When a New Jersey student named Sawyer was 12 years old, a punch from a bully changed his life forever, forming a blood clot in his bloodstream that eventually ruptured, leaving him paralyzed. Sawyer’s family won a 4.2 million dollar lawsuit against the school system and the state… but the damage can’t be undone.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of children are bullied, and many of them eventually commit suicide as a result of the embarrassment, humiliation and pain. Consider these alarming statistics:
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC.
- A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying.
- According ABC News, nearly 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying.
Clearly, bullying is an epidemic. But what can be done about it? How do you stop a bully? In this article, we’re going to look at some techniques that have actually worked… including some very unorthodox strategies.
Strategy 1: Fight Back
“Don’t throw the first punch, but make sure you throw the last punch.”
To fight back, or not to fight back, that is the question. You’ll find a fierce dividing line when it comes to using physical violence to ward off a bully, oftentimes along gender lines. Many dads want their sons to ‘stand up for themselves’, to ‘not be a pushover’, while moms tend to take a more anti-violence stance. While there’s no definite answer, fighting back and adopting a ‘take-no-shit’ attitude does have some merits.
Scott Flint, a martial arts instructor who wrote the article, Teaching your Child to Fight Back Against Bullies, believes that children should over-react the second anyone tries to bully them. He suggests that you “Instill in your child an indignant attitude toward bullies. Instruct your child to not let an aggressor get away with anything. Should a bully attempt to torment your child, he or she should instantly fight back, and then go straight to the principal to report what happened. Cause a stink, get results. If your child doesn’t immediately fight back, the hesitation will be interpreted as fear and will cause the bully’s attacks to get worse.”
Consider some of these comments on an internet forum on bullying: “My son had a problem with a classmate in middle school. We always taught him to avoid a fight. A substitute had the class one day and lost control. When my son left class the bully ran out the door after my son and slammed him into a locker. My son beat the snot out of the kid and it took several teachers to pull him away. No one messed with him after that. He is an easy going kid but is not afraid to defend himself if necessary.” – Jclay06
“I was bullied by the same guy from 3rd grade through 8th grade. Somehow followed me through 4 different schools. Typical stuff — getting called a faggot and all sorts of homophobic slurs. One day on the way to school on the bus, he chooses to sit next to me (near the window) for some reason while I’m not paying attention. He then says something inaudible and shoves me off the seat. I promptly got up, slammed my fist in his face and broke both my hand and his nose. He got suspended for 3 days, I got an excused absence. When the guidance councilor called my mother to tell her what happened, she knew who it was and said over the speaker phone, “I hope he broke his fucking nose!”. Kudos mom. Never heard from him again.”
Think very carefully before telling your kid to rush headlong into a fight. Consider the size of the bully, and your own child’s temperament. You don’t want to send him off into a situation where he could get seriously hurt. But sometimes it’s worth fighting, even if you’re going to lose the fight.
Strategy 2: Use The System
The system consists of teachers, principals and other school officials. This is why you pay your taxes, why you chose your particular school – this is part of what these adults get paid for, and the fact is, ever since Columbine, the system has done a damn good job of taking bullying seriously. Most schools at this point have a ‘no tolerance’ system in place. Sure, you hear cases all the time about the principal and teachers failing to take action. What you don’t hear about are the hundreds of thousands of cases each year where the system worked, and the bullying was handled professionally, seriously and quietly so as to avoid embarrassing the kids or parents involved.
Don’t underestimate your school officials. The general rule of thumb is, give them the benefit of the doubt that they can stop the bullying, until they prove otherwise.
Let’s take a look at how to effectively use the system:
Almost every story about using the system begins with the documentation process. Don’t ignore this step. Listen to the people who have been through it. Start documenting every incident as it occurs, and start firing off letters and emails to school officials and maybe local police. You want to be on record as having stated the peroblem to the people in power, so that if the shit hits the fan, and it becomes a legal matter, you have a paper trail. Remember, the legalities involved in bullying often time affect the bullied, too. Your child may get suspended out of school if he eventually tries to fight back. A paper trail might help you get the decision reversed.
THE SCHOOL MEETING
Here are some testimonies from parents who found effective resolution to their children being bullied by putting their faith in principals and teachers: Brock Lee writes, “The school is legally required to take steps end the harassment; it cannot knowingly allow it to continue. You need to have a meeting with the principal and your son’s teacher, and perhaps a guidance counselor or SRO (if they have one). I’ve been through this process with my kid at his school, and it’s been pretty effective.”
If you meet with some resistance, push your point, until you get the results you want. A commenter named Indigoshift writes:
“As a parent of two children, this is the easiest way I’ve ever found to get this shit to stop: Have a meeting with the principal of the school. Describe what has been going on. Remain calm, no matter what bullshit the principal spouts–and the principal will spout bullshit. Usually along the lines of how they can’t monitor every single child and every single instance and blah blah blah. Let the principal drone on as long as he/she likes. Let that person say their piece. Stand up calmly, and look the principal square in the eye. Say, “You have a choice: you can deal with this punk, or I can teach my son to deal with this punk.” Turn around. Walk out the door. You will be amazed at how many eyeballs will be watching the bully after that.”
MEET THE PARENTS
Most experts advise against having a sit down with the bully’s parents. If the children are present, the bully is usually just looking over at your child the whole time with a smirk on his face, as if to say, “This is all for show. Tomorrow in school your ass is mine.” Worse, bullying behavior can run in families, and you might find yourself trying to solve a problem with someone who just didn’t give a shit; or someone who is even proud of their kid’s aggressive behavior. Take a look at what happened on the Dr. Phil show when a bullied girl and her mother confronted their aggressors on National TV, only to have the mom of the bully taunt them with rude hand gestures when the show went to commercial (Dr. Phil, being the bastion of justice that he is, played the tape back for the audience so they could see what the bully’s mother did. Here’s a link to the video. It’ll make you furious). Maybe, if you know the other child’s parents, and they are a down-to-earth couple who would be surprised by their child’s behavior, maybe this is a legitimate option. But there’s a good chance if their kid’s a bully, they’re assholes too.On the redit bullying forum, Grimsterr writes: “Whatever you do don’t try and talk to his mom, one of two things will happen, she’ll be pissed, and punish him, thereby guaranteeing it’ll get worse, or she’ll not really be pissed (but act it) then laugh about how wimpy your kid is to her son when you’re gone, and it’ll get worse. Lose/lose, don’t talk to his mother.”
Strategy 3: The Revenge Plot
What if you don’t want to go the teacher route because you think you’ll be seen as a tattletale? Or you want to handle matters yourself, but you abhor physical violence? That’s where the ‘revenge plot’ comes in. Pursuing a secret, clandestine revenge isn’t your every day run of the mill solution. It’s a bit warped. It’s vengeful by definition. Consider this story by a real bullying victim about the abuse he and his friends suffered, and the revenge plot they hatched to get back at their abuser. Methods like this one aren’t for everyone. But one thing’s for sure… it’s creative.
On Reddit.com, in a bullying sub-thread, a user by the name of Omegaweapon writes, “When I was about 10 (back in ’84) we had this bully that lived down our street on the way to the corner store. We were 4 friends who repeatedly got harassed by this douche. He’d stop us on the way and take our money or catch us on the way back and take our candy. One Easter, we were over my house, my mum was making chocolates and had some cellophane and colourful wrapping and stuff, so we decided to cut up my dog’s turds into bite sized chunks and make chocolates out of them. We wrapped them up all nice and then paraded up and down the street trying to lure out the bully. He took the bait and rolled us for our candy, we feigned tears so he decides to eat the “chocolates” in front of us. His face went from delight, to wtf? to horror as he realized he just scoffed dog shit. As he was throwing up we ridiculed him so bad he started to bawl. Then my friend kicked him in the nuts real hard. We didn’t see him much after that.”
Seem childish. And it’s true, revenge may have a bad ring to it; but in certain situations, it’s a legitimate method of dealing with a bully and it can at least be considered in your bag of tricks.
Strategy 4: Cops & Courts
This is a fascinating option that is slowly gaining in popularity. Most recently, A California father whose son was bullied at school filed a restraining order against the 9-year-old boy allegedly responsible for the abuse. Stephan Feuder said he had no other option than to get the restraining order after the boy allegedly assaulted his own 9-year-old son on the grounds of the their Elementary school in California. “My son was protecting another little boy that was being bullied by the known school bully,” Feuder told ABC News today. “My son stepped in between them and the boy came up and punched my son in the face.”
But school officials noted that an isolated incident does not necessarily constitute bullying. “They don’t want the school to look bad,” Feuder said.
So, Feuder sought and obtained a temporary restraining order from a judge at Solano County Family Court, which stipulated that the alleged bully must remain 2 yards away from Feuder’s son at all times and have no contact with him whatsoever. “Basically, it’s never happened before against a 9-year-old child,” Angela Feuder, the boy’s mother, told ABC News regarding the restraining order. “But there is actually nothing saying that it can’t be done.”
In another instance, one victim worked with police to pull a sting operation on his bully.
“When I was 8, Ken was the school bully. I was super scrawny compared to Ken. On the first day of school I didn’t know who he was, though I saw some tall kid in a black shirt and I made eye contact with him. He turned and snapped, saying, “What the fuck do you want retard?” I never heard those words ever in my life, and I remember them like yesterday, they are scarred into my head. So the year went on, and in February is where the bullying started happening. I was on the swing set, and Ken just came and pushed me off. I fell into the sand face first. He and his buddies were laughing.
I came home and told my dad. My dad told my principal, though the principal turned out to be Ken’s father’s mother-in-law. Of course, she would not get Ken into trouble. The Principal told my dad that “no evidence equals no proof.” My dad was furious.
So the bullying happened everyday. My friend Jonathan witnessed it and helped me push off Ken one time. Now Jonathan got himself into this. Well, Jonathan’s dad was a cop. I went to Jonathan’s dad while he was working on his beautiful red, 97′ Ford Mustang. I explained the entire situation to him. I told him Jonathan was also on Ken’s target list. Basically Mr. White (Jonathan’s dad) told me that I should set up a sting. Mr. White told me, that he and his partner and child services would be looking through an identified car and if they see me getting harassed, they will come and arrest Ken for excessive bullying, harassment, assault, etc.
The next day I saw Ken walking up to me and Jonathan, so we both quickly ran past him while saying, “Meet me at the back alley of corner street, I’ll trade you the shiny Pokemon card”. Pokemon cards in the school went for quite a bit of money. I knew Ken wanted that card, and would do anything to get his hands on it.So I had the card, and Jonathan and I met up at Corner street at 5 PM. Guess who comes a long at 5:10? Ken and his buddies. Ken said, “Give me the card or I’ll break your arm.” I said no. Ken ran up and head butted me. Mr. White, his partner, and a child services worker jumped out of the car and rushed to the scene. They put handcuffs on Ken and his buddies, and sat them down at the curb while their parents came. Ken’s buddies started crying, saying that he made them do it. Then Ken started crying, saying how he’s sorry and he will never bully again. They bring in a squad car, load them up, and take them to Juvi. Mr White told me this after it happened. He led them handcuffed around juvi, showing them what kinds of kids are there, asking if they wanted to join them. Then, all their parents came, picked them up. Not long after that, Ken moved. In middle school and high school, Ken’s buddies became straight A students, and were friendly with everyone. One of them even came out as gay.”
Involving the police is a drastic move that can send a shocking message to the bully, the bully’s parents and school officials. Extremely effective, it just might be the technique of the future.
Strategy 5: You
Call it a primal instinct to protect our young, but when you hear your child is being bullied, your first instinct may be to get involved. Personally. To get in your car and drive to the school and call the offending kid out in front of everyone. Maybe grab him by the shirt collar and scream into his face that if he ever touches your child again you’ll punt him into next year. Ah, would that you could. But within a few seconds of having that thought, most sane and reasonable parents understand it’s just a fantasy. You can’t do that to someone else’s kid…
…or can you? Here are two stories from interent bullying forums where the parents were either so crazy or so bold that they threw social protocol out the window and took matters into heir own hands. This isn’t to condone this kind of reaction, but rather just to show that some people have done it, and found it to work:
“I was 10 years old and excruciatingly awkward; gangly, thick glasses, socially uncomfortable, etc. This overdeveloped, punk kid picked on me every single day of school. He would beat me up on the playground, and tease me in class. He once even held me down after school, and let his other bully friends kick me, breaking my glasses. I hated this kid, but I could never bring myself to tell my parents, as I always worried about the repercussions of my actions. I started to become depressed. I was angry with the abuse, and even more angry for not defending myself. But this kid was huge, he would have surely beat me to a pulp. My parents started to notice my depression, and I finally told my father about it. One day before school, my father informed me that he would be picking me up, and not to take the bus home. When school let out, we began the silent journey home. We passed the kid riding his bike home from school, and I mentioned it to my father. Suddenly, he whips the car into the nearest driveway, and yells at me to follow him.
As the kid is riding by on his bike, my father casually reaches his arm out, and yanks him from his bicycle. The bicycle crashes to the ground, and my father was holding this brute by his shirt.
He casually holds this adolescent neanderthal’s arms behind his back, and calmly says to me, “Take your hits.” I was shocked, to say the least. I wasn’t a fighter, I just wanted to go home and write text adventures on my C64. “Take your hit…NOW.” I didn’t know what to say, so I casually slapped the kid lightly on the cheek. At this point he was crying out of sheer terror, and I began to feel terrible. Just as I was going to start pleading with my father to release him, the boy spit in my face. I unleashed a flurry of blows that would make a boxer jealous. I think my father was surprised at the rage, and let him go. He say’s “Lets go!”, and we race back to the car, and peel out of there. From that day forward, the kid would avoid me like the plague. He must have told his other bully buddies as well, as I breezed through school without any incident. The odd thing is, that must have given me the boost of confidence that I needed, as I defused every situation after that pretty quickly by myself…without the help of my father. To sum up, My father is insane, and should have probably been arrested, but the late 80’s were a different time.”
So what’s to be learned from all this? Hopefully, it opens your mind up to creative, alternative options to dealing with bullies that you may not have thought of before. But more importantly, it’s to convey the idea that you are not powerless when it comes to bullying. From fighting back, to using the system, to plotting revenge, to calling the cops… there are steps you can take, moves you can make. One of the most oppressive side-effects of bullying is the victim feeling like they are helpless, that there is no way out of the situation. It’s not true. When it comes to dealing with bullies, there are lots of options. Sit down with your child and figure out the best plan for your family… and then take action.