Monday, August 10, 2009

High School and Dealing with Bullies

If your experience in high school was anything like mine, one I wouldn't repeat for $1 million, go read Mark Chu Carrol's explanation of why he won't be attending his 25 year high school reunion and the many comments that follow of similar stories.

The way we deal with high school kids in our society is one where we have much opportunity for improvement, and as social (vs academic) issues go, the way we handle bullying has got to be near the top of the priority list. How many Dylans and Klebolds and Chos do we have to have before we accept that the torment some children inflict on others is not healthy, borders on criminal, and cannot be hushed up or dismissed with "boys will be boys" rhetoric without serious consequences. Healthy boys do not seek out weaker boys with the intent of causing them pain, and those weaker boys are scarred forever as a result in dramatically negative ways.

As a tiny, brilliant, emotionally and socially challenged, attractive child that moved every couple of years growing up, I dealt with my share of bullies. The new kid will always attract them, especially if he's way smarter than they are, pops off about it on occasion (that would be the socially-challenged part), and gets too much attention from the girls (not that I had the slightest clue what to do about it). I dealt with bullies in several ways. I was small, but very strong and a skilled wrestler. If I got a firm grip, it was only a matter of time until I ended up on top of you, or had you in a very uncomfortable hold, whining for your mommy. I once put an older kid in a triangle to end a fight, though I had no idea then that it had a name, I was 8. By high school I had perfected a shoulder twisting technique which was very effective.

If I felt outmatched, (which was often, I had no real interest in fighting, and bullies usually pick on younger, smaller kids), I simply tried to end the conflict as quickly as possible. Usually this would involve ignoring their taunts and other fight-starters. They'll push you, get in your face, hit you in the arm, but very few bullies will just walk up and cold cock their victims. They provoke you to give them the justification they need in their mind to pound you. I didn't know or care about that at the time. I just found (hit tip Ghandi) that if I just ignored them, and didn't react, they would get bored and leave me alone. They wanted a scene, a crying, whimpering, victim, a verbal reaction to their taunts. I wouldn't give them what they wanted. I'd look at them like they were nuts. I didn't care what they called me. Like I care that you think I'm a pussy? I think you're a moron, and that matters a lot more. Complex social interactions were beyond my comprehension. All I cared about was getting this fool away from me. It usually worked pretty quickly.

Lot's of kids aren't so lucky. They can get tormented to the point of committing murder, and they all carry those scars with them. Look at Chu-Carrol's reaction. He's still as bewildered by these people's behavior as he ever was. And obviously from his writing and passion, it was a very dark time for his life. It was for a lot of us. And it doesn't have to be that way.

1 comment:

Alex said...

"It doesn't have to be that way."

A modest contribution: