Two articles have been stimulated by the publishing of Paul Tough’s new book, “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.”  One is in the Wall Street Journal by Mr. Tough, “Opting Out of the 'Rug Rat Race'” and the other is by Joe Nocera in the New York Times, “Reading, Math and Grit.” Both ask, “Which is more important to student success, character or cognitive skills, and what kind of interventions might help children succeed?

The whole idea behind this way of thinking is flawed.  Parents who follow it will jump on a new fad and, once again, be overwhelmed by anxiety.

I challenge some of the ideas behind both the old and the new ways of thinking such as that:

  1. One set of characteristics – either cognitive skills in math, language, science, etc. or personality/character traits like grit, persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, resilience, integrity, resourcefulness, professionalism and ambition – are much more important than the other.
  2. We can figure out what all the factors are and assign percentages to each based on its contribution toward success.  These factors will be reliable determinants of success.
  3. We can improve the success rate of individuals by thinking and discussing ‘why” some children succeed while others don’t in terms of abstractions and generalizations such as “American parenting,” “affluent parents,” “parental anxiety,” “over-protective parents,” “permissive parents,” “character,” cognitive skills.”
  4. We must actively intervene to ensure that our children learn the most important attributes.  Based on the latest research, we can develop methods to teach these to all children so they’ll be successful.

When I think of what’s necessary for success, I think not of a list of factors with percentages of importance attached to each factor, but of a target with a bull’s eye in the center containing of all the abilities we want our children and ourselves to have.  Did anyone really think that mastering cognitive skills without developing grit would lead to success?  Or does anyone think the opposite now?  Both areas are necessary and the appropriate mixture of characteristics depends on the individual.

In general, grit matters no matter what you do, but what it takes to succeed as a lawyer can be very different from what it takes to succeed as a genius programmer or a fashion designer.  What it takes to succeed as a factory worker, a small business owner or a bus driver may be very different mixes.  What it takes to participate in team activities and in individual activities can be different.  What it takes to face harassment, bullying and abuse can be different depending on who’s doing it.

All these discussions are in the abstract and general.  What we can do something about is in the moment-to-moment reality of us and our families.

How many of us really tried to keep our kids from experiencing any failure and disappointment?  How many of us really covered up each of their mistakes and failures so that blame was never on the actions of our children?  Most of us try to teach the lessons of life to our children.

Each child is different.  Each child learns some particular lessons the hard way, while other kids get those same lessons immediately, but learn other lessons the hard way.  And some just never seem to learn, no matter how hard we try.  Most kids learn the universal lessons despite the times we mess up the opportunities to teach.

My conclusion about these ruminations is to stop thinking in abstractions and generalizations, stop trying to figure out the correct way that will guarantee success for an average person or a middle class person or an affluent person or a disadvantaged person.  Instead, focus on our individual kids and ourselves.

We know the obvious – both grit/character/personality and cognitive skills matter.  Which ones do we need to develop more?  Which ones does each individual kid need to develop more?  Which kids need to develop more grit?  Which kids need to learn when to stop beating their heads against which brick walls?

We also know that if we protect our children from hurt, pain, mistakes, failures and realistic estimations of their talents, we’ll promote arrogance, weakness, hesitation and defeatism.  Facing challenges is the only way we learn to face challenges and to overcome them and our weaknesses.

I’ve focused on middle and upper class parents and kids instead of disadvantaged kids because I think most of the people who read this blog fall into those categories.  But I’d say the same to everyone.

If you’re still protecting your children or if they think they know best or they’re entitled to do what they want, change your approach immediately.

Paul Tough ends his article with “Overcoming adversity is what produces character. And character, even more than IQ, is what leads to real and lasting success.”  I agree whole-heartedly.

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.

Paul Tough ends his article with “Overcoming adversity is what produces character. And character, even 

more than IQ, is what leads to real and lasting success.”  I agree whole-heartedly.

Carl loved his 45 year-old son, Brian, and was overwhelmed with feelings of compassion for his son’s plight.  Brian could never hold a job.  Also, any time Carl or his wife, Vickie, didn’t do exactly what Brian wanted or didn’t give him what he wanted, Brian would throw a fit – he’d yell and scream and curse them, even in front of his own wife and children, or in public.  Many times, Brian would suddenly turn on his own long-suffering wife and children in the same way. How could Carl love his son and have compassion for him, and still protect himself and his wife from Brian’s harassment and bullying?

Everything I say about this family situation is the same I’d say to people trying to have both compassion and protection when dealing with abusive and suffering:

  • Parents.
  • Friends.
  • Extended family.
  • Co-workers.
  • Drunk drivers.
  • Strangers in public places.

The tactics we choose would depend on the specifics of the situation, but our attitude and general direction would be the same.

For decades, Carl had bit his tongue as best he could and had asked Vickie to do the same.  His heart went out to Brian because of his suffering.  Brian’s mother had died when he was 9 years old and two years later Carl had married again.  His new wife, Vickie, had done her best to take care of Brian and she did love the boy.  But no matter how she tried, Brian hated her and made her pay.

Out of compassion for Brian’s struggles, Carl had given Brian hundreds of thousands of dollars and also had bought many things for Brian’s children.  But it never seemed to be enough for Brian.

Brian denied that he needed any help.  He thought he was fine the way he was and he had good reasons every time he exploded.  It was everyone else’s fault that he lost his temper, and they deserved what he said or did to them.

He told Carl clearly that if Carl didn’t do what he wanted and didn’t endure the attacks, Brian wouldn’t allow Carl to see his grandchildren.  There it was; not only attacks but also blackmail.

Carl was stuck.  His compassion didn’t allow him to set any limits.  All he’d allow himself to do was to beg Brian to change.

Separate from the blackmail, Carl suffered from a common misunderstanding about compassion.  He thought compassion meant that he had to give Brian what he wanted and to keep giving and to take the abuse in hope that, someday, his love and forbearance would cause Brian to have an awakening and become a grateful, appreciative, civil and polite person.

Carl also thought that if he acknowledged his anger and dislike of Brian, or really did anything serious, that would mean that he’d given up on his son.  Also, it would be wrong to try to force Brian to do anything against his will.

After coaching, Carl decided that there were two distinct and separate scales he had to operate on in order to protect himself and his wife from Brian, and to preserve their retirement funds that Brian wanted to get his hands on.

On one scale, he could love Brian and have infinite compassion for his suffering, even though it was self induced.  And Tom could always pray for Brian’s spirit to take charge of his life.

On the other scale Carl could see that he had to deal, not with Brian’s spirit, but with Brian’s personality – his weakness, selfishness, arrogance, need, sense of entitlement, anger and narcissism.  Against Brian’s personality, Carl had to protect himself.  Out of compassion, he’d do that calmly, lovingly and clearly.

So what did Carl do?

  • He and Vickie decided to tell Brian that they wouldn’t take the abuse any more.  They were going to create an Isle of Song for the rest of their lives.  Good behavior was required from anyone to get on that Isle; blood wouldn’t count.
  • They knew they’d said that before, but they’d always given in and had pretended that the bullying had never happened.  They knew also that Brian counted on that.
  • The next time Brian exploded at them in front of his 11 and 13 year-old children, Carl said publically that they weren’t going to put up with that behavior any more.  They weren’t going to see Brian.  They’d love to see the kids but Brian probably wouldn’t allow that.  They wanted the kids to know who was responsible for the breach.
  • Carl told Brian they were taking a break from involvement with him for at least six months.  He’d have to make it on is own.  After then, if he wanted to resume contact he’d have to call and apologize and promise never to act that way again.  He’d especially have to apologize to Vickie.  Carl was going to protect his wife against all comers, even his son.
  • Even after that time, they were going to continue to withhold money because they wanted interactions to be based on fun, not need or greed.

This time Carl and Vickie kept to their bargain with each other.  They said they were able to stay on track because they still allowed themselves to feel compassion toward Brian, and especially his wife and kids, but they weren’t going to rescue Brian from the effects of his behavior.  Also, they saw that the most compassionate thing they could do for Brian was to demand good behavior and maintain their boundaries.  Their new vision would determine what they did, not some old, out-of-date feelings and assumptions.

My experience has been that the Brian’s of the world never learn by being coddled.  The only chance they have to learn is by being kicked out of the nest and letting the world, not their parents, teach them the natural consequences of their obnoxious behavior.  That doesn’t always work, but it’s the only chance.

Some other situations are examined in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids.”

Sue Shellenbarger’s article in the Wall Street Journal, “Colleagues Who Can Make You Fat,” focuses on people at work who try to sabotage coworkers’ diets.  People reported that colleagues and bosses made them uncomfortable admitting they were on a diet 23% of the time. In contrast, dieters said they were uncomfortable admitting that they were dieting to people in personal life – friends, relatives and spouses – 63% of the time.  That is, there are almost three times as many diet saboteurs among those who are closest to us.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Diet saboteurs use many techniques.  They:

  • Tease, taunt and mock.
  • Criticize, pressure and manipulate.
  • Gleefully predict failure.
  • Get upset because we’re spurning their offerings of fatty, starchy, sugary, calorie-loaded food.
  • Lecture that we’re harming our body by dieting.

The article says that these saboteurs usually mean well.  I disagree. When diet saboteurs continue harassing and abusing us relentlessly, they don’t mean well.  They’re narcissistic bullies who have their own agenda that they think is more important than ours.  They’re righteous. They know better and they’re out to change us – usually by beating us into submission.

Typically, they try to sabotage our diets because:

  • They may feel abandoned because we no longer eat the same food with them.
  • They may be striking back because they take our change as a put down of their old habits.
  • They may feel jealous that they’re not losing weight.
  • They may see our being thinner as a threat.
  • They may simply not like us and are finding another reason, excuse or justification to mock, ridicule, or put us down.

Who cares what their reasons are?  Understanding their reasons won’t help us stop them.  After the first time we’ve asked them to stop, their reasons for continuing now become excuses and justifications for continued harassment, abuse and bullying.  Bullies always find excuses to continue inflicting pain.

What’s wrong with this picture?

  1. People who are closest to us – toxic spouses, family, friends – are the most relentless saboteurs.  Things are not as we would wish. Notice that I didn’t say, “Things are not as they should be.”  Things are as they are.  That’s not what’s wrong with this picture.
  2. What’s wrong with this picture is that people feel uncomfortable and that feeling keeps them from doing what they need toTheir discomfort is their excuse to become victims.

As William Boast said, “It’s important that people know what you stand for.  It’s equally important that they know what you won’t stand for.”

Don’t debate or argue with their justifications.  Don’t accept apologies unless their behavior changes.  They won’t change their behavior; they won’t give up their desire for domination and control.  Instead, stop bullies or get them off our Isle of Song.

These bullying spouses, family members and friends are telling us to examine what kind of behavior we will and won’t allow around us and our families.

To have the wonderful lives we want, we must stop bullying behavior in our personal spaces.  We wouldn’t allow family members to push an alcoholic to have “just one drink” and we wouldn’t allow family abusers or perverts access to our children.  The need to stop diet saboteurs is no different.

Of course, we can start resisting gently by asking them, one-to-one in private, to stop. Or we could ignore it or laugh it off in public.  Those approaches become tests of them.  Do they stop or do they identify themselves as bullies?

We know what doesn’t stop bullies: ignoring, minimizing, conflict-avoidance, begging, bribery, defeatism, forgiveness, appeasement, understanding, unconditional love, the Golden Rule.  Relentless bullies misunderstand our kindness. They take our “rising above” as weakness and, like sharks or hyenas, they’re encouraged to attack us more.

Their relentless attacks force us to confront the central issue: which is more important; good behavior or bad blood?  And when they continue their abuse, bullies force us into an all-or-none choice.  Are we willing to defend the behavior we need to have, even if it breaks the old family dynamic, the code of silence that enables the nastiest spouse or relatives to continue getting away with their abuse for the sake of, “family?”

That choice thrusts us into the second stage of maturitywe’re called upon to decide, as independent adults, what behavior we will or won’t allow into our lives, no matter what the relationship is called.  We’re called upon to have more confidence and self-esteem.

For some examples, see the case studies in “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up,” “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.

You’ve spent a lot of money finding and hiring the perfect employee.  Do you kick back, feel the thrill of success, and throw the new hire into the jungle in hopes they’ll become productive rapidly? If you do, you’ve just wasted all the time and money you spent making that great hire.

To read the rest of this article from Business First of Louisville, see: Don’t ignore new hires after they start work http://www.bizjournals.com/louisville/stories/2008/01/28/editorial1.html

For example, Helen was a highly skilled manager with a great track record.  On the first day at her new company, she was introduced – then senior management abandoned her.  Thus, the predators on her team felt emboldened, and immediately tried to see how far they can push her.  Who’s really going to be the alpha wolf and control this turf?

Helen wanted to start off on the right foot.  So she talked reasonably to each of them, one to one.  She tried to understand why they were so hostile and tried to get them to understand how much her feelings were hurt.

The bullies interpreted her reasonableness as weakness and her hurt feelings as vulnerability.  They remained hostile and righteous.  They escalated their emotional harassment and abuse into a feeding frenzy.  They claimed it was Helen’s fault their feelings were hurtHer feelings didn’t matter to those narcissistic bullies.  They told her they had nothing to apologize or make amends for.  Their threat: If Helen didn’t leave them alone, they’d complain to the senior manager.

Helen felt like she was the new kid trying to break into a clique of junior high school princesses.

Leadership spent a lot of time, energy and money hiring Helen but they failed to support her.  They didn’t set the tone for how new hires are to be treated.  When they didn’t support Helen’s attempts to set high behavioral standards, they enabled a toxic workplace and she moved onto bigger and better things.

Imagine your company beginning with a vacuum of standards for behavior.  If you and the highest quality staff don’t set the tone for the workplace, the most vicious and nasty members of your staff will fill the vacuum with their standards.

I discovered that the leaders at Helen’s organization weren’t merely absentee, they were conflict-avoidant cowards.  They weren’t successful leaders.  They tried to avoid stopping bullying while they whined and complained, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Don’t throw new hires to the turf-building jackals.  The simple solution is to develop and implement an effective “How We’ll Welcome the New Employee” plan.

The welcoming process may sound like a huge expense.  But compare it to the cost of losing a perfect hire, having to repeat the hiring process and probably watching your next generation of leaders leave or sink down to the lowest level.  Problems welcoming new hires are a sign of widespread bullying and abuse, and lack of planning and oversight.

Don’t let that happen.  Your job as a leader is to actively set the tone.  You can’t allow the most predatory members of your organization to feed on other staff.

Learn what you can do 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.

Being open to suggestions from your team is an important part of being a good leader. But don’t be bullied by whining complainers who always find fault, no matter what you do.  They’re not interested in improving teamwork or performance in the workplace.  They’re interested in feeling superior and in bullying and controlling you by getting you to try to please them.

To read the rest of this article from the Pacific Business News (Honolulu), see: Stop Critical, Complaining Bullies from Undermining Your Leadership http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2008/03/10/editorial4.html

For example, Claire is a dynamic manager who wants to resolve problems and get results through team effort.  She asks for input and strives to incorporate it.

Heather was an unhappy employee who always found something to complain aboutShe was never pleased; nothing was ever good enough.  She was demanding, abusive, nit-picky and delighted in pointing out when Claire had, once again, failed to please her.

No matter what Claire did, Heather found something to be angry about.  She always had reasons and justifications for her criticism. Heather complained bitterly and encouraged the rest of the team to express their unhappiness and to harass Claire as well.  Heather’s small clique also gossiped about and was disdainful of Claire’s efforts.

When Claire had accepted the idea that she should make Heather happy, she gave Heather control of the whole team.

Heather was a manipulative bully.  She used her unhappiness to dominate Claire and the team.  She was haughty, sarcastic and demeaning.  She acted as if everyone’s job was to satisfy her every whim.  She was like “the belle of the ball.”  You can imagine her as the leader of a clique of snotty high school girls.

The first question most people have is, “Why didn’t anyone stop this long ago?”  Usually, there are two reasons:

  1. As in Heather’s case, her previous manager was conflict-avoidant and had allowed Heather to control the team.
  2. Many managers naively believe that happy employees are always productive employees.  These managers assume that if they give all employees what they want, they will build high morale and encourage teamwork.  They think that employee satisfaction is the way to increase performance and elevate attitudes and behavior.  Instead, they usually encourage a few selfish, spoiled brats to victimize the rest of the team.

Heather’s unhappiness, verbal abuse and negativity triggered a pattern in Claire that I call “self-bullying.”  Claire assumed that if she were a better manager, Heather would be happy.  Since Heather was unhappy, Claire thought she wasn’t good enough.  Her self-doubt and self-questioning increased, and her confidence and self-esteem were erodedShe felt defeated.

With coaching, Claire stopped assuming that every one of Heather’s complaints was worth satisfying.  She saw that Heather used her unhappiness and negativity to control people.  Heather was like a bucket with no bottom.  No matter how many times Claire did what Heather wanted, she’d never be able to fill the bucket.  Heather’s unhappiness was not Claire’s faultHeather wouldn’t be pleased, no matter what was done for her.

Claire’s big lesson: Bullies don’t take your acquiescence as kindness.  They take your giving in as weakness and an invitation to grab for more.  If you enable them, they’ll be toxic to the whole team.

Learn what you can do 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.

Work bullies can ruin a culture, destroy productivity and make your life – and the lives of everyone else they target – miserable. And it’s not just bullying bosses who are the problem.  Co-workers and employees also use bullying behavior that creates a hostile workplace.

Excluding lethal weapons, here are the top dozen techniques bullies use to ruin a workplace.

To read the rest of this article from the Dallas Business Journal, see: Don’t let bullies create a hostile workplace http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/stories/2008/06/09/smallb3.html

Most bullies use combinations of these methods.  The relentless application of these harassing, abusive techniques reinforces humiliation, pain and fearCliques and mobs rapidly form. Bullying can make the targets feel helpless and situations seem hopeless.

These methods cause increased hostility, tension, selfishness, turf wars, sick leave, stress-related disabilities, turn over and legal actions.  People become isolated, do busy work with no important results and waste huge chunks of time talking about the latest episodes of bullying.

Effort is diffused instead of aligned.  Teamwork, productivity, responsibility, efficiency, creativity and taking reasonable risks are decreased.  Promotions are based on sucking up to the most difficult and nasty people, not on merit.  The best people leave as soon as they can.

Your operational system may look wonderful on paper, but the wrong people in the wrong culture can always find ways to thwart it.  Your pipeline leaks money and profits plummet.

A common mistake in dealing with repeated bullying is to spend much too much time and effort trying to educate, explain, understand, accept, forgive, beg, bribe, ignore, reason with or appease themThese approaches won’t convert dedicated bullies into reasonable, civil and professional people. These approaches only stop people who aren’t really bullies, but have behaved badly one time.

During the time well-meaning or conflict-avoidant supervisors, human resource and civil rights professionals are trying these techniques to educate or rehabilitate bullies, they’re actually victimizing everyone else in the organization.  The monetary and emotional cost of tolerating or enabling bullies can be astronomical.

Determined bullies don’t take your understanding and acquiescing as kindness. They take your giving in as weakness and an invitation to abuse you more.  Bullies bully repeatedly and without real remorse.  They might appear to apologize sincerely, but you should accept only behavioral change, not good acting.

The best way to stop a bully is to stand up to them.  Expose and isolate them.  Or catch them doing something outrageous or illegal in front of witnesses.  Stopping them and having serious consequences for repetitions are also the greatest stimuli for change.

Learn what you can do to eliminate the high cost of hostile 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.

Jane’s 5 year-old daughter, Jenny, had been tormented for months by a bully in her class.  Even though the bullying girl was the same size as Jenny, she repeated took whatever Jenny was playing with, shoved Jenny down repeatedly and often pulled her clothes and hair. Jane had told her daughter that physical violence was never the answer.  Jenny should never sink to a bully’s level.  Also, the incidents were no big deal, the bully was probably bullied at home and didn’t know any better, Jenny should rise above and be the better and nicer person, Jenny should try to play nicely with the bully and make friends with her by giving the bully her toys, and to tell her teacher when incidents occurred.

The teacher talked to the bully but never stopped her behavior.

Eventually, one day, the bully grabbed a toy from Jenny and scratched her face.  In a fit of anger Jenny pushed the bully down and scratched her face really hard.  The bully backed away and cried.  The teacher was outraged at Jenny’s retaliation, sent her to the principal’s office and had Jane called.

What should Jane do?

First, what Jane did was to be very apologetic to the principal and teacher on Jenny’s behalf and then verbally chastise her daughter in the principal’s office for fighting back.  Fortunately for Jenny:

Jane illustrates how well-meaning parents can be the number one risk factor in converting targets into victims.

What would I recommend Jane do instead?  Should kids like Jenny ever fight back?

  • Jane should direct her anger at the teacher and principal who hadn’t protected her daughter from a bully.  Actually she should have been doing that all along, not simply after this incident.  She should have made repeated complaints, in writing, up the chain of responsibility of the school districtSchools can create effective stop-bullying programs.
  • She should have found out if other kids were being bullied at the school.  She should have rallied those parents, contacted lawyers and gotten the media involved in publicizing the do-nothing principals and district administrators who are a major factor in bullying-caused suicides.
  • If I were Jenny’s parent, I’d take her out for ice cream or an even bigger treat.  I’d congratulate her on successfully defending herself.  I’d tell her that she’s probably going to have to hurt the bully once more because many bullies are boundary pushers.  The bully will probably try her old tactics once more to test Jenny’s courage, determination and resolve.
  • I’d tell her that as she grows older, I’ll teach her how to fight back verbally and that if she learns verbal martial arts, she may not ever have to use physical methods.  But I’d see that she learns these also.
  • I’d also tell her that her teacher and principal are cowards and jerks.  They don’t protect targets from predators under their care.  A 5 year-old can understand that.  So Jenny should just be quiet and nod when they lecture her, and she should ignore what they say.  If niceness doesn’t stop bullies, then Jenny should get me involved and if the authorities won’t protect her, she must use force.

When harassment, bullying and abuse are tolerated they don’t remain isolated incidents.  Instead, bullying rapidly becomes a generally accepted pattern at a school or a districtWhen adults don’t fulfill their responsibilities, bullies realize they have the power to do whatever they want.  Other kids get lured into bullying or become bystanders instead of witnessesBehavior settles to the lowest common denominator.

Begging, bribery, appeasement, understanding, forgiveness, wishful thinking and the Golden Rule don’t stop bulliesUnconditional love of bullies doesn’t stop their behavior.  Relentless bullies are predators.  Kindness doesn’t stop them; they misinterpret our kindness as weakness and an invitation to harm us more.

I’ve been interviewed many times on radio and television programs.  Almost every woman who has interviewed me was a Jenny whose mother told her to take the high road and never fight back, verbally or physically.  But unlike Jenny, they grew up being “nice girls.” Now, they wallow in negative second-guessing and self-doubt, and a little depression and defeatism because they never learned how to protect themselves.  Now, they bear some anger toward their mothers.

They’re also unable to stop bullies at work or to teach their children how to stop bullies in school.

But they’re all eager to learn how to stop bullies and how to make school officials protect their children, whether they want to or not.

For some examples, see the case studies in “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” the companion book to “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” 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.

Our beloved four-year-old granddaughter has cancer. She finished surgery and is in radiation-chemotherapy mode.  They say there’s a good chance she’ll live long and prosper.  We grasp that life preserver and try not to cry all the time while we go about fulfilling other responsibilities. Thank you for that gasp and intake of breath.

All the staff at Children’s Hospital were wonderful.  All the families we met there were also kind, considerate, caring and thoughtful.  Disease and death are great levelers – we’re all there because were attached to a kid in trouble.

Almost all our family and friends are also wonderful.  We show up with food, holiday presents for all the kids, baby sitting, prayers, gasps, tears and arms-around sharing of pain and hope.

And then there are the very few know-it-all bullies and the vicious self-bullying that I want to talk about.

A few of the bullying categories are:

  1. The religious missionaries. Their theme was that this happened to us because we didn’t belong to the right church or pray to the right God.  Or we carried some hidden sin that we’re being punished for or past-life karma is finally being manifest or bad genes are carried in the family.  And our granddaughter will be saved only if we convert to their correct way.
  2. The health missionaries. Their theme is exactly the same in form, but different in content, as the religious missionaries.  This happened because we weren’t pure enough – bad water, not completely organic produce, not pure enough vegetarian or vegan, not enough cleansing of toxins, not pure enough affirmations or thought.  We all know there are some cancers and diseases that are made worse by bad living – smoking, drugs, alcohol, living next door to a leaky nuclear plant – but this is not one of those cases.
  3. The political missionaries. Their theme is that the cause of her cancer is global, warming or cooling or environmental pollution, acid rain, fluoride in the water, America as a greedy, decadent, selfish, bad country.
  4. The narcissistic, demanding, pushy, abusive, advice-giving missionaries. They give advice as if they know the absolute truth and no one else does.  They’re self-appointed critics who know what we should have done and what treatment we should select.  Often, they once knew someone who had a different cancer but they can predict, on the basis of their wisdom, what will happen in our granddaughter’s case.  They’re righteous in working out their issues and therapy on our bodies.  As if they’re important, not our granddaughter.  Or they’re intrusive strangers focused on their issues, causes and cures.  They think their feelings are important and we must do what they want or else their feelings will be hurt.  They’re throwing more temper tantrums than a four year-old.  As if I should care about their feelings during this time.
  5. The emotionless professional bullies. They think emotion is a sign of weakness and maybe they’re upset by public displays.  Especially at work, they’ll look down on you if you cry or they’ll find a reason to get you transferred or fired.  They think robots are better than people.

All these missionaries sound alike, except the fault they focus on is a little different.  Whether their God is out there or their God is in their logic and reasoning, they’re convinced they’re right and they’re fervent and righteous about it.  Because they’re right and righteous, they think they can ignore or trample your feelings.  They think they know what’s best.

Of course, I can see that all these people have reasons, excuses, justifications – they want to help, they’re scared, in our diverse society they don’t know what’s proper, they’re simply awkward in how they try to comfort us, etc.

I don’t care about their problems and issuesThey’re adults.  They should have already learned to be gracious.  I care more about the family  going through it.

Never argue with missionaries and self-appointed critics.  It’s a waste of your time and energy.  You’ll never change their minds. They’re only trying to convert you –they know what’s right.

Some of us might say, “Stop it!” or “C’mon man!” Others will try to teach politely and graciously.  Still others will never talk to them again.

In all cases, we’re not waiting for them to become enlightened and nice.  We’re weeding through all these people and deciding who we’ll keep on our Isle of Song and who’ll be voted off or who must be kept for a while because they’re our workplace bosses.

And, of course, self-bullying kicks in.  It’s all too easy to feel blame, shame and guilt.

  1. Should we have observed something wrong sooner?  Could we have been more perfect?  What bad parents they were.  What bad grandparents we are.  It’s our fault.
  2. We should have cared more and been more careful.
  3. Do we carry a bad genetic seed?
  4. What if we’re wrong about the treatment we choose?  We can’t be sure.

None of this is useful.  Sure, there will be genetic testing, but all the rest of those thoughts are simply us making ourselves ride an emotional roller coaster; sometimes at the heights, sometimes in the pits, always being flung around and bruised.  Obsession, self-flagellation, negativity, depression, and loss of confidence and self-esteem don’t help.

What really matters is carrying on the best we can.  And ignoring the bullies or throwing them off our Isle.

You’ll find many examples of these types of bullies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” available fastest from this web site.

The Harry Potter series has given us many vivid and compelling images.  One of my favorites is the “Dementors.” Bullies can act like Dementors.  They can torment us and suck the joy out of any wonderful moment or out of our plans for a wonderful future.

Some people also have personal, inner Dementors that suck the joy and commitment out of their lives.

In addition to the pain caused by their harassment, abuse and bullying, external Dementors are like energy vampires who can suck our will and determination.  They can make us see the world as a hateful place.  At home, at school, in friendships or at work, people afflicted by these bullies seem to trudge through life, waiting for the next attack even though they never know when it will come.

Usually overlooked are our personal Dementors that can whisper loudly in our ears or mind at any moment.  But they’re most often active around 2 AM.  Since they’re part of us, inner Dementors know our every hesitation, weakness, sin, anxiety, fear and self-judgment.  They know exactly how to put us down for maximum effect.  They know how to best undercut us when we feel good or to cut us down by self-bullying, negative, self-talk.

Using blame, shame, guilt, and remorse or recrimination, inner Dementors rub our nose in every imperfection.  Sometimes wordlessly or sometimes in a parent’s voice they can destroy our confidence and self esteem.  They can blacken our future and make us give up.

Even though we can hear those Dementors at 2 AM in our parent’s voices, we eventually discover that it’s we who are holding ourselves back and destroying our lives.  It’s like that scene from “Star Wars,” in which Luke Skywalker is being trained by Yoda and he must go into a cave to fight Darth Vader.  He wins the fight and rips off Darth’s helmet only to discover his own face behind the mask.

What can we do at 2 AM? Our personal Dementors tend to come when we’re at our weakest, in that state between sleep and waking.  In that fog, we’re less able to gather ourselves and resist.  So a good response, when we can’t fall right back to sleep is to wake up completely.  Get out of bed, take a shower; wake up.

Our “Monkey Minds” need something to pay attention to all the time so give them something useful to do.  When we’re fully awake we can resist more effectively.  We can see the lies in all the put-downs.  We’re not really that bad.  We’re only that bad when viewed through eyes that don’t love us, that hate us, including the hostile eyes many people grew up with.  We can talk back to those hostile voices, send them back to the people they really belong to and let our own versions rise up and pop like bubbles in soda.

When we can look at ourselves through eyes of love and understanding, we can connect once again with our strength, courage and determination to do better.  Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we can leap out of bed each morning and grab another chance to do better.  No matter how many times we’ve failed, if we have another day, we can do better.  We can use our caring for ourselves as a springboard to be at our best.

We can say, “That’s enough!”  We won’t be defeated by defeat!

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.

One of the typical tactics of sly, sneaky, stealthy, manipulative bullies is to work in the dark; to not be seen to be bullies.  Then, when a light is shined on their abusive behavior, they claim that they were just having fun; that they were just kidding around; that they didn’t know their target was offended, hurt or minded their attacks. This tactic is used at home by bullying, toxic spouses, parents or children, and by bullies and their cliques in schools and at work.

In order to stop these bullies you must protest; you must say “No!”

Often, people decide to ignore the bullying.  These targets (on their way to becoming victims):

Ignoring bullies can be a good first response, but only if we use it as a test.  If we ignore the bully and he stops, fine.  We’re okay.  But if the bully moves on to bully someone else, the question then becomes, “Are we willing to be good witnesses?”

But what if the bullying doesn’t stop?  Usually, determined, relentless bullies are only encouraged by lack of resistance.  They see a non-resisting target as holding up a “victim” sign and they escalate.  They can’t understand the moral impetus behind such kindness.  They’re bullies. They interpret our lack of push-back as fear and weakness, no matter how we interpret it.  They’re encouraged to organize cliques to demean, mock, attack and hurt us more.

Other people assume that if we’re not protesting, we must know we’re in the wrong; we must deserve the treatment we’re getting.  Our society saw that phenomenon when women didn’t cry “rape!”

At school, if we and our children don’t protest loudly, clearly and in writing to teachers, principals and district administrators, bullies can excuse and justify their behavior by claiming they didn’t know we thought of their actions as bullying.  So, of course, they felt free to continue bullying.  And we’ll have no defense.  This goes for physical, mental, emotional and cyber-bullying.

At work, many bullies use the same tactic.  Even if our company has rules against bullying, if we didn’t protest loudly, firmly and in writing, we’ll have no legal grounds to stand on later.  Our supervisors need written documentation in order to act.  And we need it in order to hold cowardly, conflict-avoidant supervisors accountable later.

Of course, we must also protest against abuse by overt bullies, even if that makes them feel proud.  But that will get the ball rolling for our resistance.

But, if we protest, won’t the bullying get worse? Maybe or maybe not.  Remember, what happened we tried the test of not protesting?  When we didn’t protest, the harassment, abuse and bullying got worse.  So we might as well learn to protest effectively; the first step of which is creating records and documentation.

And we don’t want to live our lives as cowards, do we?  Remember the old and very true sayings about cowards dying a thousand deaths.  That’s an underestimate.  If we don’t protest, our negative self-talk, blame, shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, stress and depression will pervade our lives.  Our lives will shrivel like prunes.

For some techniques to overcome worry, fear and hesitation, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up,” available fastest from this web site.

If we protest, will the bullies stop? Although there’s a guarantee that relentless bullies will escalate if we don’t protest, there’s no guarantee that simply protesting will stop them.  Protesting is only the first step in responding effectively.  We may need to go up to higher steps to stop a particular bully.

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.

Everyone has moments that matter: moments when our life can go in either direction; moments when we can choose the strength to soar to heaven or the weakness to fall into hell.  You know, those moments in which everything gets absolutely quiet and the air seems to pulse and throb with the power and weight of a choice that will change our life.  What will we do?  Which path will we choose?  What will our life become? All bullies, all targets and all witnesses have those moments when the rest of their lives hang in the balance.  Will they stop bullying?  Will they stop being victims of bullies or of their own self-bullying?  Will they give up in defeat and despair or will they forge ahead, no matter the consequences?

These are the moments when, if we have the “Will,” we can will ourselves into wonderful futures.

Charles M. Blow reminded me of the moments of truth that I’ve seen in the lives of all the bullies and also all the targets I’ve known.  He wrote a wonderful, deep, heart-felt column in the New York Times, “The Bleakness of the Bullied.”

He describes his own experience when he was eight, the subject of “relentless teasing and bullying from all directions – classmates as well as extended family.”  In a pit of despair, he contemplated suicide, only to be heartened when a song, often sung by his mother, leapt to his mind, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”

He knew he had “to be brave and patient, that this was not to be my last night.”

Notice the “Will.” Charles was not going to be a victim any more.  Somehow he’d resist, he’d grow, he’d survive and thrive.

Every target of bullying I’ve ever coached had a similar moment in their childhood or in our work together: A moment when they faced the bleakness of a future of continuing to be a victim or, alternatively, the brightness of standing up and fighting back in some way.  In that moment, they each responded to that choice with a great surge of Will, power and energy.  They fanned the spark in their heart into a fierce flame that warmed, strengthened and sustained them.

Once their Will took over their actions, despite a little anxiety, the rest was straightforward.

They would not give in to bullies, predators and abusers.  They would not give in to their self-bullying, negative self-talk, anxiety, stress, fear, panic and despair.  They would not succumb to self-doubt.  They would not let their self-confidence and self-esteem be eroded or destroyedThey would not be defeated.

They would keep that flame alive by daring to protect and defend themselves; by taking the risk of creating a brilliant and wonderful future for themselves, no matter the opinions of their oppressors or the cost to the old, destructive patterns they had been mired in or the people they were related to.

In “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” available fastest from this web site, you can read about the moment I had.

Their action plans were different depending on their circumstances but they had the same Will and they learned the same skills.

I’ve seen the same moment of truth with bullies.

One former bully told me of a moment when he was about nine and was the biggest, toughest angriest kid in his class.  He had thought he was simply doing what he had to do to make his place in the world.  Then, a principal hauled him into his office, sat him down and told him, in so many words, that he was a bully and he had to stop or he’d be thrown out of school.  He was too vicious, nasty and brutal to be allowed to continue harassing and tormenting the kids he was victimizing.

The boy was stunned.  He’d never thought of himself as a bully, as vicious and nasty.  And he certainly didn’t want to be thrown out of school.  In that moment his heart broke open and he vowed never to be a bully again, even if he was the biggest kid in the room.

That principal was great because he confronted the situation and acted firmly and effectively, even though the boy’s response might have been dangerous for his career.  He was not a cowardly, do-nothing principal.

Why was that bully seeing me?  He wanted to learn skills to negotiate his adult life without reverting to bullying in order to get his way.  He didn’t want to be a bullying spouse, co-worker or boss.   He didn’t want to be a bullying parent.

What has been your experience?

In all cases, success requires two things of us:

  1. The Will – determination, strength, courage and perseverance – grit.
  2. The skills to succeed.

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.

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
12 CommentsPost a comment

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).

Posted
AuthorBen Leichtling
24 CommentsPost a comment

My personal and professional experience is that forgiveness doesn’t stop real-world bullies. Most people think forgiveness consists of two things:

  1. Some surge of feelings that makes us more kindly disposed toward a person who has injured us, whether intentionally or not.  Words in dictionaries include:
  • A thawing or understanding, caring, sympathy, empathy, compassion, pity, pardoning, clemency, mercy, kindness and benevolence and
  • A letting go of anger, resentment, the desire to punish, vindictiveness and revenge.
  1. Putting ourselves back into the same situation with that bully to show that we trust him not to take advantage of us or harm us.

Many people are addicted to those wonderful feelings of forgiveness.  They feel morally superior and spiritually advanced.

Indeed, when our hearts open up, a bridge of good will and good behavior can be created.  The other person may be genuinely sorry for their behavior and won’t do it again.  If possible, amends can be made with a reciprocal flow of open-heartedness.  Subsequent interactions can be founded on charity and caring.

There have even been documented cases in which parents have forgiven the murderer of their child, and the murderer was transformed and spent the rest of his life making amends and teaching others about the bond of caring that can exist between all humans.

Real-world bullies – relentless, narcissistic control-freaks; mean, nasty, emotional manipulators and blackmailers; taunting, harassing, abusive predators – don’t stop because we forgive them.  Indeed, they interpret forgiveness, understanding and caring just like they interpret unconditional love – as signs of weakness and invitations to increase bullying and take advantage of us more.

I think of forgiveness in a totally different way.  When we’ve forgiven someone, they don’t occupy much space in our thoughts and lives.  We simply don’t think about them much.

If we observe people carefully, we can see that we usually get to that place of forgiveness when we’re confident that we’ve met two conditions:

  1. We know that we’re protected from that bully; we have the awareness and skill so that we won’t let them harm us again.
  2. We also want to see them make amends that require effort and sacrifice.  It’s not enough that they apologize or promise they’ll never do it again.  Talk is cheap; it’s too easy to say, “Sorry” one time.  We want to see acts that make amends over time.

Also, our confidence is not about whether or not the bully has transformed and won’t hurt us again.  We’re simply confident in our own abilities.  Then we can stop obsessing on the incidents of abuse and bullying, and focus on what we want to do in our lives.

Our previous obsession with the pain of bullying was simply motivation, a strong reminder that we don’t want to experience that ever again.  Once we’re sure ourselves, we no longer need to revisit the painful incident to remind us to be prepared.

But how about the idea of putting ourselves back into the same situation again to show forgiveness?  Nonsense.  Although we can see the spirit of goodness within each person, that’s not what we get to deal with in the physical world.  We get to deal with their personality and ego.

Before we trust someone and allow them in our lives, we should observe them in many situations, time after time.  We should observe their behavior, not the reasons, excuses and justifications for their actions.  We should permit them to move closer by small steps.

Personally, if the pain caused by the bully was great, I don’t want them in my life again, no matter how much they want to continue and promise they’ve changed.  We can go our separate ways.  I can observe from a distance and after 20-30 years I might change my mind about interacting.

There are many processes we can use to reach that level of determination and skill.

Why do I take this strong stand?

Because I’ve seen so many sneaky, manipulative, toxic parents who, after a lifetime of battering and spurning their children, get old and want those children to serve them.  The parents now admit they were wrong and insist that the children take them back and cater to their wishes.  The emotional blackmail is, “If you were a truly forgiving person, you’d be understanding and kind, and care for us now.”  But these toxic parents don’t stop bullying their children.  They’re merely narcissistic, control-freaks demanding or blackmailing or using guilt to get what they want.

I’ve seen so many abusive husbands beg their victims for forgiveness, and then after a short period of good behavior, go right back to battering.

Why put yourself in harm’s way?  Let these bullies practice being transformed on other people’s bodies.  Watch them from a distance for 20-30 years to see if they’re sincere and can keep their promises.

But let’s go back and ask, “What if you’ve forgiven the murderer of your child, but the murderer wasn’t transformed by your forgiveness?”  You’ve lost nothing.  The murderer is still behind bars, I hope forever or awaiting the death penalty, and you’re still on the outside.  Nothing will bring your child back so you might as well think only rarely of the murderer and think often of your child and how you want to live now.

Self-forgiveness is akin to this, but it’ll be the subject of another article.

You choose which way of looking at forgiveness you want; which criteria you’ll follow before you forgive.  Which way gives us the kind of life we want: to feel spiritually advanced and get taken advantage of repeatedly or to keep bullies out of our internal and external worlds?

Of course, your plan must fit you, your family and the situation.  With expert coaching and consulting, we can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.  We can overcome childhood rules that aren’t appropriate to our desire to thrive in the real-world.

I learned by personal and professional experience that unconditional love doesn’t stop real-world bullies.  But others learned the same lesson over 2,500 years ago. Of course, we all have those bad days when everything seems to go wrong and we’re so grumpy that we take it out on the dog or anyone we meet.  But with people like us, a yelp of pain, a kind word, a straightforward appeal, an expression of empathy or sympathy will bring us to our senses.  We’ll be genuinely contrite, make amends and not repeat the behavior again.  But, of course, we’re not relentless, real-world bullies.  We just had a bad day.

Relentless, real-world bullies aren’t stopped when we show them love and kindness.

In fact, they take our love and kindness as signs of weakness and an invitation to increase their bullying.  Here are two ancient examples:

  1. In “The Analects,” 14-34, Confucius says: “Requite injury with uprightness.  Requite kindness with kindness.”
  2. The “Mahabharata” says, “If you are gentle, [bullies] will think you are afraid.  They will never be able to understand the motives that prompt you to be gentle.  They will think you are weak and unwilling to resist them.”

In other words: If you turn the other cheek to bullies, expect that bullies will misinterpret your moral high ground for weakness and be encouraged to taunt, harass, abuse and attack you more.  If you’re willing to have your cheek slapped, then turn the other cheek.  Or if you think that another part of your anatomy is meant by the saying, be prepared to have your cheek bitted by a jackal.

But don’t believe me or the ancient wisdom.  What’s your experience?

Suppose you classify into two groups:

  1. Those who responded to your kindness and love with kind and loving behavior.
  2. Those who responded with suspicion blame and further attacks.

Suppose you label the first group “people who act nice to me when we act nice to each other” and suppose you ignore the reasons, excuses and justifications of people in the second group and simply label them as “bullies” or “predators.”  Would that give you a better idea about how to respond effectively and successfully to their behavior?

And what’s your take on history?  Suppose you did the same classification to famous historical figures.  Suppose you though if, for instance, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, General Custer, Cortez, Pizarro, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, the Inquisition and thousands more would have had their lust for power satisfied, and stopped their brutality and conquest if they were faced with kindness, appeasement, begging, bribery or love?

Oh, I forgot to mention all of the martyrs of every religion, race, color, creed, ethnic group or gender.  And how about those wildebeests crossing that crocodile infested river?  Or a limping zebra being watched by lions and hyenas?

So what can you do?

  1. Don’t be anxious, afraid, discouraged, depressed or suicidal.  Don’t be angry at the way the world is.
  2. Simply requite injury with uprightness.  Be strong, courageous, persevering and resilient.  Stop bullies in their tracks.  Of course, your tactics will vary with the situation.   But your inner qualities and your will and determination will be the same.

With expert coaching and consulting, we can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.  We can overcome childhood rules that aren’t appropriate to our desire to thrive in the real-world.

We can become strong and skilled enough to resist being targeted by bullies and to stop bullies in their tracks.  We can look at individual situations and plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” has many examples of children and adults getting over their early training and then stopping bullies.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

You may be the target of a bully, but you don’t have to be a victim. Bullies can go after you in many ways; physically harming you or threatening to hurt you; inflicting emotional pain through harassment, relentless criticism, taunting, put-downs, cutting out, manipulation, controlling, back-stabbing, spreading rumors, telling secrets, embarrassing you or generally mean behavior; cyberbullying.

In all these situations, the first step in defending yourself and in stopping bullies is the same and always has been.  This is the first step, even before you use any programs that are designed to stop bullies in schools or at work.

For instance, we can go back to Homer’s “Odyssey.”  At the end, after Odysseus and his son, Telemachus, have killed all the abusive suitors, they flee with two faithful servants to the mountain home of Odysseus’ father, Laertes.  They know they will pursued by all the older men of the city, the fathers and uncles of the dead suitors.

In the final confrontation, hopelessly outnumbered, Laertes kills the father of the most evil suitor.  Odysseus loses control of himself and goes berserk.  He advances in a murderous rage to kill all the fathers and uncles.

Athena suddenly appears and speaks the words that that exemplify a central belief of the Greeks about how to face whatever the world throws at you – whether overwhelming odds, verbal and physical abuse, unfairness, your fear and hesitation, your loss of self-control, bullies.

Take Athena’s command out of context – it’s not about the trigger; it’s about your necessary first step in response to any situation.

Athena says, “Odysseus!  Command yourself!”  And when Athena commands, we best listen.

There it is; the key to all success; the start of everything we must do – “Command yourself.”

Begin by commanding yourself.  In Odysseus’ case, commanding himself meant not starting a bloodbath, which would lead to generations of vendettas that would ruin the country.

In the case of facing a bully, we must take charge of ourselves, gather ourselves and command ourselves.  Even when we don’t know how things will turn out, we do know that we want to act bravely, resolutely and greatly.  Therefore, command yourself and go for it; 110%.

If we give in to fear, anxiety, perfectionism and self-doubt, we’ll do nothing to protect ourselves – we’ll become victims of our own panic and terror.  If we give in to anger and rage, we’ll explode, act unskillfully and do things we’ll regret.  If we don’t command ourselves, we’ll lose confidence and self-esteem; we’ll get depressed and become easy victims of the predators.

If we don’t command ourselves, nothing we do will have the power and energy needed to succeed.  We’ll be weak, hesitant, vacillating.  We’ll become victims.  We’ll take our first steps down the path to suicide.

With expert coaching and consulting, we can learn to command ourselves.  We can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.

We can become strong and skilled enough to resist being targeted by bullies and to stop bullies in their tracks.  We can look at individual situations and plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.

When we command ourselves, we can overcome whatever confronts us.  We will let nothing crush us; our spirits will remain strong.  We can plan and take charge of our actions.  We can act with strength, courage and skill.  We can act with perseverance and resilience.  We can get the help we need.  We can succeed.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” have many examples of children and adults commanding themselves and then stopping bullies.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8BULLIES (877-828-5543).

 

Inept, unskilled or over-protective mothers sabotage their daughters. Almost all the women who’ve interviewed me on radio and TV or who’ve called in with comments have said that their mothers told them to rise above mean girls, to be nicer and kinder to bullies, to be nice because the mean girls were being bullied at home, to feel sorry for the bullies because they had low self-esteem or to simply forgive mean girls as a spiritual thing to do.

That’s bad advice; those methods don’t stop real-world bullies and mean girls.  Those mothers trained their daughters to be easy targets and victims.  Those grown daughters still bear the wounds and scars of being hurt and victimized while not being allowed or knowing how to defend themselves.

In addition, some over-protective mothers said that they’re home-schooling their daughters because they were bullied at school.  There are many good reasons to home-school children, but I think that’s not one of them.

The number one cause of daughters being bullied repeatedly and then growing up to be bullied adults in relationships and at work is well-meaning mothers who are philosophically opposed to fighting back verbally or physically or who are inept or unskilled at stopping bullies.  They make bullying a multi-generational problem by not teaching their daughters effective skills and techniques to stop bullies.

Of course we don’t throw our children into deep water and risk their drowning.  First, we teach them how to swim.  Everything I say also relates to fathers and sons.

So what can mothers do?

  • If you’re fearful and protect your daughters in a cocoon, you’ll create problems for them when they grow up. Don’t make being a victim into a multi-generational problem.  The fear they sense will lead them to think they’re weak, fragile and incompetent.  They’ll develop anxiety and low self-confidence and self-esteem.  They’ll be naïve and unskillful and, therefore, easy prey for abusers and predators in their adult love life, with friendships and at work.
  • Accept that you must educate and train your daughters to stop bullies skillfully. They won’t be able to function successfully in the real-adult world if you let them think that the whole universe is a safe place; that if they’re nice and loving all people will be nice to them in return; that treating people according to the Golden Rule will get kindness and consideration back; that they’ll be more spiritual if they forgive and rise above harassment and abusive behavior.
  • Teach your daughters that the real-world has predators and also teach them how to recognize bullies. Overt bullies are easy to recognize.  Also, teach them the early warning signs of stealthy, covert bullies and mean girls.
  • Teach your daughters how to stop school bullies individually – verbally and physically. Predators will misinterpret their kindness and offers of friendship as weakness and an invitation to abuse them more.  Teach your daughters techniques of increasing firmness to get bullies to stop or to get away from them.  Teach them how to rally their friends to help them.
  • Teach your daughters how to get adult help from you, school officials and police. Convince them that you can help if they’re targeted by cyber-bullies or if they witness cyber-bullying.
  • Be a model. Become skillful in stopping the bullies in your life – at home, at work, as a customer and in the school system.  Learn how to rally and support good principals and teachers, and how to make reluctant administrators protect your daughter.

If you’re over-protective or if you try to ignore, minimize or appease bullies, you’ll teach your daughter to do the same.  And she’ll grow up to feel just as helpless as you do.

Do better for your daughter.  Remember all the women who interviewed me and the mixed feelings they now have about their mothers.

There are many examples of children and adults stopping bullies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids.”  Or call me at 877-8BULLIES (877-828-5543) to teach you how to help yourself and your daughter.

 

“Fighting for Girls: New Perspectives on Gender and Violence,” edited by Meda Chesney-Lind and Nikki Jones, cites recent studies to show that violence by girls has decreased.  In a New York Times article, “The Myth of Mean Girls,” Mike Males and Meda Chesney-Lind also state that our common perception that there are mean girls and that girls can be violent, “is a hoax.” Well, that just gives new research studies a bad name, or at least those conclusions.  As Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

In the real world, not the world inhabited by academics and researchers, mean girls thrive and their violence toward other girls is no only verbal and physical, it’s now also done in cyberspace.  If you track only physical violence on police blotters, you miss the other damage done by stealth bullying mean girls.

Ignore academic researchers.  Remember your years in junior and senior high school, and in college?  Haven’t you also seen incidents of harassment, bullying and abuse by women against women in the workplace?  Ask your daughters what’s happening now in their schools.  Are their principals, teachers and staff protecting girls against mean girls?

Every woman who’s interviewed me on radio and television describes the mean girls they encountered when they were young … and also some they see in their adult personal lives as well as at work.  A lot of my coaching is to teach women how to defend themselves against mean girls who now masquerade as adult friends or who are still mean in parent groups at schools, boards of housing associations, book clubs, neighborhood associations, church groups and as mothers protecting their mean daughters.

Think about the seven mean girls in Massachusetts involved in bullying Phoebe Prince into committing suicide or the nasty girls who attacked Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato when they were teenagers, or the six Florida girls who made a video of their attack on another girl and are now being tried as adults.  CNN even reports, “There's at least one Web site devoted exclusively to videos of girls fighting.”

Although physical violence might decrease as these mean girls became adults, they still form cliques, viciously cut-out their targets and relentlessly put down women they consider as rivals or simply weaklings.

Of course, mean girls can also encourage mean guys to be violent toward other girls and boys, and mean girls can also verbally destroy young boys.

So, as a parent, what can you do?

  • Get active as a citizen.  Organize a core group of active parents to pressure legislators to pass laws requiring schools to have policies and programs to stop bullying.  Media pressure will help.
  • Get active in your school and school district.  Form a core group of active parents to make sure your district administrators and school principal actively enforce policies and a school-wide program to stop bullies.  Involve all teachers, staff and students in recognizing and stopping the first signs of bullying.  Immediate and firm action is necessary.  If principals and teachers turn a blind eye, saying “that’s just the way some girls are,” they’re colluding by creating a safe space for mean girls and boundary pushers.  The end of school and summer are great times to get these programs started so you’re ready at the start of school in September.
  • Prepare your daughters.  Well-meaning parents are the number one risk factor for creating helpless girls whose confidence and self-esteem will be destroyed by mean girls.  Don’t tell your daughters to feel sorry for their abusers and to “rise above” whatever these vicious predators say or do.  Don’t expect pious sentiments to prevent stress, anxiety, negative self-talk or depression.  Don’t let your daughters be whipping girls or scapegoats.  Teach your daughters how to stop the mean girls.  If you don’t know how, you need coaching.
  • Prepare your sons.  Tell them about the real-world.  Remind them that 10 years from now they probably won’t see any of the kids from high school.  Teach them not to take the mean, nasty, vicious comments personally or as a prediction of the future.  Their job is to grow up and find a woman who values and appreciates them.  Mean girls don’t represent everyone.

Of course, specific steps depend on your situation and the people involved.

Don’t believe studies that supposedly prove that mean girls are an insignificant factor.  Don’t believe that if your daughter ignores their meanness or treats them with caring and friendship, they’ll stop being abusive.  Real bullies, mean girls and mean women, take offerings of sweetness and friendship as weakness and an invitation to prey on you more.

As Azar Nafisi, author of “Reading Lolita in Tehran” and “Things I’ve Been Silent About” said, “My parents did not bring me happiness.  They armed me for the battle of life.”

Are you arming your daughter to stop mean girls?

Current statistics show that bullying is prevalent – over 50% of kids report being bullied or observing bullying.  Bullying by girls is just as prevalent as by boys (although they often use different tactics) and bullying in “good” neighborhoods is just as prevalent as in “bad” ones. Most parents want to understand why bullies bully, “Is it because bullies have low esteem, or they lust for power or that’s the only way they know how to get control and admiration?”  Those parents usually tell their children never to use violence to stop bullies.  “Violence never solved anything.  Don’t stoop to the bullies’ level.”

Those parents hope that understanding bullies will help them create programs that will rehabilitate bullies.  Then their kids will be safe when they’re away from home or when they’re online.

Parents who say those things are the number one risk factor in making their children targets of repeated bullying.

Their strategy is based on the false idea that if children love and forgive bullies enough, they’ll melt bullies’ hearts and bullies will stop bullying and become their friends.  That strategy rarely stops bullies.

Real bullies won’t stop harassing or abusing our children because they’re nice to them.  Ask the peace-loving people of every country run over by colonization or empire building.  Ask women who have tried to stop harassment, bullying and abuse at work.

Bullying patterns or coping strategies are usually life-long.  Unless they’re stopped, bullying children usually grow up to become bullying adults.  They’re bullies in their love lives, they’re parents who bully their children, they’re bullying soccer-parents and they’re bullies at work.

Similarly, bullied kids grow up with low self-esteem and low confidence; they expect to be beaten down – mentally, emotionally and physically – to be taken advantage of, to lose.  They become repeat victims.

The number one risk factor in our children’s becoming targets of repeated bullying is not bullies or schools – the number one risk factor is us, the parents of the targets.  Bullies have always existed and will always exist, most schools never protected kids and many still won’t.

Take your focus away from psychotherapy of bullies.  Focus instead on stopping bullying right now.  After you stop the bullying, then you can spend all the time you want rehabilitating individual bullies.  As you well know, rehabilitating bullies can take a long time.  I want to protect target children right now.

In order to protect our children, we, as parents, must change our mindsets and then we must learn skills.  We must develop a real-world mindset – that the only way to stop real bullies is to stop them.

In the real world, bullies are predators, like hyenas, looking for the weak and isolated people who don’t know how to protect themselves.  Real bullies have a language all their own – they take our children’s kindness, reasonableness or holding back as weakness and a sign of easy prey. Our kids’ weakness brings out the worst in bullies.

A real-world perspective is that it’s more important to stop bullies first; that counseling, therapy and rehabilitation efforts come second.  In fact, stopping bullying behavior and having stiff consequences for kids who bully repeatedly is one of the best steps in changing their behavior.

We must teach our children to protect themselves from bullies who haven’t learned impulse control or to use non-violent means to navigate in the world.  A few real-world steps are:

  1. Of course, try ignoring the bully or try peaceful and kindly understanding tactics, but don’t stop there.
  2. Learn to fight back verbally.
  3. Have friends who’ll stand with you and come back at the bully.
  4. Learn to fight back physically – especially boys, but also girls.
  5. Learn when and how to get school principals, counselors, teachers, staff and administrators involved.

A few real-world tips for parents are:

  1. Let our children know we’ll protect them.  If they’re being bullied, it’s not their fault – they just haven’t learned how to protect themselves.  Keep their courage, hope and fighting spirit alive.
  2. Learn how to force your school principals, counselors, teachers, staff and administrators to protect your kids.  Organize a small core group of parents to help the principal create and implement an effective stop-bullying program.  Be pro-active.  Don’t wait for a bullied kid to commit suicide, get that program going right now!

In his article in the Costco Connections, “Stop Hassling Me: Breaking the Cycle of Bullying,” Steve Fisher quotes Psychologist Izzy Kalman as saying:

  • “School anti-bullying programs don’t work.”
  • “I hate referring to kids as bullies.”
  • “Be nice to kids when they’re mean to you and before long they will stop being mean.  This is known as the Golden Rule and is the solution to bullying.”
  • “Don’t tell on kids who upset you.”
  • “Don’t get angry at kids who upset you.  Make it clear that they can insult you all they want and it doesn’t bother you.  After a few days they will stop.”
  • “If kids bring you nasty rumors, don’t defend yourself.”
  • “If a kid hits you and you’re not hurt, act like nothing happened.  If they keep hitting or pushing you, ask them calmly, ‘Are you mad at me?’  If they aren’t, they’ll stop hitting you.  If they are angry, they’ll tell you why.  You can discuss the matter, apologize if appropriate and they will also stop hitting you.”

Dr. Kalman doesn’t work with the targets of real-world school bullies.  His advice is great for the targets of nice kids who are bullying one time because they’re having a bad day.

But real-world school bullies will be delighted by kids making Dr. Kalman’s responses.  Real-world bullies are relentless predators who look for weak and isolated prey.  You can’t stop real-world bullies by being nice, understanding, kind and rational, or with the Golden Rule.  Real-world bullies take your use of the Golden Rule as a sign of weakness and an invitation to bully you more.  Real bullies don’t have the empathy to stop abusing you because your feelings are hurt or because you’re a caring little saint.

Also, many school stop-bullying programs are effective when they’re based on real-world solutions, backed by strong principals, teachers and parents.  And labeling bullies and bullying as “bullies” and “bullying” is a necessary component of successful programs.

How do I know this; check your own experience.  Ask yourself about the kids you saw who were nice, but had one grumpy day versus the kids you saw who were relentless bullies.  What stopped the relentless bullies?

My personal and professional experience and the experience of almost everyone who comments on articles and blogs is the same: The only way to stop bullies is to stop them.  That may mean that the school authorities recognize them and stop them or get rid of them.  Or that may mean that you get more and more firm until they quit.  This may mean, eventually beating them up.  Relentless bullies will show you how far you have to go in order to stop them.

After bullies are stopped or removed, then you can work on their therapy and rehabilitation.  But I wouldn’t want my kids to be victimized while we wait for the bullies to become nice citizens.

Although Dr. Kalman’s suggestions are directed at bullies in school, how many of you have seen his suggestions as successful in stopping the real bullies at work?  Again, all the lawsuits and comments about workplace bullies show that real bullies are relentless and don’t stop when you’re nice, kind, understanding and reasonable.

The other expert in the article, Barbara Coloroso, author of “The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander,” on the other hand, has much right, but she also makes a common mistake when she advises, “Don’t tell your child to fight back.”

Sometimes, fighting back is the only language a bully understands.  And your suspension from school is worth stopping a bully.  The same applies at work, where fighting back usually means a law suit backed by great documentation.