Middle of the social totem pole: A take on bullying.

When I was in school, I was lucky enough to be an introverted gal who was comfortable placed in the middle of social standings. This means I didn’t really fit in anywhere in particular and, for the most part, people got along relatively well with me.

I was a chameleon of sorts.

But all these back to school posts on bullying I’m reading on various social media sites have me thinking back on my school experience.

At times, I was bullied. Not in any horrible fashion. People picked on me. Luckily I was blessed with this “I don’t really give a rats ass what you think” mentality when it came to my self worth, but it was still something that filled me with anxiety. No one likes being picked on. No one likes attention being drawn to them in a demeaning way… even when they know what’s being said or done isn’t right or fair.

I don’t know, I guess my parents did something right. I knew I wasn’t someone who deserved to be picked on. I was a good person, I tried my very best to be kind to everyone I encountered, but sometimes people are mean. Period. So, please… do talk about bullying. Do tell your children it’s not right to belittle or physically harm someone. Even if someone is mean or belittling to them. There is no excuse for bullying.

There is never reason to call someone else fat or ugly or stupid. Never.

But it’s also important to talk to your kids about why someone might be a bully. Bullies are not usually born that way. Most healthy, functioning children are fully capable of being kind and caring people, but they won’t develop into a kind and caring person without proper guidance.

That girl who has everything? Maybe her parents don’t care what she does and so she acts out in every way she can think of to try and get some kind of attention. Or maybe she doesn’t know how to treat others with kindness because she never witnessed it from her parents. Maybe she is simply unaware that the world is difficult for some people and she is incredibly blessed… maybe she was never taught this by her parents.

That jock who makes fun of your scrawny arms? He might be insecure about his own abilities. Maybe he fears his worth is dependent only on his physical performance. Perhaps he doesn’t value his entire self because he fears no one else does.

That bully that corners you and threatens you and hits you might be abused at home. Or maybe they have anger management problems and need help finding a healthier outlet for their energy. Or maybe be they fear being “stuck” in a dead end existence because they don’t think they’re good enough or smart enough for anything other than intimidation and confrontation.

So please, talk to your children about bullying. And assure them that they are worthy of respect. They need to be kind, even when others aren’t. And they need to involve an adult if they feel uncomfortable handling a bully or situation by themselves.

And remember that school bullies are children too, often in need of guidance and supervision. A bully may be a victim too — a message that gets lost far too often when condensing a thought to 140 characters or less.


Also, parents, try not to look too gleeful while doing the back to school shopping and preparations. Your kids do not appreciate it.


10 thoughts on “Middle of the social totem pole: A take on bullying.

  1. So true!!! I try to explain that very thing, to my children, when they have had someone be mean or ugly. I talk about the fact that that person may have low-self esteem, or be jealous, or any number of things. I hope my children stand up for themselves. It is difficult.

    When I was in 8th grade, one girl decided to hate me. She turned the entire grade against me. I had 1 friend, and thank goodness for her. I started seeing a counselor because I wanted to figure out why no one liked me. The summer following 8th grade, my one friend was able to talk to the mean girl, and by the end of the summer, we were friends!

    But, my self-esteem had been shattered. I am sensitive and I get hurt easily. By the time I was in the 10th grade, I was seeing the same counselor again, but this time, it was because I hated myself. This was about the same time that I began to suffer from Bulimia.

    I look at my husband and his siblings. My husband has the greatest self-esteem. He will look anyone in the eye and tell them the truth. If mean things are said, it is like water off a duck’s back. I am in awe because I would LOVE to be that way. Sure saves a lot of angst. His sister the total opposite. It is sad.

    When we went through the things in 2006-2007, where we live, when my son came out as gay, I felt like I was back in 8th grade, so many people turned on us, and said that IT WAS MY FAULT that he was that way. Rubbish. I treated both boys the same and they are polar opposites.

    But you raise such good points. It should all be talked about, including helping our children understand why someone might bully them.

    • Growing up is hard. But I truly believe that even being bullied is a valuable life lesson because there will *always* be mean people. As an adult, you have to stand up to them too. I just hope if I ever have kids, they know that they don’t have to suffer through it alone. There are a lot of people who will help them and guide them and try to protect them if they ask for help.

      I’m so sorry that you had to deal with that feeling all over again just because your son came out. I’m sure it was a lot harder, too, since your son was involved and I’m sure you tried to keep a strong front up for him. Like I said, people (kids and adults) can be cruel… and it’s the same concept, they’re insecure with some part of themselves.

      It is really hard. I was so blessed to have parents who I’m so close to. And I was very blessed to have some really good friends. (You’re totally right, too. One friend can make the world of difference.)

  2. Such a great piece and a simple thing to forget when someone is bullying you. Indeed they are often acting out their feelings of inadequacy upon others to make themselves feel better. It’s a vicious thing.

    • It *is* vicious.

      There are a lot of kids, I think, who try to deal with it all on their own. I think that’s why it’s so important to have a completely open dialogue.

  3. A very timely post, especially in times like these. I was bullied rather viciously in middle school – mostly all verbal, but shattered my self-esteem while in middle school. I don’t hold a grudge now – middle school hormones are crazy, I can understand. And yeah, like you said, there’s a lot of insecurity that fuels bullying. I didn’t see it or understand that back then.

    I can’t imagine being a kid now and having to deal with the internet bullying, you know? What a way to add complexity and cruelty to an already difficult part of growing up.

    • Yeah, in the moment it’s easier/makes more sense to assume that the bully is just some crazed, horrible person who deserves zits and a leaky menstrual moment. I guess I’ve always just seen a bully as the weaker person. I always kind of felt sorry for them because they felt the need to make others feel small.

      It made my brain go :(.

      Internet bullying is a whole new realm. It does make it a lot harder to escape the bullying for a few hours.

      This is why it’s also important to talk about responsible photo taking (No sexting, tweens and teens! Actually, lets extend that to adults too.), making responsible decisions (No underage drunken FB postings!) and selecting your internet friends carefully (Because you have to approve FB friends, you can protect your information AND you can always unfriend someone.).

      I wish I could bottle and share my “I don’t give a rat’s ass” with everyone I know.

  4. I verbally bullied quite a bit in middle school and I think that had a large effect on who I am in a couple of ways. For one, I learned to not give people that kind of power. I wish someone had told me then that “I don’t care” was the best way to respond to that kind of stuff. I let them have too much power over how I saw myself. Although it took a long time, I’m now convinced I’m awesome because I know I’m awesome, not because others think I’m awesome or not. I’ve learned that my happiness is my choice and I can’t let other people take that choice away from me.

    There is a bit that still lingers: I’m afraid to trust that people actually want to be my friend and aren’t pretending. I think this is one of the reasons I have more male friends than female ones, I find them easier to trust in that sense.

      • You’re a horrible person! Verbally abusing people, geez. :-P

        You *are* totally awesome! And I’m glad you learned something super valuable from an unfortunate situation.

        Also, I think it’s ok to keep your trust to yourself for a little while. I should learn to do that sometimes. AND, you can sexIM all you want. But be ready for strangers to *fap fap fap* to you.

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