say, if you stay your babies will believe your example.  They’ll think that being a bully or being a victim are acceptable ways to go through life.  Set a good example for your children.

James Jones, the Florida father who boarded a school bus to protect his 13 year-old daughter from school bullies, has been raked through the media for his over-reaction.  He’s apologized profusely that he threatened the bullies and the bus driver who hadn’t stopped the bullying. The episode was captured by the bus surveillance camera.  No doubt about what he did.  The case will wind its way through the courts.  No doubt he should have been more active in contacting the school instead of boarding the bus.  He admits it.

But I think the discussion has focused on the wrong aspect of the situation; on his over-reaction.

The more important aspect is whether there was indeed bullying and, if there was,

  • How come the school principal was unaware?
  • How come the driver didn’t report it?
  • How come the videotapes weren’t scoured to see if there was evidence for the alleged bullying?
  • How come the principal didn’t talk to kids on the school bus about acceptable behavior at the beginning of the year?
  • How come none of the witnesses were willing to come forward, knowing that the principal and teachers would protect them?

A possible answer to these questions might be that there was never any bad behavior on the school bus.  But that would be surprising.  What was your experience on the school bus?  Ask your friends.

Jones, of Lake Mary, Florida, and his wife claim that their daughter, who has cerebral palsy, had been called names and pushed around.  They also claim that they had complained to Seminole County school administrators in the past, but nothing had been done to help their daughter.  Jones told deputies that boys placed an open condom on his daughter's head, smacked her on the back of her head, twisted her ear and shouted rude comments at her.

The response of the school administrators is the usual, “We didn’t know; they never contacted us.”  They focused on Mr. Jones’s over-reaction instead of on the alleged bullying on the bus.  “Changing the focus” is a typical tactic of bullies and people trying to gloss over their failure to respond effectively.

We don’t know the facts.  School bus tapes haven’t been scanned.  Complaints to the school officials by the Joneses haven’t been documented. However, I’m suggesting that in too many cases, school administrators are not proactive in creating an environment in which:

  • Every kid knows that bullying is wrong and won’t be tolerated.
  • Adults are monitoring areas in which most bullying occurs.
  • Every child (every potential witness) knows what to do and that their reports will be confidential and they’ll be protected.

The huge outcry in support of Mr. Jones demonstrates the lurking fear that all parents have: principals, teachers and staff too often look the other way and don’t actively protect our children.  There’s the lurking fear that our child will be the next bullying-caused suicide.  We empathize with Mr. Jones’ frustration and anger.

I’d be more likely to believe the school principal if he or she stood next to Mr. Jones on nationwide television and said things like, “Yes, Mr. Jones over-reacted, but we won’t tolerate bullying anywhere at school, we’re reviewing tapes to see if there was bullying, we’re questioning the driver, we’re instituting a strong program to educate all teachers, staff and kids that we won’t tolerate bullying.  We’ll get the facts in this specific case.”

I disagree with the supposed experts who say that parents shouldn’t intervene, even if the targeted children can’t protect themselves, for example, because the number of bullies is overwhelming or because the child has cerebral palsy and can’t protect herself, like Mr. Jones’ daughter.

I think we simply have to know how to intervene more skillfully so that, when necessary, we know how to force inactive, lazy or reluctant principals to act.  For example, if the Joneses had been more skillful in documenting their complaints to the school, if they really did, there would be a clear paper trail of every interaction with the school administrators, including administrators’ signatures on minutes of every conversation and the Joneses would have copies.  Individualized coaching is crucial to developing this skill.

More important than psychologists’ claims that “when [parents] jump in and [intervene], it helps the kids actually feel worse because they feel less control, they feel like they can't handle themselves and they feel defenseless without the bodyguard there,” is that when children actually are overwhelmed or helpless, they know that they’re protected by responsible adults.  They can learn to protect themselves better as they grow more independent.

Mr. Jones’ daughter was helpless to defend herself.  The stress, anxiety and fear are greater because she wasn’t protected. Let’s focus on the real problem; bullying on the bus, near the lockers, on the playgrounds, in the bathrooms, in the hallways, in the cafeteria and everywhere else bullies feel safe to attack their targets.

You can see or listen to “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” for many examples of how to stop bullies.

Some bullies use their strong emotions to become the center of attention, take control and coerce or manipulate other people to give in and do what the emotional bully wants. Children throwing fits are practicing and learning if that tactic works.  Adult masters of emotional bullying are effective with spouses, partners, friends, extended families and at work.  Some bullies are especially effective in places where other people’s politeness keeps them from stopping the bullying – like at parent groups, reading clubs and parent-teacher meetings.

These “Drama Queens” and their male counterparts have strong emotions and over-the-top reactions.  They come in many forms.

For example:

  • No matter how trivial the problem at school, Claire’s daughter was never at fault.  If Claire’s child didn’t get the special treatment she wanted, or if her child was marked down for not completing an assignment or for misbehaving, or if her child wasn’t the first or the most successful, Claire threw a fit.  In public, she yelled at other children or at teachers and the principal.  She threatened law suits.  Pretty soon, teachers allowed her spoiled, bratty child to bully other children.
  • James had three young children, but he was always the center of attention.  If he didn’t get waited on instantly or was asked to do something that interfered with his personal plans or comfort, his constant irritation blew up into outrage and anger.  He yelled at his wife and the kids.  He blamed them for disturbing him and punished them in nasty ways for days.  Usually he was allowed to do anything he wanted and was rarely asked to help.  His wife said, behind his back, that it was like having a giant kid in the house.
  • In the workplace, Tracy ranted in her office, but never followed through with her threats or promises.  She moved on to turn the next problem she saw into a catastrophe.  But once she’d blown up at you, no amount of good performance would get you out off her “bad” list.  She’d sabotage you without telling you why.  Pretty soon, everyone did exactly what she wanted.  They didn’t want scenes and they didn’t want Tracy to stab them in the back.
  • Charlie was a lousy friend, but everyone was afraid to tell him.  He was always late, took up the whole time talking about himself and needed everyone to help him do what he said he “needed” to do.  He borrowed but never returned, he never had money to cover his share of activities and all the fun had to wait until he arrived.  If anyone wouldn’t wait or tried to stop his narcissistic speeches or wouldn’t give him what he wanted, his feelings were hurt.  He was crushed, incensed and ranted for hours; he never let go of a perceived slight.  Of course, it was just easier to give and go along rather than to offend him.

Although they come in many forms, Drama Queens share some common traits.  They:

  • Are hypersensitive, highly emotional and easily hurt.  They’re super-intense, angry, hostile and emotional. They over-react as if everything is a matter of life and death.
  • They misunderstand, jump to conclusions and blow up and demand apologies.
  • Are perfectionistic, nit-picking, control freaks.  They’re vindictive blamers. They take everything personally and remember forever.
  • Take over every situation or group.  They act as if their drama is more important than anything else in the world.  Nothing and nobody else matters; not even getting results.
  • Think that spewing of emotions reveals the “real” person.  They’re uncomfortable with people they see as expressionless.  To Drama Queens, loud emotions show strength; calm people are wimps.

Unless we stop them, we end up walking on egg shells and deferring to them.  Their likes and dislikes rule.  Pretty soon they’re in charge.

Drama Queens increase everyone’s anxiety, stress and depression.  Most people mistakenly accept the blame for triggering the Drama Queen.  They also create chaos.  Their hyperactive, panicky, adrenaline-rush is addictive and contagious.  Soon, everyone is on edge and ready to blow up at the slightest provocation.

Logic and kindness won’t change them.  And you won’t cure them.  Their tactics have made them successful since childhood.  Only a devastating comeuppance or years of intensive therapy or coaching have a chance of changing that style.

When possible, vote Drama Queens off your island.  You’ll need carefully planned tactics if they’re in your extended family or live on your block and their kids are friends with yours.  At work, try to document activities that destroy teamwork or are clearly illegal.  You won’t get anywhere if you want the big bosses to act because the Drama Queen hurt your feelings.

If the Drama Queen or King is your spouse, I’m sorry.  You’ll have to demand behavioral change while you prepare to move on.  Usually, they won’t grow up and learn a new style unless they have to.  They’d even rather get a divorce and blame you than change their style.  Drama Queens are addicted to their habit – knowing that they’re the center of the universe – and need repeated fixes.

In the space of five days, we honor Jackie Robinson’s finally breaking into the major leagues by having every baseball player wear his number and we also memorialize Eric Harris and Dylan Klebolt’s massacre at Columbine High School ten years ago.  Looking at the similarities and differences between the three people is instructive. They each faced a failed system – but in opposite directions – and they illustrate character and courage – but at opposite ends of the spectrum.

The Rotten Systems Jackie Robinson was 28 when he was first allowed to play in the major leagues.  Think of what his records would have been had he not lost about 6 of his best years.  The stories about what was done and said to him fill volumes.  For starters, he couldn’t get a cab to Ebbets field on April 15, 1947 because he was black.  Some of his teammates were so racist that they wouldn’t play on the same team with him.  He couldn’t stay in many of the same hotels or eat in many of the same restaurants as the rest of the team, even after his fabulous rookie season.  Players on other teams threw balls at his head and spiked him on the base paths.  His and his family’s lives were continually threatened.

I grew up in Brooklyn and was old enough to go to Ebbets Field to see Robinson play in his second year.  The insults, curses and threats from the players and fans were still going on.  It was my personal introduction to racism.

The system that kept Robinson out of baseball and harassed him for years was rotten – full of anger, hatred and the very real possibility of killing him and his family.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebolt faced a rotten system on the other extreme.  They were allowed to act out and show the world what they meant to do, but instead of being removed from contact with other students who were their victims, the two were coddled.

Part of what made their shooting spree so horrible for many people not directly connected with the slain students and teacher, was that it showed a generation that their basic assumption about rehabilitating even the most psychopathic-psychotic teenagers were wrong and could have terrible consequences for their own children.  The assumption was that if you kept extremely troubled kids in contact with the rest of us and gave them lots of counseling and even more chances, the troubled kids would stop being crazy bullies and would become nice people and good citizens.

Previously, kids like Harris and Klebolt would have been called juvenile delinquents and removed in order to protect the rest of us.  Of course, a few of those were removed unjustly and could have been rehabilitated if treated differently.  So we swung the pendulum all the way to the side of ignoring the signs, keeping the juvenile delinquents with the rest of us and hoping for the best.  Harris and Klebolt showed a generation what the price was for living that false educational philosophy; each one of those psychopaths could kill about ten innocent people.

That coddling attitude is very much like letting drunk drivers continue driving.  You don’t know who the next victims will be, but you know there is a very high percentage that there will be next victims.

We still haven’t righted the pendulum.  Maybe that will take a kind of well-publicized, civil rights movement or maybe just the eventual dying off of the generation that espoused such weird ideas supported by spurious educational research.  Thousands of innocent kids are bullied and harassed at school each day while society, the legal system and school principals don’t stop the bullying juvenile delinquents, psychopaths and psychotics.

Character and Courage Jackie Robinson had the character and courage to endure and surmount far worse than the bullying that is claimed to have pushed Harris and Klebolt over the edge.  Robinson kept his promise to himself and to Branch Rickey, Brooklyn Dodgers’ President, to hold himself in check until he had proven his quality as a baseball player.  He endured in order to make a point for his race.  He endured when most of us, with less character and courage, would either have given up or exploded.

Neither Harris nor Klebolt had character or courage.  Bullying didn’t push them over the edge.  They ran willingly and repeatedly right to the edge and then jumped off.  None of the adults stopped them or removed them.

When will we swing the pendulum back to the middle and start protecting the rest of us from the bullies and crazies?

Bullying cliques (or vicious gangs) are apparent early in life.  They’re rampant in junior high school and high school.  You can see the same type of behavior perpetuated in the workplace.  O, the bullying is more harsh and twisted, and the justifications are more slick, but you can see the same ugly bullies, only in bigger bodies. What’s been your experience with cliques at work?

What do you think the top reasons are that people gang up on others?

Do women or men do it more – and to whom?

Typical clique behaviors that create a hostile workplace include, but are not limited to:

The top ten reasons I’ve seen people form hostile, nasty cliques at work are:

  1. They’re jealous of other people’s intelligence, talent, skill, potential or success.
  2. They’re insecure and hate or are threatened and scared by differences and get to feel superior when they disparage other people.
  3. They use the clique to gain power, promotions and publicity.
  4. They want to attach themselves to the “in” crowd.
  5. They feel a thrill at the power of making someone suffer or beg for mercy.
  6. They feel justified because the victim did something bad to them.
  7. They feel powerful that they’re in control of punishment and retribution.
  8. Habits – they grew up that way and don’t know any other way to organize their emotional lives or get what they want.
  9. Narcissism and arrogance – “I’m the greatest.  Kneel before me or feel the whip.”
  10. It’s human nature.

What are the reasons you see most often?

In another post we’ll go into how to get the coaching you need to stop a clique that’s going after you or a coworker.

According to numerous reports, a teenager was bullied at West Middle School in metro Denver.  The boy had pencils, markers and a calculator taken; he was called fat; he was called “gay” because he was involved in musical theater; because he was from musical theater, he was called a “Nazi.”  Eventually, he tried fighting back against his tormentors.  But he wasn’t big or strong enough and was beaten severely.  He suffered a broken collar bone and head injury.  The published picture of him is self-evident.  Now that the case has become public, the community is in an uproar and the Cherry Creek School District has responded by expelling the bully.  The bullied boy has reported that the bully threatened to beat him more when he returns.  Three other students, who also threatened to beat up the victim, have been required to sign contracts that they won’t harass the boy.  That’s nice of the school district to go that far. Of course the legal wrangling will go on for a long time.

There’s so much to say about this example of hostility, abuse and brutality.  I want to comment on only a few areas.

The adults failed.  Whether they blame the legal system or say they didn’t know; they failed. Since the severe beating happened at the end of November, don’t you think that every student in school knew what was happening? 

The parents of the bully and his collaborators failed.  They are supposed to know their children’s character and to stop their children’s bullying.

The teachers failed.  They are supposed to know who torments, abuses and bully’s another student and they are supposed to stop it.  They allowed a hostile, abusive environment to continue.  If the typical educational approaches don’t work rapidly, they are supposed to intervene in other ways.

The principal failed.  The principal is supposed to set a tone of zero tolerance.  The principal is supposed to be courageous enough to cut through the legal red tape and somehow stop bullies.  If the teachers don’t stop it, the principal is supposed to stop it and then get rid of those cowardly and/or ignorant teachers.  The worst beating happened at the end of November and the principal did nothing effective for three months until the story became public.

The administrators in the school district failed.  The administrators are supposed to be courageous enough to cut through the legal red tape and somehow stop bullying.  If the principal doesn’t stop it, the school district administrators are supposed to step in and then get rid of that cowardly and/or ignorant principal.  The worst beating happened at the end of November and the district administrators did nothing effective for three months until the story became public.

How can we hold up these teachers, principal and school district administrators as models for children?  They have failed as models.  Despite, or maybe because of, their colleges and universities, their degrees and certifications, their possible expertise in some course matter, they have shown themselves to be ignorant or cowardly or inept or all three.  They have failed the public trust and are unfit to be teachers, principal or administrators.

They should not be allowed to hide behind a poor legal system.  We all know that there are schools in the most violent locations in which courageous administrators, principals and teachers bullying.  And they do it in the face of the same.

The 14 year-old boy who was bullied has shown himself to be courageous.  He has succeeded.  At first he did what we all try to do.  We try accommodating in hopes that the bully will move on.  We ask bullies to stop; we take the bullying; we try to understand what lousy home lives we think bullies must have; we try to rise above it.  These tactics may stop many kids who are temporarily trying on bullying to see what it feels like, but those tactics don’t stop dedicated, relentless bullies.  They are not effective for teaching children to stop bullies at school.

Eventually that boy fought.  I say he succeeded because, even though he was severely beaten he did what was necessary to try to stop his tormentors.  He lost the fight but he emerges as the one person who is not a coward in this affair.  He can hold his head up high all his life.  He can keep his self-esteem.  He can judge the adults as cowards and failures.  I hope he is resilient enough to bounce back  and continues to resist to bullies the rest of his life.  I hope that when he becomes an adult with more choices, he creates a personal life that is bully-free.  Sometimes, a tormented teen can fight back and win – as in the case of the “Teen acquitted in punch.”

Of course, bullies will always exist .  America is not unique, nor are we the worst people in the world.  We are outraged and we will try to make better systems.  And more important, we still must train , seek and hire people who can act effectively, no matter how poor the system is at any moment.  And we must educate and prepare individuals to be as courageous as that 14 year-old boy.

Among other places, this story was carried by the Denver Post (Bullies called teen “Nazi” and “gay”), 9news (Student says he was bullied, beaten because he’s German), the Denver Channel News (Boy: School Bullies Harassed Him Because Of German Ancestry) and the Denver Post Neighbors Forum (Article Discussion: Cherry Creek teen may face bully in court).

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