My cousin “Dee” told me something the other day that really struck me as odd. In fact, it is one of the most insane things I’ve ever heard in a very long time; and I hear a lot of strange things all the time, but this one really takes the cake. I mean, this is Jackalope, Area 51, Sasquatch material.
An assignment was given to one of Dee’s cute little daughters by her school’s Principal, to go home and talk to her parents about bullying. As instructed, Dee’s daughter sat down with her parents and siblings and advised them that one of the lessons she was taught was, “if someone bullies you or hits you, run and get help! Never hit back because that makes you a bully too!” You read it right. Those words were spoken by an elementary Principal.
I’ve been thinking about that for a few days now and I’m a little torn. When I was in grade school (just a short time ago if you’re wondering), bullies were a permanent fixture on school playgrounds. There were male and female bullies and every one of them had their own tried and true methods to intimidate and strike fear in the hearts of the timid, the shy, the socially awkward and pretty much anybody who would bend to their will.
In our household, dad had a few rules that were hard and fast about bullying. 1) If someone pushes you around you ask them to stop. 2) If they do it again, you give them a warning. 3) If they persist after the request and subsequent warning to stop, you make sure that they understand in a forceful way. I mean, in a very forceful way. We’re talking, ‘you will never push, prod or poke me ever again kinda‘ way. Then, explain to your school principal that you were only defending yourself from repeated harassment by a bully.
Dad’s other advice about the playground: 1) Don’t be a pushover, but don’t go out of your way to make another kid feel inferior; 2) Only act when you are provoked; and 3) always come to the aid of those who are in need.
The result? As one of the only ‘different’ kids in a sea of All-American, blonde haired, blue eyed kids I took my fair share of taunts, mockery and every bit of teasing that grade school kids are capable of. But just like my parents had instructed us, I never bullied a kid, I only acted in self-defense and when provoked. And though it was often hard to do, I always did my best to come to the aid of the defenseless.
Grade school kids are ruthless. Playgrounds are a real world example of the Social Food Chain wherein the meanest rule the roost and the meekest fall victim to the malicious. I’ve watched kids as young as three-years-old peck, bash and scratch other kids (and sometimes adults) until they get what they want.
I don’t like bullies, even the adult ones I’ve encountered in the workplace, in supermarkets and while crossing the street. Bullies are cowards. They are ignorant, annoying, offensive and pathetic. But I also don’t agree with this principal’s notion that the only way to deal with a bully is “run and tell someone”. I grew up knowing that if I don’t stand up for myself, pretty soon I’m going to be bullied by anyone with a bigger fist or bat, a bigger mouth and a wider vocabulary, a larger bank account or a fatter wallet.
Granted, there are times when you will have to bring in the experts whether its law enforcement or lawyers (it’s never a good idea to retaliate using illegal tactics), but for the most part, I think kids should be taught to be courageous in the face of adversity and/or overwhelming odds. Stand up in your own defense and let the world know, whether its on the playground or in the workplace, that you will not tolerate being shoved, demeaned and humiliated for another persons gain or enjoyment.