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ReTweet: Bullying (and Stuttering)

Pam has a terrific post on Bullying, where she links to some other great articles and resources.  Little to add that she has not already said better than I could have.

To be honest, I’ve not spent a lot of time thinking about the subject.  My gut suggests that what makes bullying so hard to live under is that the bullied is under the perception that they are powerless and have no other choice but to live under it and endure it.  (Looking back at my own life, there were times that school teachers would say and do wholly inappropriate things that I tolerated, because I felt like I deserved it.  Perhaps a variant on bullying?)

And to the next point; what bothers me is how society looks down upon physical self-defense.  I’ve got no problem if the victim of repeated psychological abuse takes matters into their own hands.  Clearly nothing like a Columbine, where life (especially innocent life) is taken; nothing to “get back” at the bullies.  But at times it feels like very few people really understand how to deal with bullies.  *Stand*Up*To*Them* and stop the bullying before (or during) the event.

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  1. May 22nd, 2009 at 12:09 | #1

    Sort of amazed that this is not a big subject for you at the university. I deal with bullying every day. It’s the number one reason why parents bring their children in for treatment, the number one topic when I consult with parents and teachers, and a huge challenge in child therapy. How are kids going to modify their speech in some way when they’re constantly afraid of being bullied for the way they speak? So they go off to school every morning with a feeling of dread. But physical violence is absolutely the worst way to handle the problem. That was the approach I tried when I was (relentlessly) bullied in school and I can tell you it doesn’t work (unless you’re Bo Jackson.) If you start getting the upper hand, the guy’s friends will jump in and beat the ___ out of you. I live one mile from Columbine High School, whose student and teacher population has just been exonerated of almost all blame for what happened there by a recent book. People don’t realize what bullying does to the neurology of kids. With teachers being cowed (and bullied) by parents these days, even teachers have a difficult time standing up to school bullies. I emphasize mental toughening and support, humorous or neutral verbal defenses (that are within the child’s speaking abilities), and education of parents and teachers. The biggest problem is that children are embarrassed to admit that they are bullied because they want their parents (and SLPs) to think that they are popular or “doing just fine.” The NSA book on bullying is great.

    [Reply]

    Pam Reply:

    Thanks Greg for giving my post some props over here. I do think bullying is overlooked. Darrell’s comments are great. Kids are bullied so much in schools, and certainly not enough is being done about it. Teachers don’t get enough training. And kids are afraid to admit it.

    When I was leading a parent’s group, they routinely told stories that their kids who stutter never told the parents if they were beaing teased in school. I don’t think teachers even know what to look for. I did not feel comfortable when I was a kid telling anyone that I was being teased. Then I would have had to admit that there was somethng to be teased about, stuttering.

    I hope more schools do what they can to encourage kids of all ages, and adults, to take a stand against bullying. Our school started “Take A Stand Against Bullies” day last year, in honor of Columbine and something called Rachel’s challenge, in honor of the first girl killed at Columbine. Her dad started it. Great cause, but one day is not enough.

    [Reply]

    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    Thanks for your reply, Darren. To be honest, I have minimal contact w/ our clinic at this point–but I’ll definitely check into the issue of bullying in the future. Honestly, it’s a part of living with stuttering that I’ve neglected for far too long…

    [Reply]

  2. Bethany
    May 22nd, 2009 at 19:24 | #2

    Hey, I wasn’t really ever bullied at school or like middle or elem, b/c I think I just plain didn’t talk was very shy. In HS not so much, I would actually have friends that knew I was shy and offer to read outloud for me like this boy that sat right near me. I also had this friend in health class that told the teacher I stuttered, and she didn’t make me read, I look back on it and see how that was stupid but when you are 14 it seems like a good idea. I look back now and realize there weren’t really opprounties for people to bully me b/c I didn’t guess “let” them, I was very shy and didn’t talk, everybody just thought I was exterme. shy.

    [Reply]

    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    See–this is a great comment… It sounds like what you described was a lose/lose situation all around. As SLPs, we’ve got to do better!

    [Reply]

  3. May 23rd, 2009 at 10:55 | #3

    When I was “teased” at school, eventually I stopped telling my mother because all I got was “Ignore them and they’ll stop.” Making it my fault. So it’s not just stuttering, Pam. Targeted kids do eventually incorporate that sense of shame and keep it inside.

    Greg, my son yesterday defended himself physically in the lunchroom by breaking another kid’s stranglehold the way his karate instructor had shown him. I was proud he did it. In the past, I’ve told him that if it *does* come to blows, he needs to put the attacker flat on his back so the kid doesn’t get up for five minutes. The rule is that if he’s blocked the other kid three times, then he can strike. (And I’ve also said, block hard enough that the other kid’s arm goes numb to the shoulder.)

    OTOH, my son shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place — he missed a bunch of chances to back down before it came to blows. But a good self-defense class is invaluable for any child who’s at risk of bullying, just because the child will know there’s a way out if he needs it. (ALthough that doesn’t work with girl-style bullying, which is mostly mental games. And when adults bully kids, as in your situation, it doesn’t work then either.)

    [Reply]

    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    See–I think you and I share the same perspective here. But what’s disturbing (at least to me) is that in our local public school district, BOTH people (or all people involved) in a physical conflict get taken to the police station. They don’t even try to make the distinction between aggressor and defender. This policy punishes self-defense and tacitly supports the shame of personal weakness. (Thus my view stated in this post or on Twitter!)

    [Reply]

    Cricket Reply:

    Our school interviews both kids — and both get notes in their files — but they don’t immediately declare the victim to be equally to blame. (If the investigation brings up facts to the contrary, then the situation changes.) The note on the victim’s file helps the team track the entire picture. Does the victim frequently report minor issues? Or is he seriously bullied by several kids? Any of four different adults might be the “principal” on the day of a report, so notes are critical.

    [Reply]

  4. May 26th, 2009 at 10:09 | #4

    I agree with Jane, if you’re told to ignore it, and it doesn’t work, then you feel even more at fault because you’re not ignoring it well enough.

    I tell my kids that if the bully tries harder or shifts tactics, it’s because you’re winning. His first attempt didn’t work, so he’s trying something else.

    The “Three blocks — serious ones — then make your next hit count,” is supported by our dojo as well. Unfortunately, the one time my kid tried to block a punch, it was the weakest, wimpiest block ever, so more fuel for the teasing.

    When I was a kid, humorous or neutral verbal defenses just provided more ammunition, especially if the bully didn’t understand my retort. “Oooh, how cute, she’s trying to mouth off at us, and she doesn’t even know the correct words are, ‘Eff off!’ (or she’s too prim and proper to say them).”

    It mostly-stopped when I started hanging around with other kids, also social misfits. The few times it happened after that, they convinced me the bully was an idiot rather than I was a victim.

    Support from other kids is vital. Colorosso talks about “The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander”.

    When we reported one series of incidents, I started by standing on the side with the teacher. My son was pretty calm. As soon as I walked to my son’s side, it all came out, and the teacher realized how much he’d been holding in. It never would have happened if the bully had been in the room. My son got the holiday he needed, and can now tolerate the other kid in small doses.

    [Reply]

    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    Yeah–you are so spot on. The shame of admitting being bullied. And communication challenges on top of it, and… 🙂

    [Reply]

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