Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bullying

I'm going to go a little off topic on here and discuss bullying. It seems like it is everywhere in the news, and it is a growing problem within schools. Yesterday, on NPR's Talk of the Nation, there was an interesting segment on "former bullies share what motivated their behavior". The show began with talking briefly about several children who committed suicide due to bullying. (One family is suing the school where one of the children was) The show asked for callers from people who were bullies or had been a bully in the past. Now, I was thinking who in the heck is actually going to call in and say they are a bully. Surprisingly, people did. Most were reformed bullies and really didn't understood why they bullied but felt remorse. A few had also apologized to the individuals they bullied. The interesting thing is that some of these bullies were good friends with the kids they bullied, and then suddenly flipped a switch. One became a bully after becoming popular, another realized she herself was bullied and then became a bully.

One caller both intrigued and upset me due to her incredible defensiveness. You can read the transcript and listen to the segment at the link above. (it's too long to post here) Although this woman was being honest about herself, she said how she could not control her bully tactics, despite trying. She said she didn't like being this person but just wasn't able to change. The kicker to all this is that this woman is a psychologist! We don't know the capacity of her work, but if I were her client and heard about this, I'd raise an eyebrow or two. I know I'm not conveying this very well, but it was an interesting show. I think many of us ask that question of "why do people bully?" There's such a myriad of reasons--some make sense while others do not at all.

Awhile back, I was listening to the Diane Rehm show interviewing Jodee Blanco, author of Please Stop Laughing at Me and Please Stop Laughing at Us a few months ago. I haven't read these books, but they sound very helpful to people who may have been bullied and how parents can help their children who are bullied. There was a quote that Jodee said that really stood out to me:

"Bullying isn't just the mean things you do but it's all the nice things you don't do."

It reminded me of watching all the subtle bullying that went on growing up. People viewed it as just teasing, joking around, but really was it? It's not just the overt beating up of kids (which rarely happened at my school), name calling, but other things like not letting certain people sit at lunch with you, always choosing the same person last for a team, following someone, starting rumors about people, and the list goes on. It just makes me really sad how cruel children can be. Some seriously do not know the difference, but many times they do, and they do it anyway. Some people get past the residual feelings of being bullied, but others do not. And it leads to PTSD, depression, and other mental illnesses.

I've always considered myself a bit of a sensitive person and having a great sense of right and wrong from an early age. Whether it was because I was "different" from where I lived--very few Asian lived there or had a physical deformity, I understood being "different" and how each of us were unique individuals. I could grasp the idea of not everything you saw externally was truly was what was internally. When I could, I did try to stand up for those people who were bullied or who didn't have many friends and felt saddened for those I could not.

I don't know the answer to solving bullying, but certainly, I think there could be something like "compassion" classes taught in schools. I think there are some children who are inherently compassionate, but there are others who have to be taught what compassion is. It just seems like it is happening more, and in the age of technology with facebook and texting, bullying has become more subtle, deceptive, and secretive. No child should have to feel this way or be tormented because of appearance or for just being different. Because in the end, sticks and stones may never hurt me, but yes, words can indeed hurt. And examples are seen of this by children who have committed suicide or have turned to violence as the answer.

In relating this all to eating disorders, I am curious were there people you knew who were once overweight, lost weight, and then bullied other overweight people or vice versa? I've found much of the opposite to be true--that those who have had weight/eating problems were more perceptive of those who never had. And I've also wondered whether there was a real difference between those may have had disordered eating versus a clinical eating disorder and whether bullying was ever a factor.

Anyway, this is just a topic that has been on my mind lately.

10 comments:

Eating Alone said...

Having lost so much weight, I now look at overweight people and wonder if they have a ED or if it's just overweight. I would never be cruel or bully them.

I also see how differently people treat me. That makes me sad and I'll try to treat everyone nice. I also see how Fat is still the acceptable abuse. If your fat it's ok to be picked on.

I was normal weight, maybe a little heavy in school but not too big, I was not bullied. I did hate the clich's but I think that's normal. But the one kid that needed the most help my group tried to help, but sometimes we did tease too. I don't know if that was mean or just normal. We also watched his back a lot. Yeah I could have been nicer.

J said...

I read that transcript, the section on the bully-psychologist, and that is truly chilling. To be an admitted, unreformed bully in a career where people come to you in a vulnerable state...that's just mind-boggling. I'm very glad that none of mine seem to have that tendency.

As for bullying, I was constantly bullied from grades 5 to 8. It was so bad in grade 5 that I came home in tears nearly every day. By grade 8, I was more withdrawn and had a tougher skin, but it still hurt. I also gained weight over that period of time, so while in grade 5 I was teased for being smart, in grade 8 I was teased for being fat and smart. That definitely did contribute to my developing an eating disorder. When I lost a lot of weight though, I did not become a bully myself. If anything, I have an unhealthy desire to please everyone around me, still, just so that they won't turn on me and I'll still be accepted.

Kim said...

Bullying is a topic close to my heart. I was a super skinny kid, naturally, when I was growing up. And I was really smart. Bad combo. I got teased A LOT for being skinny (kind of ironic considering future events). I had gum stuck in my hair, sunflower seeds spit at me, things stolen. I went to junior high in a really bad area. It was pretty traumatic for me. I really feel for kids going through that bullying phase. Kids can be so mean!

Adam Blum said...

As a professional who often councils bullied kids, I checked out Jodee Blanco's book after the NPR segment aired. Essentially, its a narrative of caterwauling punctuated by self-justification. Not exactly helpful. It's proof that getting run over by a car doesn't make you an expert on safe driving.

Yes there are dozens of possible reasons why one kid bullies another. I'm more interested in helping the kid who's being targeted. You can visit http://www.totalbullysolution.com for more information.

Be Excellent.

Arielle Bair (Becker) said...

This is a really interesting topic that I think about a lot. I was bullied by girls in middle school - and as you mentioned, by girls who were my FRIENDS, and then suddenly decided to shun me. It was the worst time of my young life and it had detrimental effects on me and what became my eating disorder.

Bullying is such a serious thing because it happens at the most vulnerable time in a person's life - childhood.

malpaz said...

i dont know any people who have lost weight and have not at some point tooted their own horn. but i have not witnessed people bully others for things like will power and the such. i think i am my own biggest bully, especially when it comes to food, my weight and recovery. i bully the hell outta myself and need to start accepting!

Tiptoe said...

J, Kim & Arielle, that is awful you were bullied. I don't understand why kids are so cruel sometimes. It's like they forget all about people's feelings and how the bullying interactions affect us in the future.

David, thanks for the perspective. I think any type of big change like that makes you look at things differently. We always hope it'll be for the better.

Adam, thanks for the comment. I think you make raise an interesting point about people becoming an expert on something after writing a book. I've seen this quite a bit.

Malpaz, yes, I think most of us are our own worst bullies!

ola said...

It is weird, but I have actually any direct bulliyng experience. I was happy curious kid with lot of friends, going to the school which was considered "better". Retrospectively, I've realised that one boy in my primary school was probably verbally bullied and /or ignored. He was super skinny (reason or consequence?) kid with really big teeth and allways playing with Tarzan-Toy. We were like 10 and I've never *seen* it, although it must have been pretty obvious. I went to gymnasium when I was 11 and I've never seen him after.

Your new blog design is nice! I am looking forward to read all the older posts!

Stella said...

Hi Tiptoe,

Bulling is a topic close to my heart as well, as I was bullied mercilessly from first grade until fourth grade, until it got so bad that I ultimately left that school. It is strange too because my parents have mentioned it over the years and I guess I must have blocked a lot of it out because I just can't remember a lot of what they talk about. I was a super shy kid and not one to stand up for myself, so I guess that made me an easy target. I was also always the shortest or second-shortest in the class, and I was bullied a lot for that as well. Apparently, I had to be kept inside during recess so that kids wouldn't hit me on the playground (I have no recollection of this - and how backwards is that, the bullied kid loses out on recess while the bullies get to have fun?).

I could go on and on about how much I think bullied affected my life, even today - though I am starting to learn to be more assertive, but this comment has already gotten long enough so I will save that, perhaps for a post of my own.

Anyway, sorry for the super long comment - I have been reading your blog for a while and just wanted to say hi :)

xo,
Stella

Tiptoe said...

Ola, nice to see you. :-) Sometimes, we forget instances of bullying--no rhyme or reason and then later realize that that was what it is.

Thanks for commenting on the new look. Blogger has some nice, new templates out.

Stella, thanks for commenting. I am so sorry that you were bullied. It is interesting that you don't remember it. It is weird how our brain copes and tries to "save" us in a way.

I am really glad you are learning to be more assertive now. It can be difficult but standing up for yourself is always a right.