We all know bullies exist.
If we didn’t firmly believe they exist (and that they can kill people) then we wouldn’t launch all these cultural campaigns to stop bullying.
But I want to talk about the other extreme–the kids who claim they’re being bullied all the time. Is there such thing as being overly-sensitive anymore?
At some point in the past, if you cried “he hurt me!” too much, you developed a reputation as a cry-baby.
Has that term gone out of style, now that we’ve built a culture where All Feelings Must Be Validated? Are some of the cases of “bullying” or even “abuse” just the victim being petty? (Or maybe “petty” is something a bully would say? …Oops.)
As an adult, I’ve been accused of bullying a time or two. My strength is in my words, so I might gain power over somebody who doesn’t express herself as well as I do.
Maybe this is my own version of preying on the weak.
But I know what it’s like to feel helpless, while somebody more powerful and popular exposes your insecurities. I’ve had my buttons pushed by people intending to wound, knowing exactly which sensitive areas to cut.
This was me–when I first started caring about hair and makeup…
You might find this hard to believe. But, at the time, I didn’t exactly ooze self-confidence with my physical appearance. The braces…the round, bright-red cheeks… Like many people, I slammed face-first into the “Awkward Years.”
And, because he was a pretty typical little brother, Tim and his friends made fun of me whenever they got the chance.
“You’re fat and ugly!”
“What are you even WEARING?”
“Nobody likes you!”
He could be pretty mean.
If there’s somebody who should be on board with the Anti-Bullying campaigns, it’s me…a recovering victim. In fact, whenever I told my mother about the awful things Tim said to me, he and his friends would roll their eyes and call me a tattle-tale or a cry–baby.
They did what they could to make me feel guilty for seeking help, which is a common abuse technique.
You would think I relate to the kids dealing with bullies at school and that I would do anything in my power to stop bullying…
and I might…
…except, Adult-Me needs to be honest: I WAS being a cry-baby! Now that I’m grown, I can admit I cried “bully” intentionally. On purpose. Because I knew what to say to parents/teachers, to get my brother punished, and I relished in that power.
Read that again. Crying and tattling was my way of getting power.
Bullies may be stronger; they may have physical power and popularity to add to their “weight.” But babies have their voices–and the squeaky wheel gets oiled by the authorities. I’m afraid Anti-Bully Campaigns are only targeting one half of the problem.
When I taught preschool, we constantly had to referee between the tough, violent kids and the loud, sensitive ones. CONSTANTLY. It was exhausting, just trying to sort out who caused each tiff.
Now, if All Feelings Must Be Validated and “pettiness” isn’t a thing, then fights are easy to judge. Bullies are always wrong. Period.
But, it seemed to me that every conflict boiled down to brains vs. brawn. I couldn’t accept that justice was served, by only punishing the tougher kid and letting the whiner go free.
First of all, babies and bullies are drawn to each other like magnets. (Why couldn’t the bullies go tussle in a corner together, while the babies gather in their own group to read? I don’t know. It just doesn’t work that way.)
On the surface, the bullies were guilty of breaking classroom rules, by doing scary or mean things to the smaller students. But I usually discovered those small little foxes were walking around looking for the chance to say, “Teacher, he hit me agaaaaaain!”
One child is clearly over-aggressive. One is intentionally over-sensitive.
There are TWO ways to solve each verbal dispute, but our culture only holds the bullies accountable.
Unfortunately, I think school systems are getting lazy, which is the reason for disciplining the kid who kicks or hits or calls names and ignoring the sneakier ones. The result is giving the full power of the law to anybody who claims to be hurt. (The rule at the daycare was, “You hit, you sit.” Zero tolerance.)
It’s not as easy to write a list of rules to keep the babies from manipulating their teacher’s sympathy. So half the trouble-makers get away with their misdeeds, even though the ones who misuse the force of their fists aren’t more evil than the ones who take advantage of the Force of Law.
Do you have any experience with kids (or adults) who claim to be bullied because it gets results? What are some potential consequences of teaching kids that bullying is always wrong, but not educating them about being too sensitive? (Or is there such a thing as “too sensitive”?)