Not long after that I was playing with my kids at the pool when I noticed a couple of boys "ganging up" on another boy who was smaller and obviously easier to pick on. At first it looked like they were just having fun but when the little one would get away from one of the bigger ones, then another bigger one would jump in and grab him in a head lock or some other debilitating hold. My attention was drawn to this and I wondered where were the parents of these kids, because the little guy began to get agitated and started to tell the bigger guys to knock it off. I was about to leave the safe confines of the baby pool (that's where I roll) and gently suggest to the two bigger boys that I was about to get them in a head lock when a lifeguard finally intervened and told them to knock it off. Were they truly bullying the little guy and was it a serious situation? It may have been that they were just trying to have some good fun, but from my vantage point - and from the perspective of a parent - I didn't like what I was seeing.
I can remember back in Jr. High school being a little bit shorter and smaller than a lot of the other kids, but since I ran with the "cool" crowd I found safety in numbers. There was, however, one kid that was a little bit smaller and goofier and easier to pick on than the rest. Why I felt compelled to join in I'll never know. I never did anything violent or irreparable to this kid, but I did try to assert some sort of male alpha dominance over him on a few occasions. That all stopped one day when he fought back and let me know that he wasn't going to be pushed around by me anymore. I immediately stopped picking on him and my perspective of him changed that day. He turned out to be a really cool guy and we became friends.
Bullying usually manifests itself in someone who is bigger, stronger, or older asserting his or her dominance over someone they perceive to be smaller, weaker, younger, or less cool or popular. Bullying is one area that I have very little tolerance with. Maybe it's because during my brief stint as a bully I couldn't stand the person that I was becoming. What do we know about bullies?
- Bullies have a poor self image of themselves - Because they don't like who they are they try to assert themselves over others to make themselves feel better about themselves.
- Bullies are cowards - A bully won't pick on the biggest and strongest in the group but instead will target a weaker or less popular kid (or adult - bullying knows no age limit).
- Bullies don't have a lot of true friends - Bullies are usually friends with other bullies and, since people don't care much for bullies, then bullies will find themselves lacking true and meaningful friendships.
- Bullies want to be accepted but don't know how to be - Perhaps it starts as an act to get attention, but most bullies denigrate to bullying because they don't know how to behave in order to gain friends.
- Bullies almost always back down when challenged - Then challenged, most bullies will back down and leave their victims alone...unless they are bullying as a group and then that may embolden them to step up their efforts.