I vote for telling the teacher, then moving on up the chain if nothing is done. MrTao’s youngest was the object of bullying, and when nothing was done about it after it was reported, the bullying was caught on video and brought straight to the school board. The entire school caught hell for not dealing with it properly.
Fighting back is usually not an option. Bullies aren’t known for picking on people able to do so.
Believe me when I say that most people are more capable then they know. I’ve seen 11 year olds kick harder then 18 year olds, but you have to learn the technique.
But it’s true that most people who do get bullied, at least the one’s I know, aren’t usually the type to fight, I was the only one who could fight who was bullied in our school because it was a purely racial thing as far as I can tell.
Just as a secondary data point, As a child in 80’s in Florida (both private and public schools), I had a similar experience to what DT noted. The teachers either didn’t care, or encouraged us to simply work it out amongst ourselves. Occasionally there was victim-blaming involved as well. “you must be doing something wrong to annoy the bully so much that they beat you every day.” etc… What eventually solved the problem for me was direct violence. After that the bullies contented themselves to verbal abuse only. It was no longer worth the risk of putting hands on me.
I’ve been a teacher since 1985 and my policy is that self-defense is a human right. Verbal harassment and the like should be reported. Once somebody lays hands on you, you defend yourself to the best of your ability. My own daughter got suspended from school for going upside a bully’s head good and hard after she reported harassment and little was done. I took a personal day and we had a fun day out. The district she attends might punish her for defending herself, but I never will.
When you are cornered by a bully, fleeing and telling a teacher is not an option. In 8th grade I was cornered by a bully, unable to flee the scene. This was before class, and the teacher was out of the room. He was inches from me, spitting repeatedly in my face. How long was I supposed to tolerate this treatment for?
I cocked my arm to swing, but he was ready and swung first, dropping me to the floor. It ended right then, either because he had achieved his objective or because the teacher walked in and halted the whole thing.
I don’t remember what his punishment was, but it was not suspension; the school received “strong assurances” from his parents that this would not happen again, and so the school went easy on him. I don’t know what those assurances were, but in my mind, he should have been fucking expelled. What kind of school tolerates a student spitting repeatedly in another student’s face from ten inches away, followed up with a punch hard enough to drop a kid to the floor?
Suppose I had managed to flee and tell the teacher before I tried defending myself with physical force. What slap on the wrist would he have gotten for just spitting repeatedly in my face (no punches thrown)? Why the fuck would I bother telling teachers, if they weren’t going to do a damn thing about it?
The question of “what if the bully is a much better fighter than you” is a bit like a seat-belt opponent saying “but what if my car lands in a lake or catches fire and I have to get out quickly?” Once in a while you may come across a bully who is better at fisticuffs than you, and you will come out second best. Most of the time this will not be the case. The encounter I described above was one of about half a dozen incidents in which I punched my abuser(s) directly in the face and got them to stop immediately. Overall, fighting back worked for me.
It doesn’t matter. Chances are you might get your ass kicked a few times. The thing about it is, that bullies won’t respect you for fighting back, but most will *avoid *you after that. You aren’t worth the trouble.
You should do both, or some other option. Teachers don’t want kids to be bullied (well, there was that one PE teacher …) but there is only so much they can see and do. They have to tell kids not to fight but in the end, teachers have too many kids to watch every one, every second. Some kids bully by hitting and some kids bully by tattling and a teacher can’t always tell the truth of what is going on. So kids has to take matters into their own hands sometimes but that should be rare.
As much as I abhor what the kids at Columbine did, it is understandable (not condoned!)
I would never punish my kid for fighting back, and if he was being bullied, and the school did nothing I certainly would raise a ruckus until they did.
In my experience, schools are bureaucracies. Bureaucracies will usually choose the course of action that allows them to change the least, because they have a very high level of inertia. This is not because they are bad, necessarily, but because they are large.
In my case, telling the authority did not resolve the issue, but fighting back got me into trouble. It was worth it.
Tell the teacher and if they do nothing, the school board. As has been noted, in all of the experiences I have witnessed bullying growing up (and it didn’t happen to me), it involved one person who was obviously capable of fighting, picking on someone who was not.
My daughter was bullied by the grade 7 boys when she was in grade 6. Her home room teacher told me she didn’t intervene because it looked like my daughter was handling it ok. I nearly decked HER! What 11 year old handles anything well? The vice principal told me that 12 year old boys were insane and if she felt the need to pop one of them between the eyes, he would be inclined to look the other way.
It certainly isn’t the PC way of handling bullies these days but I do think kids need to stand up for themselves and the adults need to be paying attention enough that they can intervene without it looking like the kid went crying to the teacher.
I’m fortunate to have the luxury of being able to remove my child if the bullying hadn’t stopped. I don’t know what parents do when they don’t have the option for whatever reason, of switching schools. Childhood shouldn’t be something you endure.
Fight back. Even if you end up getting in trouble for it. Bullying someone is about victimizing them- making them feel helpless and weak. Someone who fights back is not a victim- someone willing to face [unjustified] punishment to stand up for themselves is not a victim.
A phenomenon I noticed with bullying, and bullied kids feeling bitter about getting in trouble if they defend themselves, is a bully may punch a kid really hard in the arm (quietly), but that kid, in retaliation, might start flailing back screaming, “STOP HITTING ME!”. To the teacher, the kid defending himself is drawing much more attention to himself than the bully that instigated the event, so to the teacher they are going by the last thing that happened if they didn’t see the kid get punched in the arm.
Standing up for yourself is important. You’ll get a lot of people on this board cry about how dealing with bullies is bullshit because we don’t condone adults punching each other, giving each other swirlies/wet willies/indian burns/pink belly/etc. That’s true, but if a kid is unable or unwilling to stand up for themselves in that environment, there will be situations in their adulthood that they will be unable to stand up to themselves for.
Physical bullying rarely progresses into adulthood, but there are plenty of adults that are still bullies. Learning to stand up for yourself and getting the confidence to do so is a vital skill even beyond just schoolyard brawls, in my opinion.
I chose the last option since there was no ‘other.’
I am teaching my kids to do the following:
Verbal abuse (name-calling, teasing): go along with it. Laugh at yourself. Don’t react negatively. That’s what they want. Ignore it is a good strategy AT FIRST but some bullies can’t be thwarted this way.
Physical abuse: don’t fight back. But do it in an extreme way.
What I used to do when someone threatened to beat me up was to put my hands behind my back and say, ‘go ahead. I don’t like hurting people so I won’t hit back.’ Worked 100% of the time.
There were many reasons I should have been bullied as a child, and in school there were attempts many times; they were over after one incident, because I defended myself instantly, having natural high self-esteem, thank god. Physical violence beyond shoving or pinching wasn’t often necessary, I had a sharp tongue. It’s different for boys.
I’ve always preferred to handle my own problems rather than depend on other people or authority figures*, and it’s served me pretty well. I chose ‘fight back’ (though of course violence is no answer).
I’ll raise my own kids to be assertive and defend themselves as necessary, and support their right to do so.
*who are generally useless at problem solving anyway, IMO
The thing to do is to teach our children to be confident enough from the get-go that they could not be made into a victim. I always was assertive enough that people would instinctively know that if they caused a confrontation, I would be unafraid to do whatever necessary to make sure it didn’t happen again.
This is my point exactly. We can’t always defer to some other authority for justice- to rely to heavily on someone above us just sets us up for disappointment. I noticed the people who tend to be the most sullen/bitter in school/work were people who wanted their teacher/boss/etc to fight all their battles for them- they felt like the other person had to jump in to save the day like Superman, and if they didn’t notice/didn’t do anything/blamed them, they were some sort of traitor, and it made the person feel even more weak and helpless. When you learn to defend yourself (verbally, physically, etc) you learn to count on yourself to succeed in difficult situations, and I think this is empowering.